Talking Burger Bash and South Beach's past & present with Geoffrey Zakarian

An accomplished chef for over 20 years, Geoffrey Zakarian has worked in some of the country’s most prominent kitchens, including  Le Cirque, the 21Club, Blue Door at the Delano, Patroon and Tudor House. Zakarian was one of the first chefs to open in South Beach in the 90s, laying the groundwork for the SoBe dining scene we know now. We caught up with the chef, author and television personality to talk Burger Bash and South Beach’s past & present…

What are your plans for the Festival?
We’re doing a panel about Iron Chef, The Q, hopefully a radio spot, demos and Burger Bash – I’m busy. I’m down there and it’s exciting – I don’t want to waste an opportunity to meet everybody. We don’t get to many chances to see each other.

What makes this Festival unique?
You’re in a warm climate on a beach with incredible talent. It’s one of those ones you really don’t want to miss.

What are your favorite events?
I love doing the panels and I love Burger Bash & the Q – you rarely have that much great food in one area.  

You’re a Burger Bash judge this year, what’s the secret to a great burger?
I like a great beef flavor. And the fancier the burger, the more masked the beef. I like a great beef taste that’s really, really seared. And the bread should be in the background, if I can’t taste the bread it’s not good.

You were one of the original South Beach restaurateurs with the Delano in the 90s.
What’s happened has just been incredible. When I first went down, there was The Delano and the National and the rest of the places was fences and abandoned properties. I give all the credit to Ian Schrager & Tony Goldman. And Miami has aged well – you routinely see chefs opening restaurants in Miami, which they wouldn’t have done 20 years ago.

Your return (via Tudor House) was short lived.
I’m definitely going to do something else in Miami, I’m looking for space. Something that will be much bigger. I also think that area of Collins might need a couple more years. Eventually, like in New York, you find the pockets of places where people are going. Sometimes you’re the pioneer and you take the arrows.