To the delight of South Florida foodies, new chefs have arrived on the local scene, bringing unique expertise and culinary tastes worth an advance reservation. Here is our selection of TASTEMAKERS TO WATCH 2014
By Rebecca Cahilly
Big City Tavern, Fort Lauderdale
Louie Bossi is not your average chef. He grew up in the New York City/New Jersey area, and began cooking at his childhood home at age 8. By the time he was 11 he was working part time in a local pizzeria and his passion for food was ignited. Louie worked his way up through the restaurant industry and recently joined Big City Tavern on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, where he is garnering attention for his enthusiasm for – and expertise with – charcuterie, the ancient craft and technique of curing meat. Palmetto Creek Farms supplies the produce and seafood for Big City’s menu, as well as the pigs, from which Chef Louie is curing more than seven meat selections onsite, including soppressata, pancetta, guanciale, orange fennel salami, coppa piacentina, bresaola and prosciutto.
How do you feel that you have influenced culinary trends and/or the dining experience here? “Some of the greatest chefs are accredited with mentoring a generation of professionals. This is the greatest tribute to the tradition of being an artisan. You teach every day, throughout every shift and uphold the highest standards. That influence may stick with a cook for his whole life.”
What is your culinary ethos? “There are no problems, only solutions. Strive for perfection, plate by plate!”
Where do you refuse to compromise? “Product quality. The freshest, local, in-season ingredients will always produce an unparalleled product.”
What are your three favorite ingredients to work with? “Heritage Farm-raised pork, Brussels sprouts, and Italian or Grecian imported olive oil”
What excites you about your work in the new year? “I’m looking forward to the continued refinement of my love for Italian artisanal salumi, cheese and pasta. We will be educating the staff and our guests on the New American Cuisine at Big City Tavern, and offering charcuterie and pasta programs. We will also be hosting tasting events at our new communal Chef’s Table for chefs, restaurateurs and foodies alike.”
Kitchen,West Palm Beach
Chef Matthew Byrne began cooking with his grandmother at the age of 13. By the time he was 23 he was working in the kitchens of some of Philadelphia’s finest restaurants. Recognition of his talents and creativity led him to join the private chef industry, and he worked between Philadelphia and Palm Beach for over a decade as the private chef for a number of high-profile clients, including Tiger Woods. In October, Chef Matthew and his wife, Aliza, opened Kitchen, an intimate and sophisticated space that is an extension of how they live and entertain at home. Already creating a stir in West Palm Beach, Kitchen is based on a simple concept: an ever-changing menu that features only the freshest ingredients and a private chef’s table hosting 8-10 people with two seatings nightly.
How do you feel that you have influenced culinary trends and/or the dining experience here? “With Kitchen, we wanted to create a space that felt like an extension of our kitchen at home. We want to utilize as much local provisions as possible and support the “foodie” scene in our community.”
What is your culinary ethos? “My philosophy has always been to keep it simple. Buy the best, handle with care and do as little to it as possible.”
What are your three favorite ingredients to work with? “Olive oil, lemon, salt.”
What excites you about your work in the new year? “After being a private chef for 13 years, I am excited to bring my food and cooking style to the public and to be part of the local community. We will change our menu regularly in order to utilize the best seasonal ingredients South Florida has to offer and we are looking forward to partnering with other chefs and restaurateurs for special dinners and events.”
Mozart Café, Boca Raton
Chef Scott Pierce is the new executive chef at Mozart Café in The Fountains Center in Boca Raton. Having grown up in Boca Raton, Scott has worked with the likes of the Max Restaurant Group, Todd English and some of South Florida’s top chefs. Chef Scott describes his personal style as a working chef with a simple and clean approach, using the highest quality ingredients. This style carries more importance than most, as Scott oversees the Kosher-certified dishes served at Mozart Café, whose mission is to expand the boundaries of the Kosher dining experience while showcasing the casual gourmet creation and café bistro culture of new Israeli cuisine.
How do you feel that you have influenced culinary trends and/or the dining experience here? “I hope I’ve influenced the diner’s experience as a working chef, using old world techniques and the finest ingredients to deliver comfort food that surpasses a guest’s previous experiences. In addition, I’ve surrounded myself with a like-minded team. I believe we present art on a plate with flavor in mind.”
What is your culinary ethos? “At Mozart Café, we’ve been given the opportunity to pull ideas from cuisines from all over the world using a simple and clean approach. American chefs today are not locked into one certain cuisine and we have the opportunity to work with chefs from around the world who come to the States. In my personal life, I’m a big believer in farm to table, when the opportunity allows.”
