The Elgin hires new chef for expansion

Chef Michael Trimboli moved to Marion County from the East Coast about a week and a half ago. He is working with Elgin owner, Tammy Ensey, to create and open up a new restaurant for the Elgin. Laura Fowler Paulus / Free PressWhile Chef Michael Trimboli has had much experience in all types of kitchens and working with various types of food, he is about to embark on an adventure unlike any he has ever experienced.

“I’m like a kid in a candy shop! I gotta be honest, the opportunity to work in such a historical building and open a restaurant from scratch, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for a chef. Plus to have Tammy as your boss. It’s nice to be in such a happy environment. There is a lot of great energy here.”

Ensey is excited about her new hire and has enjoyed getting to know him.

“I think he is a great addition to our community and will make the restaurant all the more fun.

We found him by posting a job on We had several excellent candidates, but I think he fits like a glove here,” said Ensey.

Trimboli had just arrived from two days traveling across country in a U haul with all of his belongings and a close friend helping him on the drive. He decided to take a day or two to settle in and get to know Marion.

“I’ve been through Kansas and then I was in Kansas City back in the ’80s, but that’s it. But I’m loving it here,” said Trimboli. “I really like the small town atmosphere and the friendliness.”

Trimboli has always lived in larger cities so Marion County will be a bit of a change of pace for him. But he has always been at home in the kitchen so that will remain the same.

“I’m originally from New York. My parents were both chefs. They owned a pizza place when I was growing up. We always joked growing up that I was born with a spatula in my hand taking orders. I’m very comfortable being in the kitchen. I like being in the kitchen,” said Trimboli. “I like making people happy and cooking is my way of doing so.”

The chef has had a lot of experience cooking and making people happy.

“I moved to Vegas in about ’81 after being in the army. I was in Vegas for about 35-36 years. Most of the hotels have like 10-12 restaurants so I got moved around a lot because I’m flexible. I’m the type of guy who likes learning and didn’t mind. Food is food. To me food and music is what brings people together.”

After Vegas, the chef moved to Florida.

“I was contacted by a company that had contracts with the University (of Florida) with the sorority and fraternity houses. I went and spent two years cooking for those houses in Gainesville, FL and I loved cooking for the college. I was in the army so I never went to college so I didn’t know what to expect. I was so impressed. Everybody was just so nice. They loved having food cooked for them from scratch. They were so polite. I was really impressed with how well mannered they all were,” said Trimboli.

The chef does not have one particular food that he enjoys making the most. He just likes making whatever people want most.

“I gotta be honest, it all depends on who I am cooking for. My favorite thing to cook is what is gonna make you happiest. Your favorite dish is gonna be different from someone else’s. I feel like food is very personal,” said Trimboli. “The joy that it brings people when they get food the way they want makes me happy. People should eat food the way they want it. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice.”

Before coming to work at the Elgin, Trimboli worked at a homeless shelter in Florida. He enjoyed using a local community garden filled with fresh vegetables and herbs to create tasty and healthy meals for his guests even though the chefs before him did not. The chef wanted the homeless population to at least be able to look forward to his food each day.

“I would go out into the dining room and greet them each day. I told them, ‘it doesn’t matter if I am cooking for VIPs and celebrities on the Vegas Strip or if I am cooking for students or if I am cooking here. I am going to make the best food I can with what I got to work with.’ I love to cook,” said Trimboli.

The chef credits not only his training but also his ethnicity for his passion for creating meals that show people how much he cares.

“I’m Italian so food is just big in our culture. We don’t do anything without food,” Trimboli said. “Do you know what Italians talk about at breakfast? What they are gonna eat for lunch!”

Trimboli joked throughout the interview about being the stereotypical Italian, and he did actually sound and act just like the Italians you see in any TV show or movie. He fluctuated between talking passionately about topics he cared about to poking fun at himself.

“I have trouble screwing in a light bulb, but in the kitchen, cooking is my way of fixing things. We live in a society that is getting meaner and meaner, but with cooking, I can put smiles on faces.”

The chef also told several stories about his now deceased wife, who was from Hong Kong, meeting and interacting with his Italian relatives.

“Sometimes the only language everyone had in common was the food, but it was more than enough. Food is very powerful. It transcends cultures and barriers,” said Trimboli.

The chef is having fun with his obvious Italian status.

“I have been to a few places around Marion and people immediately notice I am not from here. I have heard about Hillsboro already and their sausage, so I have been having a little fun. When people comment on me not being from here, I say, ‘Hi, I’m Mike Hillsboro.’ They laugh and say ‘Hillsboro, New York, maybe’ because they can just tell,” said Trimboli.

While there is not a solid date set yet for the opening of the restaurant that will be located at the north end of the Elgin building, Ensey said the place will open before the end of the year.

For the time being, Trimboli is working on creating menus, making prep sheets, spreadsheets, tastings and more.

“We don’t know yet what type of food we will have, but we want to make it accessible to everybody. We don’t want to price anybody out,” said Trimboli.

It is clear that Trimboli will be a flavorful addition to the county in more ways than one.

“He is passionate about what he does – food, and is passionate about what we do – creating a unique experience. He clearly knows the industry and has the experience to run a successful restaurant for the Elgin and Marion County,” said Ensey.

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