It's pretty common to hear people say things like, "He couldn't figure out what else to do, so he became a chef," or "She hated school and figured cooking was her only way out." Those overly chatty Cathy's should meet Peter Vauthy, Red, the Steakhouse's chef/partner. Born in New York City and reared in the Midwest, he got his bachelor's in political science and history and a master's in political science and public policy before deciding to attend L'Academie de Cuisine. [He decided not to go to the C.I.A., though, because the school wanted him to take kitchen math. Hmm.]
It seems cooking, well at least making his own meals, was instilled in him at an early age. "I had my first cookbook when I was 4," Vauthy explained. "My mom would always send me to the garden and say, "Pick some vegetables and you can eat whatever you want."
After graduating from cooking school, he headed to Virginia, and D.C., and then to Cleveland, where he helped establish the original Red location. The Miami Beach spot, where Vauthy has been since its opening nearly three years ago, was the second Red, and now a third is planned in D.C.
Here are some more meaty morsels: 1) Red will start selling its meats in stores soon, 2) they are hosting a cool Rums of Puerto Rico dinner in September, and 3) you can expect to see Vauthy's mug in a Certified Angus Beef (CAB) ad campaign soon.
But none of that forgives the fact that he made us wait for an hour before showing up for the interview. His excuse was that he was busy shopping at Bal Harbour...
New Times: Thanks for finally showing up. So what did you buy for me?
Peter Vauthy: [Laughs] I was shopping in Bal Harbour for uniforms.
No really. For my staff.
Whatever. So let's get to business. I hear you constantly feed Miami's top athletes here, especially from the Heat. Who was the most impressive celebrity or dignitary you've ever cooked for, or the one person who makes you the most nervous?
If you're gonna come eat my food, I'm never afraid of [you].
Who were your first culinary influences?
I used to watch my great grandmother and great aunt. I was amazed by how they would cook. And my mom canned things and pickled things.
What are the three most important factors in a plate of food?
It has to be procured from the right source, cooked with precision, and plated with perfection.
So you're using locally sourced produce?
As much as possible. That's a standing order with my produce people. I demand it from them, which makes me a pain in the ass to my purveyors. I don't want it to travel. If I don't ask for Florida limes, limes come from South America. I know the difference and that's all that matters. I know when something's been put on a truck a minimum of three days to be shipped here, then another day to be put through inventory, and I don't get it things until they are 10, 12 days old. Limes should be plump and delicious.
People in Florida have the most bountiful harvest at their fingertips. We need to cherish those things being here.
And how about your meat? Uh, I mean, Red's meat selections...
We use Certified Angus Beef Prime, which is basically the top 1 percent of all U.S.D.A.-graded cattle. Every piece of meat is checked by chefs.
Why is a Red steak better than your local competitors' then?
They're not being honest with the meats on their menu. They're serving "Kobe beef," but right now Japanese Kobe beef is banned. They're using Kobe-style beef. We're using Chilean Kobe-style beef. It's 95 percent wagyu.
And we do certain things to our beef that nobody else does... aging, the way it's handled, making sure it's all Certified Angus Beef Prime. [But] I hold my seafood to a higher standard than my meat. I'm getting lobsters flown in from the East Coast. They don't get tanked here. We don't use warm water lobster tails. The shrimp we get are wild caught from guys in dugout canoes by hand. By the time they hit the processing plant [in Ecuador], they're still alive.
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You know that for sure?
I want to get photos of that going on. Food is something very serious to me.
Monday, we'll learn why he's got a beef with burgers, what he'd eat before croaking, and which of Red's delicious sides we'll all be serving with dinner next week.