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Behind the Line: The Grill at the Setai

"Why use oil if you're using Serrano ham?" asks chef Jonathan Wright. He's referring to taking advantage of the natural fat of what many foodies consider the finest ham in the world, and that philosophy extends to all the dishes at the Grill, where the best ingredients are flown in for use in a menu of "predominantly European with an emphasis on French and Mediterranean cooking."

Chef Jonathan Wright behind the line.
Chef Jonathan Wright behind the line.
Jacob Katel

The Grill is one of four restaurants at one of South Beach's swankest hotel properties, the Setai, and we were in the kitchen Friday night to document the staff's interaction with their ingredients from prep to plate.

Here's a look around the joint, from the front to the back of the house.

The Setai courtyard at night.
The Setai courtyard at night.
Outdoor table.
Outdoor table.
Table setting at the bar at the Grill.
Table setting at the bar at the Grill.
A look at the kitchen of the Restaurant at the Setai.
A look at the kitchen of the Restaurant at the Setai.
Marrow ready to be served in bone in the kitchen of the Grill.
Marrow ready to be served in bone in the kitchen of the Grill.
The writing's on the wall.
The writing's on the wall.
Steak plates ready.
Steak plates ready.
Plating steaks.
Plating steaks.
Sous chef Matthew Fasekas at work.
Sous chef Matthew Fasekas at work.
Sous chef Matthew Fasekas readies a four-steak order for guests.
Sous chef Matthew Fasekas readies a four-steak order for guests.
Oxtail and foie gras croquetas and line cook Gerry Ekaputra in the background.
Oxtail and foie gras croquetas and line cook Gerry Ekaputra in the background.

One of the most interesting facts about the Setai is that it imports not only ingredients but also employees. To maintain the highest levels of authenticity at the Asian-themed hotel, the Setai brings in workers from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, and other countries to work in all areas of the property.

Workers are part of a special visa program that sees them work between South Beach and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in six-months increments for three years at a time. Chef Jonathan Wright appreciates his employees' dedication to their positions, commitment to excellence, and thirst for knowledge and experience that he has found lacking in American applicants. However, qualified American employees work there as well, right alongside their Asian counterparts.

Fricassée of poached Four Story Hill Farm chicken, morels, gnocchi, asparagus, and Gewürztraminer sauce. $24
Fricassée of poached Four Story Hill Farm chicken, morels, gnocchi, asparagus, and Gewürztraminer sauce. $24
Plating the image above.
Plating the image above.
Nendi Andriansyah carves the best ham in the world.
Nendi Andriansyah carves the best ham in the world.
Meals open with mini biscuits, anchovy sticks, and truffle crème fraîche.
Meals open with mini biscuits, anchovy sticks, and truffle crème fraîche.
Special beets with Matthew Fasekas and Giovanna Alvares Delli Compagni in the background.
Special beets with Matthew Fasekas and Giovanna Alvares Delli Compagni in the background.
One part of a dish called "beetroot, flavors, temperatures, and textures of beetroot."
One part of a dish called "beetroot, flavors, temperatures, and textures of beetroot."
Line cook Nendi Andriansyah at work.
Line cook Nendi Andriansyah at work.
Creating lobster and tarragon tortellini, lettuce hearts, young asparagus lobster emulsion ($18).
Creating lobster and tarragon tortellini, lettuce hearts, young asparagus lobster emulsion ($18).
Across the pass from Matthew Fasekas and Nendi Andriansyah.
Across the pass from Matthew Fasekas and Nendi Andriansyah.
Gerry Ekaputra seasoning meat while it cooks.
Gerry Ekaputra seasoning meat while it cooks.
Kitchen staffer Joseph at work.
Kitchen staffer Joseph at work.
Pastry department's Cassandra Tripaldi at work.
Pastry department's Cassandra Tripaldi at work.
An order ticket coming in.
An order ticket coming in.
Someone's mise en place.
Someone's mise en place.

Chef Jonathan Wright's passion for his craft is evidenced by his excited state when speaking about it. He tells Short Order he sees food as a valid art form and more because it is an experience that affects all the senses.

Thank you to chef Jonathan Wright, sous chef Matthew Fasekas, and kitchen staff Gerry Ekaputra, Nendi Andriansyah, Indra Iskandar, Giovanna Alvarez Delli Compagni, Cassandra Tripaldi, and Joseph.

Log on to setai.com/dining/thegrill for more info.


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