Miami’s first Top Chef winner sees promise in the city’s culinary future

He made Miami proud by being the city’s first Top Chef winner. Now we’re rooting for this martial arts-practicing single dad to lift Miami’s dining reputation to new heights.Felipe Cuevasshot

Chef Jeremy Ford was highlighted as one of five Miami restaurant all-stars by the team at INDULGE, who would choose this bunch — a chef, pastry chef, general manager, sommelier and hostess — to lead their fantasy Café INDULGE. Get a glimpse inside their creative minds.

Read a Q&A with Ford, Miami’s first Top Chef winner:

CURRENT JOB

Executive Chef at Matador Room by Jean-Georges Vongerichten at the Miami Beach Edition.

YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY: 15

“My first job was garde manger at Matthew’s, a four-diamond restaurant in my hometown of Jacksonville. I was 16.”

IF I DIDN’T WORK IN RESTAURANTS…

“I would probably be an architect like my dad. I always found that to be interesting and creative.”

MY TYPICAL DAY

“I get my daughter, Maddy, ready for school and drop her off. I try to squeeze in a jiu-jitsu class if I’m lucky. Then I’ll reply to as many emails as I possibly can. I’m notorious for doing this on my phone instead of a computer, which would probably be easier.

“I head to the restaurant to check on prep and deliveries that have come in to ensure they are up to our standards. I might be working on a dish to serve or demo at an upcoming event, or maybe I’m playing around with some new seasonal recipes to put on our menu.

“I jump out to pick up my daughter from school and get her settled at home. On Mondays when I’m off, we have lunch together.

“Then I’m back at the restaurant, running down the evening gameplan with the staff, looking at the reservations for VIPs and names I recognize. Next thing, it’s go time. After service, which is anywhere from midnight to 2 a.m., I usually go straight home. It all starts again at 6:30 a.m.”

A CHEF’S MOST UNDER-APPRECIATED TOOL

“A microplane grater.”

WHO TAUGHT ME TO COOK “Matthew Medure of Matthew’s in Jacksonville. And Gregory Brainin, Jean-Georges’ director of culinary development. He’s the best chef I ever worked for. He taught me how to control what I put on a plate.”

ITALIAN BY BIRTH

“My mother was adopted. When I was younger, we found her biological family, and they were all Italian — and amazing cooks. It suddenly all made sense: I had found the root of my addiction to cooking. The first day we met them in California, they taught me how to make pasta with meat filling.”

WORD ASSOCIATION! THE FIRST THING THAT COMES TO MIND…

Yelp: “Oh gosh…”
Food Critic: “Focus, team. We got this.”
Most Delicious Thing Ever: “Dinner at Jean-Georges in NYC.”
VIP at Table 10: “Touch the table and smile. Also: Everyone’s a VIP.”

THE MOST FRUSTRATING PART OF MY JOB

“The business side. I love to cook, but there are so many more responsibilities that come with running a kitchen.”

FAVORITE INGREDIENT TO COOK

“Fish.”

HOW MIAMI STACKS UP TO OTHER FOOD CITIES

“I’ve gotten to travel a ton this year and see some amazing cultures and taste incredible food. I can say Miami is definitely on its way to being one of the world’s best cities for food.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

“Right now my focus remains on Matador Room. Let’s just say there will be a lot more fish in my future.”

POST-SHIFT HANGOUT

“The Anderson. I’ll have whatever they want to make with gin.”

FAVORITE MATADOR DISH

“Florida Keys Shrimp in ‘Agua Diablo’ with Banana and Almonds. I love that the flavors are unexpected but delicious together, and the dish has the perfect balance of acid, salt and heat.”

SOMETHING PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND ABOUT RESTAURANT LIFE

“It isn’t as glamorous as it looks. Being successful in this career is all about having patience.”

ONE MORE THING…

“I can’t say thank you enough to all of the supporters I have had from this glorious city. I’m truly proud of this amazing place. 305 for life!”

Matador Room at the Miami Beach Edition, 2901 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach; 786-257-4600; matadorroom.com.

At SOBEWFF: Jeremy Ford and Matador Room will present food at Wine Spectator’s Best of the Best at the Fontainebleau on February 24; sobefest.com.

Comments

Thanks for checking out our new site! We’ve changed a ton of stuff, and we’d love to know what you think.

Email feedback