Richard Hales has taken Midtown, Downtown and greater Miami by storm with his two Sakaya Kitchen outposts and the traveling Dim Ssam a Go-Go food truck. We spoke to the local chef about Miami’s foodie movement, cell phone chefs and the ups and downs of operating a food truck.
Catch Hales at Trucks on the Beach.
What’s your take on the Festival?
I think it’s great. I was on the wine side originally and it’s amazing to see how it’s grown. It’s an insider event but it’s open to everyone. As a chef, you want to put your best food forward. It’s a good chance to meet these people from other cities that you’ve heard of and it’s cool to see what they’re doing first hand.
What impact do you think it’s had on Miami?
I would hope that it’s bringing some attention. It’s definitely brought outside chefs in and restaurant concepts that may have not thought about Miami before making a trip here.
A slew of national chefs opened restaurants in Miami this year - are we having our foodie moment?
I think Miami is having its moment because the local talent is really making it happen. The local farmers and the local chefs have created a movement towards better food. We’ve done a lot and it’s too short sighted to say that just the chefs from New York are making it better. Those restaurants are outposts and those guys are sort of cell phone chefs. I’ve done one of those consulting deals and you’re only required to show up once a month.
What’s unique about running a restaurant in Miami?
Miami definitely leans toward the hyped up atmosphere. I’m in a unique position because I don’t offer the fluff or all the crazy build-out; I concentrate everything on the food (Sakaya Kitchen is strictly counter service). I think concepts like mine are popular because the mindset is changing. Now were focusing on getting really good food instead of just a really good atmosphere. It’s hard not to cater 100% to the masses, but most of us are holding are ground by saying it’s about the food. We’re going to give you great service and a smile but you don’t need the wine angels floating through the room
Food trucks have taken over Miami this year – tell us about Dim Ssam a Go-Go.
The food truck is very cool. It’s my brand moving all over the city and a good tool to get my name out there. But it’s very challenging to run the truck as opposed to run the restaurant. We could be shut down for days because of the weather. And the it’s a hostile environment to be cooking in. But when it’s good and the location is good and the weather is good, it’s fun.
This is the first year of Trucks on the Beach – what do we have to look forward to?
Lee [Schrager] has always had the ability to throw a party. And it’s cool that Andrew Zimmern is involved. We’re doing Kalbi Short Rib Chunk'd Tots – marinated short rib meat on top of cheese and tater tots, a real over-the-top American and Korean mash-up.