Where do you draw the line? “I will not compromise my commitment to myself and to the community to deliver food that looks and tastes great.”
What are your three favorite ingredients to work with? “Local fish, mushrooms and like-minded team members”
What excites you about your work in the new year? “I’m looking forward to refining my culinary experience through working with different chefs and to launching new projects.”
MITCHELL B. ROBBINS
& JOEY GIANNUZZI
Co-owners Farmer’s Table, Boca Raton
Farmer’s Table co-owners Mitchell B. Robbins and Joseph “Joey” Giannuzzi met over a plate of food. At The Green Gourmet, the latter’s former restaurant in Delray Beach, the two began talking and quickly realized they had much in common, specifically the idea to open a restaurant based on pure and natural foods, offering excellent value, in a welcoming, community-oriented environment.
An advocate of healthy living since he was young, Mitchell Robbins has been in the real estate industry for the past 25 years. After purchasing the Wyndham Hotel Boca Raton, he moved from his native Boston to the Boca Raton/Delray Beach area with the vision of creating a community-based hotel with a core philosophy of wellness.
Joey Giannuzzi brings more than 25 years of restaurant experience to Farmer’s Table. Born in Staten Island, N.Y., he was raised in Wellington and developed a passion for surfing and cooking as a teenager. His love of cooking quickly took precedence and it wasn’t long before he started climbing the ranks, working with some of South Florida’s best chefs and restaurateurs at award-winning establishments, most recently his own The Green Gourmet in Delray Beach.
Joey and Mitchell’s meeting brought Farmer’s Table to life, which fit into Robbins’ plans for the Wyndham. Farmer’s Table seeks to create “community through food” with events and activities, including educational dinners, live music, kids’ programs and more.
How do you feel that you have influenced culinary trends and/or the dining experience here?
Mitchell: “I wanted to create, first and foremost, a restaurant that was community-based, where everyone would feel like they had ‘come home’ to dine with a group of family and friends. Diners come to our restaurant and feel immediately comfortable—there is a lot of table-hopping as people greet new friends and old. People who are new to the experience marvel that ‘healthy food tastes so good.’ I am proud to serve this food knowing that every ingredient has been carefully selected to be the best we can source at the moment. We won’t use any of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ fruits or vegetables unless they are organic; all our seafood is free of chemicals and antibiotics and is sustainably farmed. Our meat is also free of antibiotics and is grass-fed; we serve cage-free eggs and use only non-GMO ancient grains.”
Joey: “Over the years I’ve developed a passion for healthy cooking and believe it is very important to stand behind the food you create while always making a positive impact on the community. Our food centers on whole, fresh, high-quality ingredients and avoids unhealthy factors like excess salt and fat, antibiotics, hormones and processing. No butter or cream is used in any dishes, and the restaurant does not have a deep fat fryer or microwave. From not using refined sugars or flours, to processing the food in-house, cultivating relationships with local farmers and purveyors and incorporating traceability in the sourcing of all of our ingredients, we are training our staff on a whole new way of eating and cooking.”
What is your culinary ethos? “It’s simple. We use nothing but the best possible ingredients in our food. Nothing goes on our menu that we wouldn’t eat ourselves or serve to family and friends. We locally and seasonally source all our fruits, vegetables and grains. We serve only local farm-fresh eggs, sustainable fish, and grass-fed humanely raised meat. If we can source organic, we buy organic. All our wines are organic and sustainable and our juices are pressed fresh daily. We have gluten-free options and never use GMO-grains or cereals. We use only cold-pressed olive oils and coconut oil, never butter or cream. We are committed to our guests’ good health, a green and good earth and global responsibility in everything we do.”
What are your three favorite ingredients to work with?
Mitchell: “As I am not a Chef, my three favorite ingredients are: passion, atmosphere, and attention to detail.”
Joey: “Cauliflower, fish (any kind), white beans”
What excites you about your work in the new year?
Mitchell: “We are excited to change the hearts and minds of our diners to enjoy a healthier diet and to encourage a new way of thinking about fine dining. We have a number of educational events planned and will have evening events featuring great musicians on our beautiful garden terrace.”
Joey: “The most exciting thing is launching this concept on a much larger scale. I am training a whole new crop of chefs, cooks, managers and servers to understand, embrace and spread the knowledge. It’s a whole new style of cooking.”
