Chef Profile: Michael Mabry

Finds zen through clanging pots, pasta Bolognese

What does it take to run a fast food empire? Get to know Michael Mabry, one of the personalities behind growing  franchise Mooyah. Known for its thick sliced applewood-smoked bacon, seasoned patties and intense six-step, 24-hour French fry making process, the Dallas-based burger business is gaining steam as a nationally recognized name. In the past five years, the company has expanded to 35 locations from coast to coast, with another 10 on the way. Alongside mouthwatering burgers, Mooyah is driven by a passionate team that weighs in on matters, from new locations to new burger toppings. Here, Mabry dishes on his famous customers, triathlons and the secret to a solid pasta.

“I jumped at every opportunity to further my career and had some great mentors help me along the way.”

Your alter ego wants to say this to diners: Unfortunately, Mabry is not a kiss-and-tell kind of guy.

Most famous person you’ve ever cooked for: Heather Locklear, Slash from Guns N' Roses and Will Smith. I was working for an Italian restaurant. His favorite meal was our lasagna and Caesar salad.

The dish you wish your diners would try: Our burgers with blue cheese, bacon and fried onion strings.

The ingredient that’s grabbing your attention right now: Sriracha. (It) can go with anything and complements meat very well, but currently, we’re developing a sriracha sauce for our french fries.

Your favorite jam to rock out to in the kitchen: The sounds of pots and pans banging around on each other. I find this sound extremely relaxing and invigorating.

When you knew you wanted to be a chef: About age 13. I used to stand in the kitchen and watch my mom prepare all sorts of meals. She cooked everything from Italian and Mexican, to comfort foods like burgers. My favorite dish growing up was definitely pasta and Italian-type foods. I was fortunate enough to learn this recipe (pasta Bolognese) while I was on a food tour in Italy. I was intrigued by the amount of different meat used from veal to pork with different grinds.

Free time is spent doing this: I spend time with my family, cooking new things and exercising, especially mountain biking with my son. A few years ago, I competed in some sprint triathlons and I’m looking to race again this season. 

The one person you’d like to cook for: My grandmother. I never got the opportunity to cook for her because she passed away when I was about 12 years old, though I remember her as a phenomenal cook from Puerto Rico.

The traits you wish every cook could have: You have to have respect for people you work with and a passion for the food you cook. If you’re not a sincere chef, people will pick up on that.

WHO'S THIS MABRY GUY?

Employer: Mooyah

Age: 44

Hometown: Frisco, Texas

Education: El Centro Community College

Mentor(s): I’m very fortunate to work with one of my mentors, Rich Hicks; he is the co-founder of Mooyah. Chefs that influenced me include Christian Gerber and Barry Partos. I also worked with chefs Michael Moser and Bruce Ballard in the ‘90s.