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Midgley’s Public House: An Extraordinary Culinary Experience from a Hometown Favorite

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You may know Michael Midgley as the friendly and funny contestant or judge from Top Chef, Knife Fight and Cutthroat Kitchen, but did you know that he is very serious when it comes down to the food? When he tosses around names of people he’s hobnobbed with, such as Anthony Bourdain, Bobby Flay and even Drew Barrymore, it’s really difficult to focus on the food. But in fact, he loves food so much that he calls himself a food geek.

“When I was attending the California Culinary Academy, it would be food heaven in the dorms. We would all be geekin’ out on food twenty-four seven,” he laughs. And even now it’s about making people happy with food. “People come in here and they expect exceptional food. It might be their birthday or anniversary and I can’t let them leave disappointed.”

Chef Midgley may have an illustrious past and even stars in his future, but his real dream has always been to have his own restaurant. He concedes that right now his celebrity chef status must take a back burner to his real passion, which is serving real food in his restaurant, Midgley’s Public House, in the hub of Stockton’s Lincoln Center. It is not only a dream, but a reality for Midgley and his wife, Laci, and they are involved in every detail, from the design of the restaurant to the savory selections on the menu. It is definitely an exciting, culinary experience serving American-fusion small plates and shared food paired with spirits and fine wine. “Laci and I gave Midgley’s Public House a great deal of thought before we made the decision to move forward. Lincoln Center is the perfect place for us to realize this dream,” Mike affirms.

But the proof is in the prime rib, and when the food started to roll out of his esteemed kitchen, I had no doubt that I was in Chef Midgley’s food heaven. I mean, it had to be heaven, since where else could one get a Seafood Tower with a lobster tail the size of Louisiana? And at least an honorable mention goes to the freshest oysters on the half, fat juicy prawns and assorted crab legs, all served with cocktail sauce, drawn butter and mignonette. I could hardly tear myself away from this seafood extravaganza for the 5 Onion Soup, Chef Midgley’s delightfully creamy, cheesy take on the old French classic.

And naturally, we could not get away without trying his personal favorite, the Prime Rib Dip, in-house carved from Certified Angus beef, stacked with pepper jack, caramelized onions, slathered with his special horseradish cream, with savory au jus on the side. And these were just the starters. It was a good thing I saved a little room for the melt-in-your-mouth, eight-ounce Beef Filet served with mashed potatoes, demi glace, grilled asparagus and yet another lobster tail, this time the size of Texas.

Chef Midgley may have his plate full with the restaurant but he took the afternoon off to chat with photographer Dee Yates and me about his remarkable past and aspirations for the future. As we swooned over his signature deep-fried pecan pie on a stick, Mike reminisced how food had always been a big part of his childhood. “Sundays growing up were always the big food day. My whole family would all just cook and go to other people’s houses to eat. Grandma would have, like, five pies, and my dad would be making his pasta sauce.”

He talked about his book, Mike Midgley: 20 Easy Recipes: Awesome Food That Anyone Can Make, which is now available on Amazon. “Why should you buy this book?” he challenged. “So many chefs have cookbooks that are so difficult to even find the ingredients that it’s impossible to cook any of the recipes. Nothing in my book is secret and nothing should be too hard to find.” He also intimated that he would like to write an autobiography highlighting his culinary career and adventures with the rich and famous. “I come from a long line of writers and I have a lot to tell,” he revealed.

It looks like Chef Midgley still has much to offer the wide world of foodies, and we just might see him with his own TV show someday. But for now we hope our hometown chef will continue to do what he does best, which is to create and serve up some of the best food Stockton has to offer. ■

Call for reservations at 209-474-7700 or stop in any day for a lively and spirited Happy Hour, and don’t hesitate to think of Midgley’s Public House for your next catered event. Visit them at midgleyspublichouse.com to keep up with Chef Midgley.