By Paul Post
Mike Rafferty’s culinary heroes include the likes of Julia Childs, Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck.
These are some of the celebrity chefs who inspired his career as a young kid, growing up in the Saratoga Springs restaurant scene. But a legendary BOCES culinary instructor who trained countless local students, stands out above all others.
“My favorite was Chef George Hoffis,” Rafferty said. “He was a great guy. He taught me everything. I started working when I was 14 so by the time he got hold of me I knew a little something. He knew I was interested so he took me under his wing and guided me through this crazy business.”
The lessons Rafferty, now 55, learned as a Saratoga Spring High School student are still paying dividends in his current position as head chef at the Inn at Saratoga, the Spa City’s oldest continuously operating lodging house, built in 1843, which takes guests back to a charming bygone era.
“I’m hands-on,” he said. “I’m working the line on a constant basis, plus doing all the administering, managing staff, creating menus, ordering, inventory and I do all the banquets. I’m not a paper chef as they like to say.”
The key to running a successful kitchen is simple: “Getting everything organized and having a very clean work environment,” Rafferty said.
He stays up with the latest trends by watching cooking shows on television and poring through magazines such as Bon Appetit.
“And I’ve been doing this so long that sometimes I bring back recipes from 20 years ago,” Rafferty said. “I am totally 100 percent responsible for the menu. We change it three times per year—fall and winter, spring and summer and a special one for track season, the busiest time of year. Our beef brisket is very popular. The recipe is from the owner’s (Robert Israel) great-grandmother. We cook it Jewish style. That’s very popular. Our lamb dish is taking off now, too. It’s served with roasted sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and Kalamata olives. And our stuffed sole, stuffed with crab meat served over risotto is also a top seller.”