Cooking at Home with Mike Zollner, Port Chester

Port Chester resident Mike Zollner, a director of technology, has a special interest in modernist cooking and counts a welder’s blow torch among his kitchen appliances.

First dish: Matzo ball soup. Earliest cooking memory: Helping his grandmother in the kitchen. “At age ten, I was making pizzas and garlic rolls stuffed with mozzarella cheese with my friend Anthony and making matzo ball soup for my family.” Later influences: Watching Jacques Pépin and Julia Child cook on TV, taking culinary classes at the CIA and ICE, and going to culinary demos at different food events. His kitchen: Three hundred square feet, it features a baker’s rack full of appliances, including a sous vide machine, a vacuum sealer, a smoking gun, a Vitamix, a food processor, a stand mixer, an immersion blender, and even a welder’s blowtorch. Signature cuisine: Seasonal farm-to-table. “There is nothing more satisfying than going to a market, talking to the farmers, and coming up with a meal with what they just harvested.” Cooking philosophy: Cooking with fresh ingredients, whether organic or conventionally grown, is the only way to control the food that goes into your body. Special interests: Modernist cooking techniques, like sous vide, where food is prepared in vacuum-sealed bags submerged in water at lower temperatures for longer cooking times. Favorite dish to prepare: “Chicken Marsala. I am a master mushroom cooker.” Most unusual dish: Hickory-smoked Pirate’s Booty and cauliflower pizza. Favorite meal to whip up: Seared king salmon and cauliflower purée “because it’s the trifecta—super easy, healthy, and delicious.” Favorite occasion to cook for: “Passover, because it allows me to make my matzo ball soup, which brings back a lot of good memories.” Most unusual ingredient used: “Food-grade lye—it’s a highly corrosive substance that requires the use of chemical gloves but it makes the best tasting pretzels in the world!” Little-known baking fact: Not all baking is pure science. “You can make some fantastic breads without any measuring at all.” Favorite items to bake: Flatbreads, pizzas, and sourdough rolls with the sourdough starter he’s been growing for almost seven years. Signature breakfast: Hog Rancher Ernie’s bacon with Feather Ridge Farm eggs and his sourdough flatbread. Can’t-live-without-it ingredient: Fresh black pepper. “I put it in everything because of the flavor it adds.” Biggest waste-of-money gadget: A garlic peeler. “You can peel garlic in so many ways: cutting the stem and peeling the skin, putting the cloves in between two bowls and shaking, rubbing in between your hands, mashing with a pan or knife, or kindly asking your fiancée to smash the garlic while you cook something else.” Three must-have spices: “Salt brings out the ingredients’ natural flavors from ice cream to cocktails to pizza, pepper adds a little bit of heat and another layer of flavor, and garlic is great and should be put on everything.” Always in his pantry: Flour to make breads, a roux, sauces, cookies, or coat protein like breaded chicken. Always on his counter: Pepper. “I am a pepper-aholic and use it a lot more than salt.” Biggest cooking triumph: Assisting a chef during a culinary demo where he had him cooking four Hudson Valley duck breasts at the same time. “This was very scary for me because it was in front of a lot of people and I had never cooked so much food at the same time. At the end, the duck was cooked perfectly and I felt great about it.”

Culinary Influences
Must-watch cooking shows: America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country for their tried-and-true recipes and taste and equipment tests. Most food-splattered cookbook: Modernist Cuisine. “Not only does it have a lot of great recipes, it explains the science behind cooking.” Most consulted cooking website: for “tried-and-true recipes.” Cooking idol: Jacques Pépin. “I grew up watching him cook with Julia Child, then on his own, all the while learning techniques.”

- Advertisement -

Local Shopping & Dining Guide
Preferred butcher: Crisfield’s Meat Market in Rye. Farmers’ market of choice: Pleasantville. Best for produce: Mount Kisco Farm in Mount Kisco. Favorite restaurants: Sonora in Port Chester and Restaurant North in Armonk (“One of the best farm-to-table restaurants in Westchester”).

For Zollner’s recipe for cauliflower purée (or faux mashed potatoes), visit

Take It From Them 
Our Chefs’ Top Tips for Newbie Cooks

“Experiment—pick a food you really like to eat and try to make it at home. Don’t be afraid to try new things or even deviate from a recipe. If you see something that has cilantro and you don’t like cilantro or only have parsley, then use the parsley or omit it completely.” 

 â–º Plus:

Gina M. Larson-Stoller, Cortlandt Manor
Brian Murdock, Mohegan Lake
Wendy Pregiato, Eastchester
Elly Kelly, Tarrytown
Susan C. Beer, Bedford/Pound Ridge
Lisa Ocasio, Cortlandt Manor
Todd A. Stankiewicz, Tarrytown
Tips, Hints & Ideas

Our CEOs & Business Leaders Golf Outing is August 5!

Our Best of Westchester Party is July 24!

Our Westchester Home Design Awards event is June 26!

Our Wine & Food Festival returns June 4-9!

Our Wunderkinds event takes place on May 23!

Our Best of Business Ballot is open through May 15!

Our Healthcare Heroes Awards event takes place on May 9!

Our Westchester Home Builders Awards take place on April 4!

Our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Forum is March 14!

Unveiled: A Boutique Bridal Brunch is February 25!

Holiday flash sale ... subscribe and save 50%

Limited time offer. New subscribers only.