Jan Jorgensen has operated Two
Chefs in South Miami since 1994. During that time he has successfully surfed the turbulent
waves of South Florida's fickle economy, fussy diners, and vacillating trends, while putting out consistently great fare at his restaurant.
In part one of the interview, Jorgensen discussed pork
belly, small plates, food trucks, the Food Network, and the meaning of being a chef. In this part, we discuss Ferran Adriá, Michael
Schwartz, Scandinavian cuisine, and the
path to a perfect soufflé -- among other things.
What do you think of Ferran Adriá's cuisine?
I don't quite understand that food. Noma (a Danish
restaurant which this year toppled El Bulli atop S. Pelligrino's 50 Best
Restaurans In The World), which I had the pleasure of eating at when I was in
Copenhagen, is much more something you can grab and feel. The cuisine (and
what's going on in other Scandinavian restaurants) is very close to Thomas
Keller at The French Laundry. It's all about using local ingredients and then
setting them up in a certain way. It's inspired cooking. And it goes back to
Georges Blanc, Escoffier, all these guys back in France.
But thank God America started making its own cuisine. And
it's beyond the regional stuff, like BBQ in the south, clam chowder in Boston,
and whatever. American cuisine, like we did at Stars when California cuisine
was launched, I think is brilliant.
Have you dined at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink?
I enjoy Michael's food. It's simple, and it makes sense. I like that. I don't like 17 things piled up and come falling down on the plate.
Your soufflés have a knack for not falling down. What makes them so popular?
It's just a classic recipe that we haven't fucked with, to be straight up with you. (He quickly describes each step and ingredient necessary in preparing one). There are other recipes, but no other way to do it.
A choice of soufflés is Two Chef's only dessert now, right?
Right before Christmas I said to my staff, 'What would happen if we pulled all the other desserts off the menu?' They said 'Absolutely nothing.' People love our soufflés. As soon as they sit down, before they even order appetizers, they'll say 'We want the chocolate soufflé."...God I sell a lot of soufflés.
You've changed your regular menu format as well.
We had a ton of people who ate off the specials board and not enough from the main menu. So I decided to make a great new menu every week. No more specials board. I'm going to have eight or nine appetizers, and seven or eight entrees, one in each category - meat, fish, shellfish, pasta, and so forth. You know when you eat in Europe, you get three apps, three entrees, three cheeses and two desserts (to choose from) and that's it. Do you really need five types of salad and all that? I'll say to my cook, 'Could you make a beautiful black pepper fettuccini that we can use for the next few days? My purveyor just called me, I've got great scallops coming in, so let's do something with that.' And when we're bored of it after five days, we'll create a new dish.
We all do tartar and steak with French fries, because we think that's what the customers want. I want to do different food, get my staff excited. If the tomatoes are good right now, let's run it for the next month. After that I don't want to see a tomato in my house, I want to see white asparagus, because it's seasonal, and the price is right, and all these things.
I went out to one of Miami's more famous restaurants a few days ago, for the first time since it first opened two years ago. It was exactly the same menu. And this is the sort of place where the chef gets a lot of press, and is referred to as a 'superstar'. I would have liked to see more innovative food, some new ideas. I mean things have changed a lot in two years.
And I assume South Miami has changed a lot since you opened Two Chefs.
I've been here for 17 years, and in that time we've added 7,000 restaurant seats within a six-mile radius -- between Merrick Park, South Miami, Dadeland, etc. The same customers are just being moved around. A new place opens and is really successful, another opens a few years later and all they do is take people from the first place.
How old are your kids now?
Our daughter will be fifteen next month, and our little boy is a little over three.
Does your daughter spend much time in the kitchen?
No, it's more Facebook and texting, maintaining the relationships with her friends. But we cook at home. For the little one, instead of buying pizza, I'll bring a dough ball and some cheeses and we'll make it together. He's already slicing mushrooms, and has been for awhile.
Looking ahead for cheap labor?
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It would be a lot of fun. When I read Norman had introduced his son at Norman's 180, I was thinking that must have been a great moment for him. That's something every chef wants out of life: for the offspring to follow in their footsteps.
Monday: Jan shares the recipe for his renowned chocolate soufflé.