Miami and Las Vegas have a lot in common: decadence, scorching heat, monied patrons.
Add chef Jordan Hoffman to the list. A recent transplant from Vegas, he is now the executive chef of Bianca, the Delano's swank, stylish Italian eatery.
After bouncing around to various restaurants in his early career, Hoffman spent eight years in Vegas working for one of the world's hottest chefs: Joel Robuchon. Then he opened a restaurant in Sin City's famous pyramid-shaped hotel, the Luxor, before flying south like so many other chefs who've made their way to the Magic City.
In the fourth installment of our transplant chef series, Short Order spoke with Hoffman about Vegas, butchering, and Miami's uniqueness.
Short Order: Tell us a bit about your background.
Chef Jordan Hoffman: I've been in kitchens for the majority of my life. I started out working the grill at a small diner when I was 15. Beginning even with that first job, I loved the challenges that came from kitchens and the pressure, timing, and skill that it takes to be successful. I was fortunate to work for people who allowed me the freedom to learn from both successes and failures, and always find a better way to execute the craft.
I spent a lot of time growing up in independent restaurants. Then I moved on to working at the Ritz-Carlton for a time, and then went to an incredible culinary school outside of Detroit, where I was fortunate to work with some of the most passionate chefs I have ever met. I moved to Las Vegas about eight years ago to work for Joel Robuchon, where I spent the majority of that time at L'Atelier. After Robuchon, I opened up a restaurant at the Luxor with a really great culinary team. Then, it was on to my first opportunity with the Light Group.
What prompted you to relocate to Miami and take a position at Bianca?
I found both Miami and the Delano to be the perfect next move for me. It gave me a chance to experience an incredibly diverse city, spend time at one of the most iconic properties in the world, and grow with a company [the Light Group] that has given me a lot of great opportunities.
What do you find most exciting about Miami's culinary scene?
Its growth and vibrancy. Right now I think Miami is right on the cusp of really coming into its own as a culinary destination. It has so many influences that contribute to it being a unique place. There are really great Latin restaurants, people doing unique American food, and outposts of Michelin-starred chefs.
How does the culinary landscape here differ from that of Las Vegas? How do you see yourself contributing to it?
Miami as a culinary scene has some similarities to Vegas with its wealth of really great established chefs in many of the resorts here. However, it has a great independent spirit about it as well. There are a lot of great smaller restaurants that thrive here and really do great food. It's a little harder to find the right clientele off the Strip in Las Vegas to do cool, great things while making the right kind of money. I think what Bianca at Delano brings to South Beach is just an enhancement of the naturally relaxed and refined atmosphere. I think the food here stands for that -- unpretentious but refined.
What mark do you want to make on Miami with your cuisine?
The fact that you can approach food with a fine-dining eye, do it within a defined cuisine, and still create a dining experience that can be comfortable for every guest while still maintaining a feeling of exclusivity.
What changes do you see coming to our city?
Growth. This is going to be a great time for the culinary landscape here. I think a lot of people in Miami are more aware of the possibilities out there, and there are going to be restaurateurs and hospitality groups that are going to continue to establish some really great restaurants in the market.
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How does your current role differ from your previous positions?
There is definitely a difference operating a dinner-only restaurant in a huge casino than a three-meal restaurant in an exclusive hotel that has under 200 rooms. There are certain challenges, but there are also a lot of things that are very rewarding.
How does your city of origin affect the menus you create for Bianca?
Being from the Midwest, I grew up around farmers' markets and had a garden in my back yard. I knew how to break down whole animals and started butchering at a young age. There is a certain magic that happens when you are close to the products and know how they got there. It's easy to know how far you really want them altered from their original state.
What dish, item, or method of preparation is most representative of your background and experience?
Even in Miami, there is still room for braises and slow-cooked foods -- ragouts and sauces that require love, care, and time to develop. That was something I learned to do very young, and it's still at the core of a lot of my cooking.