We all know that Sam Gorenstein recently left his position at BLT Steak at The Betsy Hotel, to join forces with Michael Schwartz at The Raleigh, but the question remained until recently: who would take over the kitchen after his departure? After all, it can be a little tricky to replace a Beard nominee.
That quandary has now been answered by the appointment of Mario Tolentino as chef de cuisine. The San Francisco native was a winner on Chopped, and has sous chef stints at both one and two-Michelin star restaurants (one of those being Michael Mina's Aqua in SF).
This NYC import made a name for himself by upping the ante on global examples of "street food" at Juliet Supper Club, but is leaving that restaurant after just over a year. We wondered what was behind his decision to abandon the glory of Manhattan's food scene to make Miami his home base. We discovered that like most who choose to relocate here, the city winters were just too much to bear.
He says, "I love New York. I lived in the East Village, which is restaurant
mecca, but the allure of warm weather beckoned. I just didn't want to do
another winter, I am a tropical person! And having lived and worked in
Miami before, I always kept an eye on the restaurant scene here and
watched it evolve. I'm excited to come back here and be a part of that."
More importantly, we wanted to know how his personal style will effect the menu at BLT Steak, particularly what we could expect from the always exciting "blackboard specials." We're curious about how his previous experience will mesh with existing offerings. "My menu at Juliet was pure street food and international flavors.
Although it was well-received there, that menu would be a little out of
place at BLT Steak. For the blackboard specials, I will pull from my
international repertoire, a combination of French technique, seasonal
produce, regional American cooking -- all with a touch of global flavor."
Of course, it is technically a steakhouse, so we had to ask Tolentino for his philosophy on cooking the perfect steak, which he says "is simple. You start with
the highest quality meat, use a broiler for a great outer char and
crust, and then rest the meat. I have also been a fan of basting it in
butter with thyme and garlic for maximum flavor, which is exactly how
the steaks are cooked at BLT Steak at The Betsy."
And how did he handle the audition? "Of course I did a
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tasting during the whole process of interviewing for the job. I did my
best to cook the meat to perfection, and I guess I succeeded, because
here I am."