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The Chef behind the change

To understand how a chef changes a hotel’s menu, Florida Trend Restaurant Editor Chris Sherman interviewed Matthias Gervais, executive chef at the Setai Hotel on Miami Beach.

CHRIS SHERMAN: At first glance, a steak house seems out of order in a hotel like the Setai, now as a setting of Zen tranquility. Can you win yogis over to Wagyu or La Frieda beef? What are the common principles that run through the grill and the other restaurants?

MATTHIAS GERVAIS: Our guests can taste the difference in our beef and know they are enjoying some of the best red meat in the world. The simplicity of our dishes and the fresh, light ingredients allow us to highlight the taste of the beef – and not mask it with many seasonings and other toppings. We use crushed pepper and kosher salt as the seasoning for the meats – that’s it.

Another principal we live by is the inclusion of our sous chefs and cooks. I always say a guest’s dining experience starts with the cook who washes the lettuce, fruits, etc. I always encourage my sous chefs’ feedback and apply as much as I can to our day-to-day operations.

We source most of our wines from boutique wineries around the world. We seek out the most diverse, lesser-known wineries.

SHERMAN: You have traveled, worked and eaten around the world. Where do you like to eat beef best, Japan, France or U.S.?

GERVAIS:  I cannot compare meats from these areas of the world, since they are all prepared so differently. They have different beef specialties and dry-aging traditions; I love them all for different reasons. 

However, if I were to note one of my favorites – it would be American beef. The way they’re raised, fed, their nutrition – it’s all to the highest standards and respects the integrity of the taste of the beef.

SHERMAN: You include blanquette de veau and other braised dishes at the Grill. Do many diners choose braised dishes over grilled meats?

GERVAIS:  A lot of diners choose these types of dishes in the wintertime, when the weather outside is more mild. It’s comfort food that they can’t experience everywhere – or at any time – so they are very popular. However, so are our grilled meats.

In the summertime, we will introduce much lighter dishes in place of the blanquette de veau and other braised dishes. Some of the lighter dishes include paillard strip loin, seafood-based salads, chilled soups and our popular grilled meats.