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Most visitors leave Aqua with their palates pleased and their stomach full. Melissa Perello left there with an offer of an externship after impressing chef de cuisine Mark LoRusso. She so continued to wow him and Michael Mina with her skills that the pair offered Perello a full-time position at Aqua following her graduation from the Culinary Institute of America in New York. After working with Mina—whom she cites as a major influence—for two years, Perello transferred to Aqua's sister restaurant, Charles Nob Hill, where she worked under Ron Siegel to master California-inspired French cuisine. Now, twenty years after her mom gave then-10-year-old Melissa her first cookbook, Perello makes her weekly trips to the farmers market pay off with dishes like roasted pork with Lady apples, turnips and Brussels sprouts, and Mariquita Farms broccoli di cicco with English cheddar and Israeli couscous.

Fifth Floor

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