Jeff McInnis incorporates his eclectic kitchen background into Yardbird's menu. "I use Caribbean influences in dishes from time to time depending on what's in season," he explains. And there is always a hint of French fare. After all, he says, "Classic French is the foundation of almost all American-style cuisine, especially Creole and Southern. At Yardbird, we've incorporated modern cooking methods to enhance the preparations of classic Southern dishes."
Yet Yardbird is only one part of a bigger farm-to-table renaissance taking place in Miami Beach. Michael Schwartz -- James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of the Genuine Hospitality Group and Michael's Genuine Food & Drink -- will soon take over food and beverage operations at the Raleigh Hotel in South Beach. Kris Wessel -- James Beard Award-nominated chef of Red Light Little River -- is also moving across the causeway with Florida Cookery at the James Royal Palm.
Schwartz and Wessel are huge proponents of farm-fresh ingredients and local sourcing. The presence of all three chefs will mark an important extension of the local food movement into Miami Beach.
"Kris Wessel is supertalented, and I can't wait to see the Florida classics that I grew up eating cooked by such a great chef," McInnis says. "Good business breeds more good business, and these guys are some of the best in town."
These top toques and advocates for local food are also raising an important question: Is tweezer-plated, fussy fare gradually being replaced by simpler, more ingredient-driven cuisine? With the arrival of these three chefs, the Beach is looking increasingly dedicated to South Florida-grown ingredients.
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McInnis is excited about helping his partner, Kunkel, open another Southern-concept restaurant, Swine, in Coral Gables next year. The kitchen will be helmed by former Top Chef contestant Kenny Gilbert and will focus primarily on smoked meats, predominantly pork. Other big plans are in store for the restaurant group with Khong River House, an eatery dedicated to Northern Thai cuisine, slated to open near Lincoln Road in SoBe this fall.
In the meantime, McInnis is concentrating on Yardbird's three-pronged future: "New menus, more fun bourbon cocktails, and lots of good Southern dishes."