Jazziz Nightlife, Boca Raton
In 12 short years, Executive Chef Justin Flit has packed in more culinary experience than some chefs achieve in a lifetime. The 29-year-old South Florida native began his career in the culinary world at age 17, working in the kitchens of some of South Florida’s best restaurants. After working with award-winning chef Oliver Saucy at Café Maxx in Pompano Beach, Justin enrolled in the famed French Culinary Institute (FCI) in New York City. During that time he apprenticed under revered chef Daniel Boulud at his DB Kitchen & Bar in lower Manhattan. Justin returned to Florida upon his graduation from FCI in 2009 and worked as sous chef at Michael Mina’s acclaimed Bourbon Steak at Turnberry Isle in Aventura, rising through the ranks to become executive sous chef until 2012. Joining the newly opened Jazziz Nightlife in Boca Raton as executive chef, Justin has crafted an enticing menu focused on locally sourced ingredients, sustainable seafood, free-range poultry and prime meats.
How do you feel that you have influenced culinary trends and/or the dining experience here? “I’m not one for following culinary trends. We are always looking to push boundaries and keep things new and exciting, but we tend to fall back on classic techniques and allow our product to speak for itself.”
What is your culinary ethos? “My culinary ethos is a pretty simple formula: bring in excellent quality products, prepare them correctly, satisfy our guests needs to the best of our ability and treat our employees with respect.”
Where do you refuse to compromise? “I still consider myself a young chef, but over the years my style has definitely changed. The one thing that hasn’t changed is that quality of product is number one. We use top purveyors for fish, beef, produce and all of our products.”
What are your three favorite ingredients to work with? “I have always loved cooking beef, so dry aged rib eye is my favorite ingredient. Maldon sea salt is another ingredient that is always in our kitchen; it makes everything taste better. Limes are another ingredient that I love using; finishing dishes or vinaigrettes with lime instead of lemon gives it another dimension.”
What excites you about your work in the new year? “We don’t have much of a weather change in South Florida, but as soon as fall ingredients are done, I automatically start thinking of spring ingredients. Spring produce is amazing and we love receiving the first of the Alaskan halibut. I think most chefs would agree that is the best time of the year for cooking.”
3030 Ocean at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott
Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, Fort Lauderdale
A pioneer in the farm-to-fork concept, Executive Chef Paula DaSilva demonstrates a remarkable talent for executing imaginative dishes that highlight the flavors of South Florida’s local ingredients. Nearly 15 years after beginning her career at 3030 Ocean, the Brazil native has returned to where it all began, bringing with her a diverse culinary expertise marked by her own signature soulful cooking style.
After moving to the United States, Paula grew up in Massachusetts, where she worked in her family’s Brazilian restaurant. When her family moved to South Florida, her parents opened two restaurants and Paula was involved in all aspects of the operations. After high school, Paula earned her associate’s degree in Culinary Arts from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. In 2009, Paula enjoyed a near win on the popular reality cooking show Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay and the following year was named executive chef of 1500° at the Eden Roc Renaissance hotel in Miami Beach, which received rave reviews and national acclaim for its chic farm-to-table concept, stunning location and soulful, seasonal, rustic dishes. A seven-time participant in the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in Orlando, Paula has also served as a guest chef at the James Beard House in New York City.
How do you feel that you have influenced culinary trends and/or the dining experience here? “I’m honored to have been given such credibility! I’ve been involved in the South Florida culinary scene for many years. I’ve watched it grow and evolve and always knew I wanted to be part of something bigger and be influential in the community. I love what I do and if that ends up being influential, that’s fantastic. I love cooking, eating, meeting other chefs, interacting with my farmers, participating in community events, greeting customers that appreciate your food, and teaching younger generations of cooks.”
What is your culinary ethos? “This is a tough industry and you really have to work hard to gain credibility and acquire some acknowledgments. Although I could list a plethora of beliefs, I’m going to stick with just one: passion. Through all the highs and lows, being passionate about what I do is what keeps me going!”
Where do you refuse to compromise? “I refuse to compromise my standards. By that I mean anything from cleanliness in the kitchen to proper technique when cooking. Once you set the bar high for yourself and your team, you have to work very hard to maintain that level. Some people might say I am too demanding, and perhaps I am, but I like to call it having expectations. I think it all begins with a solid foundation and everything else gets built upon it.”
What are your three favorite ingredients to work with? “Pork, olive oil, bay leaves”
What excites you about your work in the new year? “My goal is to open a few more restaurant concepts with Marriott in the next few years. In 2014, we are looking to renovate 3030 Ocean; it will be re-launched with a new name and concept.”