Mirabelle at Three Village Inn Moves Into a New Era
Fernando Machado would agree that he has some big shoes to fill as the new executive chef for Mirabelle at Three Village Inn, following the retirement last July of acclaimed chef Guy Reuge, who founded the restaurant with his wife Maria in 1983.
But Machado, who has worked alongside Reuge since 2009 as chef de cuisine, believes he’s up to the lofty task of maintaining Mirabelle’s high standards. “I’m going to do everything I can to keep Mirabelle’s reputation for quality intact,” he says.
Machado, who began his career in hospitality in his native Portugal before coming to the U.S. in the 1990s, began his culinary career at Italian venue La Primavera in East Hills. He worked at Davenport Press in Mineola for 12 years, serving American and German cuisine, just prior to Mirabelle.
A mostly self-taught chef who took a few culinary classes at the American Culinary Federation’s Long Island Chapter, Machado recalls that starting out, there weren’t too many career choices that interested him other than cooking.
“I had a friend who brought me in to La Primavera,” he says, adding, “They wanted me to start as a busboy, but I wanted to work more in the kitchen…the kitchen was interesting.” He says La Primavera was a “very fine” restaurant where he spent a lot of time learning the basics such as salad prep, appetizers, and making bread. “I wanted to learn cooking so much that I used to not take scheduled breaks so I could help make sauce from cans of tomatoes.”
Machado relates that he would watch other chefs closely. “I always wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing, so as not to make a mistake.” He says that in those times, if you made a mistake, you could get fired, unlike today, where restaurant culture is more open, relaxed and forgiving when someone who’s trying to learn makes a mistake.
“The restaurant business is much different today,” he says. “With the internet, you can find any recipe you need online…I used to do many different things to learn about cooking, including reading books and taking a few classes when I had time. He explains that he “didn’t have the time” to go to a traditional culinary school because he needed to “pay the rent and just live.”
Noting certain changes in the business over the years, Machado says, “Not everyone takes being a chef as seriously as they used to.” He also says that things are much less formal overall, even at high-end venues. “I remember when people wore jackets and dressed for dinner. But now, things are more casual than ever.”
Recalling his years working with Reuge, Machado says he feels “very comfortable” working at the award-winning Mirabelle, specializing in serving farm-to-table French-inspired cuisine. “I learned so much from Chef Guy, who let me explore the culinary side of myself.”
He says that apart from being one of the best-known French chefs on Long Island, Reuge was a “fun guy to work with, very professional, and a great, great chef who came up with so many different ideas.”
“I learned to appreciate things like how you put the food on the plate, how it’s properly cooked, the taste,” Machado says. “If you want to become a chef, you need to know all these things.
Further, he adds, Reuge was “very hard-working and organized,” noting that being a chef isn’t a regular nine-to-five type of job.
“You can’t get everything done in just eight hours because you always have to plan for the next day and know what you’re going to do, what you’ll serve,” Machado says. “You need to have a plan and put in some hours at home…there is lots of extra prep work involved in the job.”
He adds, “You need to think about your specials from day to day…you can’t just go blindly into the next day…you have to know what’s going on.”
Machado recalls that Reuge’s guiding philosophy on cooking was very straightforward and that he would often repeat, as if it were a mantra, “You need to make dishes that are simple, but also very tasty. Reuge stressed the fact that food need not be overcomplicated but that it must be executed with precision.
Among the signature dishes that Mirabelle has become known for are Hudson Valley foie gras, fresh scallop Carpaccio, warm goat cheese salad, and traditional steak tartare.
Entrees include the tavern burger, Kobe beef sliders, duck Mirabelle with Brussels sprout fondue or pan-roasted hake with octopus, scallops, clams and vegetable mirepoix. The restaurant also features an award-winning wine list featuring exceptional varietals and vintages.
Machado, who says he just finished a new menu for Mirabelle, plans to continue with Reuge’s same style of food and ideas that helped make the venue a must-go destination on Long Island.
“Quality of the food is very important,” he says. “Everything must be fresh, with sauces made fresh daily.”
“Mirabelle is a high-end establishment and people expect a certain level of quality when they’re paying more,” Machado explains. “I think about myself,” he says, “if I’m spending $60 for an entree, I want it to be special.
“You have to make the customer happy. People go to Mirabelle with expectation of a special experience, and I want to make sure I deliver.”
Asked about the restaurant industry overall, Machado says without reservation that he loves it.
“It’s always fast-paced and every day is something different.” But, he says, now, at age 57, with more than 30 years working as a chef, it’s not “an easy job.”
“It’s really very hard work…you have to put in your time if you want to be on top of everything.”
Mirabelle at Three Village Inn is located at 150 Main St. in Stony Brook. It can be reached at 631-751-0555 or mirabelleatthreevillageinn.com.