OLu alum Michael Rossi '89 tested the waters - locally and internationally - before finding a way to pursue his passion close to home.
Michael Rossi didn’t know exactly how he was going to get there.
Luckily, he at least knew where he was going.
Rossi is a member of the Orange Lutheran class of 1989. He was a dual-sport athlete at OLu, playing baseball and football. After turning down a baseball scholarship, Rossi attended Golden West College and worked in retail. But his passion wasn’t found in either environment.
His passion was in the kitchen.
“At 18, I was making money selling clothes to doctors and businessmen,” Rossi said. “And I thought it was cool.
“But then someone told me there were culinary schools.”
And with that, Rossi embarked on a worldwide journey that has now landed him at The Ranch Restaurant in Anaheim, where he serves as executive chef alongside his brother, David, the executive pastry chef and also an OLu alum, class of 1992.
Rossi described himself as a “hometown Orange boy,” but it wasn’t without traveling the scenic route that he ended up at back in town. After attending community college for a short time, Rossi went to explore the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.
“I fell in love with it. My thought was, ‘I can do this every day?’”
After attending CCA for two years, Rossi got on the road. He landed at in Maui, Hawaii, working at a highly-regarded Hawaiian fusion restaurant. After about five months, Rossi came back to Los Angeles and worked at a popular Mexican restaurant that he saw on the Food Network, before traveling to study in Italy in January of 1998.
From there, he worked in both the southern and northern parts of Italy with some of the top chefs in the country at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners, learning traditional Italian cuisine.
After coming back to California and working in Brentwood, and then returning to Italy for one last stint, Rossi began to lay his roots in Orange County once again. He worked in a Roy’s location in Newport Beach, at the Grand Californian Hotel restaurant Napa Rose, and at Angel Stadium, before The Ranch opened in 2010.
“There are no boundaries on where you can live,” Rossi said. “I grew up in Orange and went to St. John’s. And during this journey, it was God that led the way. Everywhere I landed, I just knew it was for a reason.”
Now, Rossi is in the best spot imaginable, working alongside his brother in his own backyard. He is responsible for concepting all menu items for the restaurant, and overseeing up to 50 kitchen employees on a nightly basis.
“It’s hard work,” Rossi said. “I lead a team every single night in the grind. I yell for five straight hours. There is a high level of energy because you’re leading everyone to do something at a super high level. You can’t make many mistakes. It’s our job to exceed expectations.”
And now that he has returned to his hometown, Rossi is doing what he can to give back, including supporting Orange Lutheran and the Faith and Entrepreneurial Business Academy.
“When I came and spoke to the FEBA kids, it was interesting to get back into a teenager’s mind,” Rossi said after visiting FEBA students this past school year. “We went over the concept of opening a restaurant. So I tried to make them think on how to execute it, not just what they wanted to serve.
“It’s really cool to come back to the school and see there is so much opportunity now.”
As for his personal incentive to give back to OLu, Rossi credited much of his success to the support system that exists at his alma mater and the neighboring community.
“There is an Incredible sense of family at OLu. When I see a guy I went to OLu with for four years, it’s like seeing my brother. I have a great sense of pride in what the school has done, and how it’s grown with academics and athletics and other programs. The outside view, of how people look at the school, is so positive.
“It used to just be Lutheran High. Now, everyone knows OLu.”