Meet James Rigato, the Michigan chef featured in U.P. episode of ‘Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted’

Copper Country

UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – It was no secret to any Yooper or Michigander that celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay was filming his National Geographic show ‘Uncharted’ in the Upper Peninsula last year.

If you’ve never seen the show, Ramsay travels all over the world where he learns the local culture and cuisine of each place he visits.

Michigan chef James Rigato was the man who guided Ramsay around the Keweenaw Peninsula, and who faced Ramsay at the end of the episode for a final cookoff at Presque Isle Park in Marquette.

“When you’re doing this show, obviously they’re spending a lot of resources and going to pretty remote places,” said Rigato. “So they want to make sure that they have chefs or food professionals who understand TV. So I think that was an incentive because I’ve done a little bit of TV work, but also I’m really passionate about the U.P. so it was pretty genuine.”

Rigato has worked in some of Detroit’s finest restaurants before opening Mabel Grey, where his rustic style showcases the finest local ingredients the Great Lakes has to offer. Although Rigato is from downstate, he says he’s been coming to the Keweenaw Peninsula for the last 15 years where he got to know the area, its people, and of course, the food.

“I think for Nat Geo and a show where Gordon is kind of going off the grid, they need to feature the Keweenaw. So I was really adamant about that. And so we kind of get the best of both worlds because I know he spent some time in Munising. We obviously cooked in Presque Isle over there in Marquette and then we were up in the Keweenaw filming a bunch of it, too. So I feel like we got some of the best spots in the U.P. covered.”

Rigato talks about his love for the Keweenaw Peninsula and why he chose it for the setting of ‘Uncharted’.

In the episode, Gordon Ramsay eats a pasty, builds a fence for thimbleberry bushes with the Jam Pot monks, dives shipwrecks, and goes hunting for woodcock.

“You know, when you’re up there, you’re really up there. Whether you’re, you know, cooking, or foraging or hunting, or fishing. I mean it’s really kind of from the earth to the table. I think that was really exciting to show him. And as a chef, when you’re out there hunting and fishing that’s about as real as it gets for sourcing. So, he definitely appreciated that.”

Rigato talks about his most memorable moment from this experience.

The title of the episode is called “Michigan’s Yooper Cuisine” and it will air on July 25, at 9 p.m. EST on National Geographic.

The Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau will be hosting a free, community showing of the episode on July 25 at the Rozsa Center in Houghton. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and the show will begin at 9 p.m.

“This is an incredible moment for the Keweenaw Peninsula,” shared Brad Barnett, director of the Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s a reminder to our community that we have a really special place in the Copper Country. We’re appreciative to National Geographic and the Gordon Ramsay team for helping show off our part of Michigan.”

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