Food & Wine 2016 “Best New Chef” Michael Gulotta, Chef/Co-owner of MOPHO and Maypop in New Orleans, started cooking when he was 9 years old. He was enamored by the television show Yan Can Cook, a series from the Chinese-born chef Martin Yan. Gulotta's mother would tape the episodes so he could watch them after school and even drove him to the store for ingredients. She was hardly surprised when he wanted to attend culinary school after high school.
Gulotta earned a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. While a student at the university, he drove into New Orleans to work; first at Emeril's Delmonico and then, five nights a week at Chef Pete Vazquez's now-closed Marisol.
After graduating, Gulotta landed a position at John Besh’s Restaurant August. Besh mentored Gulotta and encouraged him to travel. He followed Besh’s advice and left to cook for six months in Liguria, Italy. On the Italian Riviera, Gulotta worked under renowned Chef Marco Ballo. Later in the mountains of the Black Forest of Germany, he continued honing his skills under Chef Karl Joseph Fuchs, staying in Deutschland for several years. When Hurricane Katrina hit, Michael returned home to help rebuild and assist with August’s re-opening. He was named Chef de Cuisine in 2007 and led the award-winning kitchen for six years, while establishing relationships with local farmers and purveyors.
In 2014, Gulotta teamed up with his brother Jeff and business partner Jeffrey Bybee to open MOPHO, where Louisiana’s pantry melds with the influences of the region’s Southeast Asian community. Gulotta remains deeply connected to his city and home, working with farmers, fishermen and foragers to create a sustainable restaurant. The year it opened, MOPHO was named “Restaurant of the Year” by New Orleans Magazine, and was a nominee for Bon Appétit’s “Best New Restaurant.”
In 2016, Gulotta and his partners opened Maypop in New Orleans’ Central Business District. Named after a passionflower native to southeast Louisiana, the restaurant is Gulotta’s most ambitious restaurant. The bold menu draws inspiration from Vietnamese, Cajun, Creole and Sicilian cuisines.
Gulotta has received several accolades, including “Best New Chef” 2016 by Food & Wine; “Rising Stars Award” 2016 by StarChefs; and “Top 30 Chefs to Watch” in the nation by Plate Magazine. He’s also appeared on multiple television shows including Iron Chef Gauntlet in Spring 2017.