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eGullet welcomes Michel Nischan

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Michel Nischan, executive chef of Heartbeat restaurant in New York City, will join us for a Q&A session on Thursday, October 31, 2002. You may begin asking questions at any time.

When restaurateur Drew Nieporent had to find a chef for Heartbeat who would fulfill W New York’s keen awareness of nature and well-being, he didn’t have to look very far. Michel Nischan was already the Corporate Consulting Chef for Nieporent’s Myriad Restaurant Group, and Drew knew Nischan’s culinary talent would enable him to create a unique and striking cuisine based on the use of whole, natural foods.

Heartbeat offers an innovative menu that reflects the hotel's philosophy of balance and well-being. Nischan’s consistent objective is to create meals that achieve impact through focusing on pure ingredients and limiting manipulation. To achieve this, Heartbeat shuns the use of butter and heavy dairy products, which mask food’s natural flavors.

Michel began his career in 1980 as a breakfast cook in a rural area near the Wisconsin-Illinois border. He took his love of the land to the Windy City, working in some of Chicago’s top restaurants, including La Tour in the Park Hyatt and Jovan Trboyevic’s prestigious Le Perroquet. Soon after, he moved to Milwaukee, where he opened Fleur de Lis. This French restaurant transformed the staid Milwaukee restaurant scene, while receiving substantial culinary praise. Not having attended culinary or business school, Nischan realized the need to advance his business knowledge. He accepted a position as opening chef for Interstate Hotels Corporation. His hotel openings included properties in Connecticut, Boca Raton and Orlando, Florida. Having fulfilled his educational needs, and being hungry to leave the corporate world, he moved back to Connecticut.

Michel broke into the Connecticut market as chef and co-owner of Restaurant Miche Mache. It quickly became one of Connecticut’s most highly praised restaurants, and Connecticut Magazine called Michel “the best chef in Connecticut.” But the praise didn’t end there; Miche Mache was often highlighted in The New York Times, regularly finished in the top ten of the Zagat Restaurant Guide, and its Gospel Brunch was featured on the BBC and in the London Times.

Nischan credits his respect for nature to his mother, who, in order to help her mother feed their depression-era family of thirteen, turned to the family farm. She passed her ideas of cooking, farming and deep respect for the earth’s bounty onto Michel, who relies on them every day. For the inspiration necessary to open a top flight restaurant in New York City without the use of indulgences like butter, cream or foie gras, he turned to his son, Chris, who was diagnosed at age five with Juvenile Diabetes.

Press coverage for Chef Michel Nischan and Heartbeat has been widespread and laudatory. Feature articles have appeared in House Beautiful, Health Magazine, Gourmet, Food Arts, Crain’s New York Business, Nation’s Restaurant News, The New York Times, New York Daily News, Forbes, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Time Out New York, The New York Observer, The Star-Ledger, First for Women, Marie Claire and the Associated Press. Michel and Heartbeat have also been featured in numerous international publications.

Michel has appeared regularly on the TV Food Network (“Cooking Live with Sara Moulton,” “The Curtis Aikens Show,” “Corner Table with Bill Boggs,” “In Food Today”), WOR Radio’s “Food Talk with Arthur Schwartz,” WNYC’s “New York & Company”, MSNBC, PBS and Radio America. He was host chef in 1999 for a Dinner with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and has generously participated in dozens of charitable events. Michel is a Board Member of Chef’s Collaborative, a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable cuisine by celebrating local, seasonal and artisanal cooking. He is Contributing Authority to Food Arts Magazine and is the key organizer of the New American Farming Initiative, along with Gus Schumacher, former Under Secretary of Agriculture, and Michael Batterberry, Editor of Food Arts. He is a member of the Founders Committee for the Amazon Conservation Team and is currently finishing his first cookbook, which will highlight the Heartbeat cuisine.

Michel currently lives in Fairfield, Connecticut with his wife, Lori, and their five children.

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