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Seneca’s Chef Mike Spain Boldly Brought A Sizzling, New Grilling Style To Town

'Saratoga Living' talks with our latest 'Hot Chef' about what it's like being the grill-master at the 'it' restaurant in town.

Seneca's grill-master Mike Spain.

Seneca had an air about it right from the beginning. Co-owners Mike and Shelley Spain opened one stunning hot spot—reservations were tough to get from day one, the wines were bold (Gruner by the glass!) and the hand-crafted cocktails are inventive and delicious (I dream of their ginger-packed carrot juice concoction). And then there’s the food. Chef Mike Spain leads a talented team that shows off via open kitchen, cooking stand-out dishes that Saratoga has never seen before. “We get fist bumps, high fives, guests telling us that our pierogis are just as good as their grandmother’s,” he says. “It’s our greatest compliment.” At press time, Seneca has shut its doors to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic.  

You say you take a “nonconformist” approach to your food. Explain.
We sourced out a wood-fired grill that nobody has ever seen in this area, and we’d actually never even cooked on it before. To this day, we are still learning new ways to incorporate the grill into new dishes. As for food, our beef cheek “slap noodles” are made in house and braised for 24 hours, a great example of the unique food we bring to Saratoga Springs.

What is your most popular dish?
Our brick oven swordfish. I was a little surprised to see a seafood dish shine as much as it does. The romesco sauce has elements of toasted hazelnut, wood-grilled red bell peppers and tomatoes. The swordfish itself thrives in a high-heat cooking application, so the end result is a firm, but juicy piece of fish.

What gets you most excited about food and cooking?
Cooking is a language, and I’ve been able to express myself more through my dishes than I ever have with words. I’m very competitive and always have been. My ultimate goal since I started in a kitchen has always been to win a James Beard award. Now more than ever, it’s not only a personal goal, but also a goal for Seneca and the city of Saratoga Springs.

Abby Tegnelia

Abby Tegnelia is the chief executive officer of Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living. She previously worked at New York magazine, Glamour and Us Weekly, and has contributed to Marie Claire, Women's Wear Daily and Maxim.

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