Miami Spice may not officially kick off till August 1, but six selected chefs are giving diners a preview of what's to come for the two-month-long restaurant promotion throughout June, July, and September in a collaborative series.
In anticipation of Aaron Brooks and Todd Erickson's battle at Iron Fork (the preview event to Miami Spice fused with chef competition) July 31, the Miami Spice mash-up dinners will preview dishes from the upcoming Spice menus. The first one takes Jose Mendin to J&G Grill, where he will share Brad Kilgore's kitchen and together the duo will cook a six-course meal. The other two dinners will happen in July and September, and Short Order got the scoop on which pair of chefs will cook next and what to expect from Mendin and Kilgore.
In the second installment of the chef mash-up series, 50 Eggs culinary director Clayton Miller and Haven and HuaHua Taqueria chef Todd Erickson will showcase their Miami Spice menus. This will give Erickson some practice before he goes knife-to-knife with Brooks for the Iron Fork Skillet of Superiority.
Although Miami Spice 2014 restaurants and menus haven't been released yet, Mendin did give us the skinny on his participating restaurants -- Pubbelly, PB Steak, and the new L'echon Brasserie. Tomorrow night's mashup will be a mix of Mendin cooking his food from the three establishments, so in addition to a preview of his Miami Spice dishes, guests can also expect something straight from L'echon. For one of the dishes, Kilgore will make a five-spice local poussin "saucisson the Lyon" with chard and walnut emulsion. A complimentary Botran rum mojito and glass of Stella Artois will start the six-course meal, and a duo of desserts (one from pastry chef Antonio Bachour) will close it.
New Times: If you had to sum up Miami Spice in five words to someone who's never experienced it, what would you say?
Mendin: It's time to go and eat!
Kilgore: Busy. Long. Fun. Challenging. Creativity.
What's your thought process for coming up with your Miami Spice menu and making it different from your regular offerings?
Mendin: We want to give people the best experience possible; it's [a] time to make people fall in love with your food and restaurants. At the Pubbelly restaurants, we take Miami Spice very seriously, and we work hard to make it a very special meal.
Kilgore: My first thing is to try to think of main ingredients and proteins that other restaurants won't be using. It seems like some restaurants do Miami Spice because they feel they have to. We do it because we want to. I always try to be creative but approachable in the creation of my dishes.
Is this the first time you will be cooking the dishes? Is there anything you've come up with on a whim for Miami Spice that you've actually added to the menu?
Mendin: Both. I have done some of them, and some are new. Miami Spice is also a good time to make new dishes; you want to change menus and make it exciting for patrons -- that way they will keep coming back.
Kilgore: Yes, this will be the first time I have served these dishes. I like to create new dishes for Spice because it keeps me and my crew excited.
It's a restaurant myth that people who dine during Miami Spice are somewhat looked down upon or given worse service for not being regular spenders or trying to save with the promotion. What are your thoughts on this?
Mendin: I know about this 'cause I've been in Miami cooking for 16 years, and I've worked in places where this happens -- they hide menus, etc. After seeing the development and progress of the Miami Spice program through the years, I understand the importance of it; the business that it generates is incredible, given the fact that it is the slowest time of the year in Miami.
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Kilgore: I don't like that this is how some perceive the Miami Spice diners as anything different. I am a Miami Spice diner! I go out during this time too. We approach our guests with the utmost professionalism, and I wouldn't expect anything else from another restaurant, but I also can't speak on their behalf.
Miami Spice Mash-Up dinner takes places tomorrow, June 25, at 7 p.m. Cost is $65 per person (excluding tax and gratuity). Seating is limited to 40 people, and reservations must be made in advance by calling 305-993-3333.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha