Azul's Joel Huff Talks About His Last Meal, Portion Sizes

If you missed the first part of our interview with Azul's new chef, Joel Huff, please click here.

So how will you be changing Azul's menu?

It will evolve very organically. Cooking the way it feels right is my motto. It's not about the style of cuisine -- it's more about what's available. The example I give is, let's say I'm in California next to goat farm in San Francisco and they have great goats. So I'll put goat on the menu. How I manipulate the goat depends on the technique I use. Same in Miami. I love your yellowtail snapper. It's delicious. It's all over the place. It's fresh, it's beautiful. It will be all over the menu.

First impressions of Azul's former menu?

Before I came, I did my tasting. I thought the food was delicious. The service was impeccable -- very similar to what I had in San Francisco and New York.

Really? You're telling the truth? That's often a stretch here...

Yes. I thought the service was great.

I wasn't commenting on Azul in particular, but Miami isn't known for its top-notch service. What else do you think of our dining scene?

The vibe in Miami very fun. It's a very happening city. People like to have fun, be outside, eat outdoors. It reminds me of Sydney.

What would you eat if you could have one last meal?

I like tacos. They're easy to eat; it's to go...

You're going to have a tough time finding a quality taco here. How about if you were going to cook your last meal?

I believe in experience. It makes things go a long way. I would have it with my family on the beach, at home with friends. Maybe my dad's barbecue. Dining is not just about food -- it's about service, it's about the area, the garden you walk through...

What was your most memorable meal?

I had a great experience in Kyoto. I went to this kaiseki meal -- it literally takes up to 6 hours. You sit in the Japanese garden, you have tea, you bite, you enjoy, you sit in the tatami rooms, then more tea comes, and the next thing you know you've had 36 courses. It was during cherry blossoms. There was a river. So surreal. It felt like I was in Disneyland for foodies.

What is the least favorite that ever passed your lips?

I may not have enjoyed it, but I respected the process. There was one I couldn't stomach--it was fermented sea cucumber paste. It was gnarly.

What style of cooking are you least familiar with?

There's a lot of stuff that I've attempted but I'd like to master. I love Vietnamese food, I love Thai food, Southeast Asian food... I'd like to master it. I love the aspect of sweet, spicy and acidic. I really like those flavors. They really get me going.

What dish is on too many American or global menus?


What do you suspect is going to be your biggest challenge as you get Miamified?

The traffic is bad here! I thought L.A. traffic was bad...

Ha. No, I meant regarding the food scene.

Portion size is a big one for me. I've seen really big portions. I thought the opposite here because I perceived Miamians to be health conscious. I might have been wrong. I see a lot of heavy dishes. I'm not against it, but I'm surprised... because of the heat.

What's next for you?

I want to do something great for the city. We're gonna be doing some television appearances, James Beard in June or July.

Is that your first one?

It's my third one. And there's a Conde Nast cafeteria so we'll be doing that. We'll see.

Tomorrow he'll hopefully share a recipe with us. Let's see if we can peel him away from the taco stand long enough.

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Riki Altman