Marea's Michael White cooks with the soul of an Italian

Give credit to the potato and leek ravioli with a Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce and topped with a dollop of green pesto.

    Growing up on Americanized versions of Italian food, tasting that ravioli was chef Michael White's first experience eating real Italian food.

    "When cut open, the ravioli unleashed an intense aroma of garlic and herbs," wrote White in his cookbook, "Classico e Moderno."

    The year was 1991, and White was a young cook working at Spiaggia restaurant in Chicago, learning to cook and paying the bills while taking culinary classes at a nearby college.

    "There weren't more than a dozen ingredients on that plate, but like a great rock band that creates a signature sound with just three musicians, it felt perfect," he wrote.

    "It changed my life and set me on the course that I've been on every since."

    The Beloit, Wisconsin-born son of Norwegian American parents, White was already a young adult when he had the ravioli epiphany that changed the course of his life.

    Chasing those flavors has definitely paid off. Click here to read the rest of this Culinary Journey story.