There was a time when people became chefs because they loved to cook, and the only famous American chef went by the name of Boy-Ar-Dee. Nowadays those entering the profession not only love food and cooking, they also love, to an equal extent, fame, money, spotlights, television appearances, fame, book tours, Batali/Bourdain-like indulgences overseas, fame, and, all too often, themselves. Chefs are so antsy they simply don't stay in one place very long.
There are dozens of good reasons for chefs to jump from one restaurant gig to another -- difficult owners, burnout, better financial offers elsewhere, and so forth. Fewer reasons exist for chef/owners to resist expansion to other venues. After all, extra restaurants mean extra income, as do cookbook tours, Food Network appearances, and those aforementioned things that go with being a modern day superstar chef. Plus, hitting the road seems more fun than being stuck in a kitchen.
Oftentimes the dining establishment runs smoothly without the name toque being around. That said, dining at a restaurant with its chef/owner away from the premises is like going to see a Broadway play and learning that the stand-in will be performing the lead role.
There is something almost heroic about those talented chefs who sacrifice fame and fortune in order to do what chefs were originally supposed to do: Stay in the kitchen and make sure their personal input goes into every dish being served at the restaurant that bears their name on the menu. Here are five local chefs who have admirably done just that:
David Bracha opened River Oyster Bar in 1993. He hasn't moved since. It remains one of our finest seafood restaurants and our best oyster bar.
Giancarla Bodoni, started at the then-35 seat Escopazzo in 1997 (it opened in 1993). Nowadays it is a 90-seat establishment that specializes in organic Italian cuisine -- and delicious Italian cuisine. One of the best.
Philippe Ruiz first joined Palme d'Or in the Biltmore Hotel in July of 1999. Still there. Has as much talent as anyone you'll see on The Food Network, which is why Palme d'Or has steadfastly been one of our true elite restaurants for so many years.
Tim Andriola opened Timo in April of 2003 (he consulted for a restaurant, but that doesn't count). He can still be seen in the kitchen, which is one reason that Sunny Isles residents rank this as the best spot to dine in the neighborhood. Many would argue it compares favorably with top restaurants in all the other neighborhoods too.
Scott Fredel opened his seafood-focused Pilar restaurant at Aventura in 2003. Sure he takes time off to go fishing -- that's his thing -- but he's still crazy about being at his restaurant after all these years. That's why Pilar is a place you should catch.