'My food will speak for itself': HomeGrown chef to bring fresh food to York City
A longtime chef is optimistic about his new restaurant opening in York City, recent area restaurant closings notwithstanding.
"I'm gonna be the one that doesn't," said Michael McMonigle, executive chef and owner of HomeGrown Catering. "I'm gonna overcome all of it."
Where does his unwavering confidence stem from?
"My food," he said. "My food will speak for itself."
McMonigle, originally from Philadelphia, has been a chef for 18 years. He’s been in the industry even longer, starting as a dishwasher at 15, inspired by his older brother, William.
On Thursday, Jan. 10, McMonigle’s dream — 27 years in the making — came true as he opened up HomeGrown, located in the Frey Mansion, 55 S. Richland Ave.
“It's a lot of hard work and dedication over the years, but I’m excited,” he said before the opening.
HomeGrown catering: McMonigle has been running his catering company out of the mansion since October. With some pushing from friends and family, he decided it was time to take the leap and open it as a restaurant on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
He decided to lease the building in August, after his daughter, Isabelle, now 5 months old, was released from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where she had been for 11 days after birth, he said.
"That day actually was a really happy day for us, and I felt energetic and was optimistic," he said.
McMonigle, a married father of three, said he'll always be a family man first. His 10-year-old daughter Madison's art is even featured along with two local artists throughout the restaurant. His son Michael is 13.
However, after taking a year and a half off from the restaurant business, he was eager to get back into the kitchen.
"I missed hectic nights on the line, I missed being creative on a daily basis," McMonigle said.
The birth of his youngest daughter inspired him to not only to get back to cooking but to open up his own business, he said.
When it was time to take the next step, McMonigle turned to a familiar kitchen.
Before leasing the Frey Mansion to launch HomeGrown Catering, he had been the executive chef at Front Porch Cafe, which operated out of the building from 2014 to 2016.
Farm to table: His goal with his new venture is to bring farm-fresh food to Yorkers, McMonigle said.
Everything from pasta to ground beef will be prepared on site, he said, adding the menu will be constantly evolving and changing with the seasons.
"I'm not a huge fan of preservatives. My wife and I have kind of cut out a lot of processed foods for our family," the chef said. "And I think if we know where the food comes from and we know it's fresh, we know it's good for us. Especially if it's coming from local farms where we know what pesticides are on them."
Ingredients for HomeGrown dishes will be sourced from farms in the area, he said.
"These are things that a lot of people don't think of when they go to a restaurant. A lot of these foods are processed in a big warehouse," McMonigle said.
'Open to all': McMonigle also said he tried to keep prices low, keeping his food accessible to everyone.
“It’s important, especially at this location, for me to have walk-ins,” he said. “I want it to be open to all price ranges.”
McMonigle wants to serve the community surrounding his restaurant, adding that “York needs more restaurants on the west side.”
“I’m looking to bring some big flavors back to this location,” he said.
McMonigle describes his cuisine as American with a French twist. He integrates his classical training with his love of American-style cooking, he said.
Just like his ever-evolving menu, McMonigle said his style and skills are constantly changing, too.
“No chef’s ever not learning; I’m always searching knowledge of different foods,” he said. “That’s a big deal to me."