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Star Power: Celebrity chefs in Florida
More celebrity chefs are setting up shop in the state.
The New Yorkers are coming; the New Yorkers are coming. Not snowbirds, but more celebrity chefs.
While culinary stars and the big names of reality TV and glossy magazines descend on Florida from various foodie capitals, New York is the main exporter.
The newest arrivals include the most talked about restaurant opening in Miami, Tom Colicchio’s place at the new 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach.
As chief judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef” and owner of Craft Restaurants from New York to Los Angeles, Colicchio is a rock star of screen and kitchen. In the Miami restaurant opening next year, he promises farm-to-table ingredients with something of a Mediterranean theme and the advice of local Genuine star Michael Schwartz.
Also on the march, Kevin Sbraga, a “Top Chef” winner from Philadelphia, plans to open in Jacksonville, while San Francisco’s Michael Mina will add St. Petersburg to his Florida outposts.
Original “Iron Chef” Matsu Morimoto just expanded from Boca to Miami. New York’s Il Mulino now adds Sunny Isles to its colonies in South Beach and Orlando while Soho’s Lure Fishbar has arrived in Miami Beach.
Competing with such celebrity is one more challenge for independent local restaurateurs already fighting a slew of well-financed chains.
Yet life is not simple at the Florida extensions of these brand-name chefs, for most want local flavor, not uniform menus, and they cannot be in all the restaurants that bear their names.
That balancing act falls to chefs like Thomas Griese, executive chef at Michael Mina 74 in the Fontainebleau, conceived as a high-energy American bistro, strong on seafood with Miami’s ethnic accents. He serves a few Mina favorites like a wild tuna tartare made tableside with Asian pear, pine nuts and more. Yet Mina’s guidance for his 20 restaurants is core values and strong management.
Mina stays engaged with his chefs, talking to Griese every Sunday, while the chefs maintain steady ideas online, sharing recipes and video demonstrations.
Sbraga’s television success led him to open three restaurants in Philadelphia, including The Fat Ham, and has now lured him to the South. He’ll be in a new development at 220 Riverside and says he’s looking forward to Florida’s shrimp and oysters.
James Beard award-winning chef, frequent Food TV host and judge, has five Scarpettas from New York to the Fontainebleau, and this month his new Corsair, a Turnberry Isle seafooder.
Besides his restaurants at the Fontainebleau, the San Francisco star opens Farmtable Kitchen and Locale Market in Sundial (previously BayWalk), which has gotten a glamorous makeover in St. Petersburg’s downtown. At his side is Don Pintabona, former executive chef at New York’s Tribeca Grill and a graduate of the University of South Florida
This New Yorker started China Grill in 1987 and opened his iconic South Beach restaurant 20 years ago. He got his TV exposure as the nemesis of Rocco DiSpirito. He now has restaurants in London, Mexico City and New York City and will reopen a Miami China Grill downtown on Brickell.
Palm Beach/ Miami
New York’s favorite French chef now has 18 locations stretching to Singapore and Montreal with Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach and DB Bistro Moderne in downtown Miami.
With credentials from New York’s Lespinasse and Cafe Boulud, James Beard awards and a Michelin star, Carmellini has 10 restaurants from Locanda Verde in Tribeca to Madison Square Garden. He created The Dutch to serve an uptown version of traditional American cooking in New York and soon opened a second Dutch at the W Hotel in South Beach.
An audience favorite from her appearance with Gordon Ramsay on “Hell’s Kitchen,” the Brazilian-born chef went to culinary school in Fort Lauderdale and remains a local and national star. She has been a mainstay at seafood-forward 3030 Ocean and is now its executive chef.
A Frenchman who won “Chef of the Year” honors from food magazines parlayed his New York success into hot restaurants from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Kazakhstan, including BLT Steak in Miami.
South Beach/Boca Raton/ Coral Gables/Orlando
Meyer, with a dozen New York City restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern and The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art, also has built a growing chain of Shake Shacks. They draw long lines for burgers, hot dogs, frozen custards and thick “concrete” milkshakes. Now in South Beach, Boca Raton, Coral Gables and Orlando.