Luis Padilla, the executive chef behind The Grill on the Alley in Aventura, was once sous chef at Bruschetta & Co., before honing his culinary expertise at various South Florida eateries, most notably Mark's Las Olas and Seasons 52. But Padilla remembers the day when his skills weren't so, well, polished. "My most embarrassing cooking-related moment was when I was just starting out, and I was finally cooking on the hot line," he explained. "I got in the weeds and burnt two fish dishes, and the chef told me I had two options: leave or go peel potatoes." Humble man that he is, Padilla the Potato Peeler stuck it out to shave spuds all night.
Recently he joined forces with The Grill's senior vice president to create a menu including classic American fare, baked trout, chicken pot pie, braised short ribs, cobb salad, and carrot cake. It seems a good fit for the man who dreams of a Harland Sanders throwdown, but management should be concerned that perhaps he hasn't quenched his thirst for pyromania:
New Times: Please complete this sentence: Never trust a chef who/that...?
Luis Padilla: ...is too nice. We chefs have strong characters for a reason.
NT: If you came back in your next life as a food item, what would it be and how would you like to be served?
LP: Lamb rack with a mushroom risotto and an English pea pesto.
NT: If you could serve a meal to any famous person, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you cook for him/her?
LP: I'd like to cook for "The Colonel" because I make the best southern fried chicken.
NT: What food/utensil/technique still confounds you?
LP: I don't understand metal cooking spoons. They scratch and screech against pans. I only like to use rubber and wooden spoons/spatulas.
NT: Which chef, alive or dead, would you like to challenge in Iron Chef fashion? Why do you believe you could kick his or her ass in the kitchen?
LP: Jaime Oliver or Gordon Ramsey. They both have similar cooking styles to mine. It would be a tough battle.
NT: If you weren't a chef, you'd be...?
LP: A firefighter.
NT: What's the hottest thing a date could whip up for you in the kitchen and why?
LP: A tomato, avocado and bacon panini with an ice cold Newcastle beer. I love sandwiches. Plus, it takes some love to make something so simple turn out incredible.
NT: Aside from any restaurants you own, work at, or have interest in, which Miami eatery is your favorite and what do you like to order there?
LP: I don't have a favorite, because I love food it is hard to pick just one. I really enjoy the independent small places, but if I had to pick one spot that I like to take someone to it's Benny's Seafood restaurant, a Puerto Rican spot, and I would order the seafood mofongo.
NT: Why do you think restaurants are hotbeds for sexual activity/relationships?
LP: When you work in a restaurant, you spend a lot of time there, and it's usually into the late hours of the night, and then everyone gets together afterward and goes out for drinks and everyone gets drunk and then... Well, you know.
NT: How many fellow cooks, servers, bartenders, etc. do you estimate you've hooked up with in your lifetime?
LP: Three. And I married the last one.