Rumors have been swirling regarding the future of Azul at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel after it was made known that executive chef Joel Huff left, almost exactly a year after he started his duties at the posh and gorgeous restaurant.
Eater Miami reported that a source revealed a celebrity chef was checking out Azul while Huff was still in the kitchen. After witnessing the unnamed chef perusing the restaurant three times, the source mused, "I can see them closing Azul for this opportunity if they can close the deal."
Alexandra Wensley, Mandarin Oriental Miami's director of communications, told Short Order that the rumor is not true. She confirmed Huff's departure, stating that Huff "moved on to pursue other opportunities" and that the restaurant is looking for a chef -- but they are not pursuing a celebrity chef.
Wensley did not comment on whether the Azul name and concept are secure or open to change, but did confirm
that in the interim, Azul's sous chef, Jacob Anaya, will take over
the kitchen, keeping most of Azul's signature dishes and adding some of
his own inspirations. Anaya started at the restaurant a year ago, about the same time Huff arrived.
In fact, Anaya has
added four new dishes to the menu, giving diners an opportunity to try
something new and allowing the chef to shine. The dishes include smoked
Mediterranean octopus with French curry, brown-butter baba ghannouj, and
crisp eggplant skin ($22); pickled ramp risotto with carnaroli rice,
rock shrimp, ramp coulis, and Meyer lemon ($30); lobster mousseline with
butternut squash and brown butter ($36); and pan-seared branzino with
textures of celery, scallops kalamata, and Castello Vetrano olives, and
celeriac veluté ($37).
No word yet where Joel Huff will turn up,
but we're looking forward to big things. After all, Azul
seems to be a lucky charm for chefs in Miami, with Michelle Bernstein
and Clay Conley going on to much success and many accolades after turning in
their Azul toques.