Celeb chefs’ ultimate surf and turf

They’re not just TV stars. On Top Chef Masters, Rick Moonen proved himself to be a connoisseur of seafood delicacies. On Hell’s Kitchen, Ralph Pagano taught Gordon Ramsay a thing or two about cooking steak. Put them together in the kitchen, and you’ve got one mean Surf and Turf meal.

We caught up with Pagano, executive chef of STK ,who chatted with us about his charity event with Moonen taking place Saturday at the Miami steakhouse.

What are your festival must-sees?

Personally, I must see Bubble Q as it has Perrier Jouet flowing. It also has the best BBQ this side of Nashville and all great chefs making their idea of Q while washing it all down with PJ. I wish Bubble Q was every day.

Is it difficult to cook in front of the camera?

I think it’s best when I forget I am on camera and just do what is natural. The more at ease you are in life and in the kitchen, the easier it is to cook in front of the camera. I like my cameraman to have a good sense of humor, so I know if I am doing the right thing.

Are chefs competitive by nature?

We are a competitive bunch because of the nature of our business. Who’s hot? Who’s the cutting-edge chef? Where is the hot spot? We are pitted against each other every day in the media, the blogs and the reservation list. Because of that, we are always looking to see who’s doing what.

What was the first thing you cooked that made you say, “Wow!”

The first dish that I sent out to the dining room, 25 years ago was a simple chicken piccata. I was working in a “bust out” type Italian joint in Staten Island. I had worked my way up from dishwasher and busboy to salad station, and then I was promoted to cook. I made that first chicken piccata by myself for two guests in the dining room. When the server took the food to the table, I pressed my nose against the glass of the kitchen door and saw the two people smile when the food was put in front of them. They smiled when they smelled the dish and grinned ear to ear when they tasted it.

Any upcoming cooking projects?

I am working with NBC Miami on a great new TV show. It’s called The Ralph Pagano Happy Hour, and it premieres 7:30 p.m. Friday. The show is all about eating, drinking and being merry, and the back drop is South Florida. . . . I hang out and dish the dirt with great tastemakers and celebrities, like super chef Emeril Lagasse, radio personality Paul Castronovo, Miami Heat House DJ Irie, and even Pauly Shore crashes through

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?

I would like to think I would be a movie director. I really dig the idea of telling a story, through words, food or film. Chefs are always directing people around so it makes sense.

Surf & Turf at STK Miami, a benefit for the Boys and Girls Club of America, 8 p.m. Saturday at 2377 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets, $150 per person. 305-604-6988.

Micaela Hood


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