If you’ve seen Top Chef, you’ve seen Chef Mike Isabella – a man who Tom Colicchio said cooked food “as good as any chef, anywhere in the world” as he dazzled the judges over 24 competitions. Mike, along with Chef Blair Wilson of The Social Club, are throwing an event at The Surfcomber during South Beach Wine and Food Festival. On Thursday, Feb. 19 catch him at the Private Pasture at the Surfcomber presiding over The Mediterranean Feast and cocktails where $100 per person gets you whole lambs on spits, a plethora of seafood and loads of delicious sides served along with custom Mediterranean-themed cocktails from 9 p.m. to midnight.
“Collaborating with Mike and his entire team on the menu has been an awesome process,” said Wilson. “The combination of whole lambs, fresh seafood, fire, music and cocktails until midnight is the kind of Mediterranean party we’re already looking forward to throwing again next year. ”
The D.C.-based Isabella has been busy – he owns five restaurants including Italian-inspired small plates restaurant, Graffiato, Greek concepts Kapnos, Kapnos Taverna, and Kapnos Kouzina, as well as G, an Italian sandwich shop by day with a tasting menu by night. A forthcoming Mexican cantina called Pepita is on the way.
As much as we love the roster of SBWFF, we appreciate these indie events for their often-lower ticket prices and more intimate atmosphere. (Scroll down to the bottom of this story for a special ticket deal through Miami.com). We chatted with Chef Isabella about roasting lamb, competing on chef-television and what he cooks when he’s at home.
Tell us what we can expect at the Mediterranean feast.
I’m excited about this because it’s the style of food we do at my new restaurant. Our focal point is doing a whole roasted animal and at the restaurant we do whole lamb, goat, suckling pig. For this event we’re doing a lamb spit-roasted over wood all day long with merguez sausages. The fun part of this you get to taste cuts of meat you don’t normally get like the lamb neck which has a rich flavor and the shoulder which is succulent. There will also be fresh lamb liver and lamb heart. And some tzatziki to top it off!
Do you feel Mediterranean cooking is gaining momentum lately?
I’ve been doing this most of my career, and the food is so rich and there’s so much history there whether it’s Greek or Moroccan or Turkish. It’s healthy and fresh. And yes, I think people are becoming a lot more familiar with the flavors of harissa and tangy yogurt and we don’t have to explain it as much.
Is this your first time at SBWFF?
I was there maybe three years ago and it’s just a great time. A lot of us in the industry know each other, so when we get together it’s party time.
What Miami spots are you interested in checking out?
I’m good friends with Jamie Derosa so I love going to his restaurant. And I know Michael Mina opened a new place that I have to check out and of course Michelle Bernstein’s new spot. I also love Yardbird out there.
Can we look forward to a Miami restaurant from you?
I would love it and I hope so! I just opened my fifth restaurant and we have three more coming this year in the DC area. But our goal is to go south and I hope Miami is part of that. I think Miami needs our healthy fresh flavors!
Having been a competitor on Top Chef are you annoyed by those competition shows or do you still watch them?
I do watch them, because the current Executive Chef of my restaurant Kapnos George Pagonis was on Top Chef this season. It’s hard because they put you in these positions and try to amp up the drama. Being in your own kitchen is always easier, being on TV you don’t have those comforts.
What’s your favorite kitchen utensil?
What do you make when you’re home and cooking for yourself?
My comfort food is pasta, I always have tons of pasta on hand. I love to make Cacio e pepe which is basically bucatini and a pan sauce made with some of the pasta water, butter, lots of cheese and lots of black pepper. I could eat that forever.
Make sure to enter MIAMICOM in the promo code section to purchase two tickets for $175 (a $25 savings) to The Mediterranean Feast. Click here to purchase tickets.