It has been over a month since 30-year-old chef Julia Doyne was promoted to executive chef at the Forge, making her the first female to hold the title at the storied Miami steakhouse.Cleveland-born Doyne took over the post from her longtime mentor chef Christopher Lee who held the role for less than two years. Lee continues to consult for the Forge and he was on hand helping Doyne when the restaurant hosted the prestigious James Beard Foundation dinner last month.
The Miami Beach steak-and-wine house, owned by Shareef Malnik, was once a playground for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Richard Burton, and Judy Garland. Shareef's father, Al, bought the supper club in 1968 and made it the place to see and be seen, but his son took over in 1991 when a roof fire devastated the restaurant. And not too long ago, the Forge underwent a $10 million renovation to ensure it remains one of the most glamorous and ornate eateries in town.
For her part, Doyne has been extremely busy since her appointment, but we were able to catch up with the young toque to discuss her plans for the Forge's future, as well as the challenges of being the restaurant's first female executive chef.
New Times: What went through your mind the moment you found out you were going to be the new executive chef at the Forge?
Julia Doyne: I was just really excited and I’m excited to carry on this tradition at the Forge. I was really excited to call my parents; I knew they were going to be very proud of me. Definitely calling my parents was the first thing I thought about.
Did it register with you during that moment that your appointment to executive chef also makes you the first female chef to hold the title at the Forge?
I hadn’t even thought about it all until people started bringing it to my attention and then all I could think about was it’s a great opportunity to pave new paths for young female chefs and to be someone for young women in the kitchen to look up to.
What are some of the most important lessons you've learned from working with chef Christopher Lee?
Chef Chris is a really great teacher. He’s constantly educating and encouraging people to educate themselves and to ask questions and to not be afraid to make mistakes and to try new things. He always reminded me to stand up for myself.
What cut of steak do you prefer and how do you like it prepared? And with what sides, if any, do you like your steak?
My favorite cut is a New York strip. I really like dry-aged meat. So a dried New York Strip medium rare. And I always put pickled onions on my steak, and that’s pretty much it. Sometimes steak sauce, but I’m pretty simple.
How do you plan on keeping with tradition at the Forge while also keeping it relevant in Miami 's dynamic culinary landscape?
I want to maintain the historical integrity of the restaurant and to serve great quality meat and interesting cuts of meat and to make people happy. I also have the opportunity to be creative and to stay up-to-date with the seasons and what’s available around here by changing the composed items on the menu. I just changed the ravioli to a butternut squash ravioli with pickles, cranberries, and a pine nut foam. I’m also going to add a beet salad with beet marshmallows, green apples, beet vinegar, and basil. More savory and wintery dishes will start coming on the menu.
What are some challenges you face as a female chef?
Right now there aren’t many issues. In the beginning, I felt pressure because I was a female and because not everyone agreed with me being in the kitchen, but I took it as you can waste your time putting me down, but I’m going to use that energy to make myself better. You’ve just got to ignore it and stay strong. Once you get to the higher-end restaurants, though, there are female cooks everyone.
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Which chefs do you look up to?
Obviously, Christopher Lee, but I’m a big fan of April Bloomfield, Daniel Humm, and Marcus Ware.
How did you get started as a chef? Where did you learn the craft and what was your first chef job?
When I was in high school, I started as a dishwasher to make it through school and to save for college. I went to the University of Pittsburgh for information sciences, and while I was there I started working in restaurants again and I was making pizzas and
When you're not in the kitchen, what do you enjoy doing?
I love Miami. Beautiful weather and the beach are very new additions to my life. I’m outside constantly. I go paddle-boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, running, and cycling whenever I can. I try to be outside all the time because it’s beautiful here.