We reported Friday (see post below) that chef Jeff O'Neill had left Grove Isle Hotel & Spa for the Villa by Barton G. So the obvious question becomes: Who takes over at Grove Isle? A manager at the hotel informed me that the new executive chef is Rafael Melendez from the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The Stanley, operated by the same Grand Heritage group that owns Grove Isle, has an illustrious history dating back to 1909 -- but most folks know it as having been a model for the haunted property in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. I phoned the Stanley's executive chef, Stewart Redhead (who, it turns out, does not have red hair), to find out a little something about Mr. Melendez.
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Redhead says Rafael was his sous chef for the past two years and was also in charge of banquet catering. "We must do 150 weddings a year here," says Redhead, who touts Rafael as "high-energy" and "very talented." Melendez studied at culinary school in Puerto Rico and previously worked in Miami at the Sofitel as well as another place that Stewart couldn't recall. But according to the Stanley chef, Rafael and his wife (she grew up in Miami) were less than thrilled with Rocky Mountain winters. Melendez has already begun working at Gibraltar.
So we welcome Rafael back to Miami, a magical place where a chef never has to drive to work dressed in a goose-down jacket.