As executive chef of Proof on Main at the 21c Museum Hotel, Michael Paley has plays a significant role in the resurgence of historical downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Under Paley's leadership, Proof on Main showcases the bounty of the Ohio River Valley and his culinary pedigree, which he developed working with Daniel Boulud and Drew Nieporent. Diners flock to Proof for Paley's flavor-focused cooking that is inspired by the culinary traditions of Italy and the American South. His exciting, accessible menu pays homage to organic gardening, local farmers, artisanal producers, and sustainable agriculture.
Not only has Paley helped to establish Proof on Main as a local landmark, but he has secured himself and the restaurant a spot on the national stage. In 2009, Condé Nast Traveler awarded Proof a top Dining category score in the magazine's highly coveted Reader's Choice Awards. Paley was also named "Rising Star 2007" by Restaurant Hospitality as well as "Derby Power Player" by Louisville newspaper, Velocity. Proof was recognized in 2006 by Esquire magazine as one of the "Best New Restaurants of 2006."
Just six months after opening Proof, Chef Paley made his debut in New York at the prestigious James Beard House. He continues to collaborate with local farmers and purveyors to bring the best that the region has to offer to his customers.
In 2007, he spearheaded a sustainable foods movement in Kentucky, which was started nationally by Food & Wine magazine called "Grow for Good Farm and Table." He was an official Kentucky delegate for the Terra Madre Slow
Food International meeting in Turin, Italy.
He was the guest executive chef at the 2009 Kentucky Bluegrass Ball for Presidential Inaugural celebrations in Washington, D.C., taking Kentucky foods, including Newsom's Prosciutto to highlight the evening's menu.
This rising star's professional cooking odyssey began in the front-of-house, as a busboy, in his hometown of Washington, New Jersey. However, it was the excitement of what was going on behind the scenes that quickly drew him to the kitchen. He enjoyed the camaraderie among all levels of the kitchen staff, and realized that no restaurant operates successfully without passion and teamwork.
While majoring in film at Florida State University, Paley landed a job with Club Corporation of America, learning invaluable on-the-job experience with large-scale restaurant, banquet and catering operations. After graduating, Paley's decision to pursue a career in the kitchen led him to enroll in Florida Culinary Institute (FCI) and subsequently work with some of the nation's top restaurateurs. While attending FCI, Paley worked under Chef John Belleme at Zemi, a Boca Raton hot spot.
Paley also worked behind the stoves for famed Chef Daniel Boulud, opening Cafe Boulud Palm Beach. Upon learning that Drew Nieporent's Myriad Group was operating Lucca at the Boca Resort, he jumped at the opportunity to take part. Under executive chef Carey Savona, Paley embraced an Italian approach to cooking, utilizing the freshest seasonal ingredients to create simple, elegant dishes. Paley spent the following years as sous chef, setting the benchmark for dining in South Florida with Lucca's stunning food, informed service and award-winning wine list.
In 2005, Paley was appointed to head chef of Proof on Main at the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville. Owned by Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, 21c houses an acclaimed art museum that spans more than 9,000 square feet, as well as restaurant and event facilities. Paley is a part of Louisville's skilled restaurant community, who are constantly working together to strengthen the city's prominence on the national culinary stage.