Story by Natalie Mikles found on

Michael Fusco’s summer cooking philosophy is simple. In the summer, he says, it’s better to be a good cook than a great chef.

“In winter, you add all of these aromatics and things to bring out the flavor. But in the summer, you don’t want to overcook or overdo anything,” he said.

When we visited him at his Michael Fusco’s Riverside Grill recently, the kitchen was full of vegetables so fresh they still had signs of the garden.

Fusco had just been to Conrad Farms in Bixby that morning to pick up squash, onions, cucumbers, purple hull peas and tomatoes. There, he lets what’s fresh be his guide for the restaurant’s chalkboard menu. Arkansas blueberries looked good, so he picked up some to combine with a house-made dulce de leche.

Purple hull peas, though considered country fare, seem gourmet with Fusco’s touch.

For Fusco, summer isn’t the time to use exotic ingredients or complicated cooking methods.

“This food is so good on its own,” he said. “We do very little to it. We’re just bringing out the natural flavor.”

That, he said, is the new definition of gourmet.

“Fresh, local, seasonal – that’s gourmet,” he said.

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