As Miami makes its culinary mark, chefs of every stripe are making their way to the Magic City - and not just via other U.S. destinations. European talent is also finding its way to our sunny shores, lured by big name restaurateurs and an adventurous audience.
In part three of our transplant chef series, we speak to Normandy-born Executive Chef Matthieu Godard of db Bistro Moderne, the French-American melting pot in downtown's JW Marriott Marquis.
Matthieu actually began his cooking career a bit later in life, after a brief but misguided foray into accounting. He then spent five years as a chef for Club Med, cooking his way from the Cote d'Azur to the Bahamas.
From there the well-traveled chef headed to Spain and worked with the famous Chef Ramon Freixa before eventually making his way to New York. There he scored a position with renowned chef Daniel Boulud - thus the beginning of his tenure with the team. This year, he was tapped to head up Boulud's newest Miami outpost, db Bistro Moderne.
We spoke to Matthieu on being mobile, the land of butter and cream, and Miami restaurants he's dying to try.
Short Order: What prompted you to relocate to Miami and take a position with db Bistro Moderne?
Chef Godard: This is a very mobile profession. By definition, being a chef means being able to take your career and your craft on the road. Working with Daniel Boulud and his group has certainly proven that for me.
While I'm originally from Northern France, I had been working in Spain when I moved to New York City six years ago and went to work for Daniel. I jumped at the opportunity when he invited me to take the reins at db Bistro Moderne. I love the idea of change and challenge, and I've spent plenty of time cooking in resorts and tropical climates.
What do you find most exciting about Miami's culinary scene?
Miami's food culture only continues to develop. But I'm pretty tied to my own stove, so my greatest challenge is finding the time to discover what my colleagues are up to. There are a bunch of alumni chefs from DANIEL in New York whose places I'm dying to try, especially Thomas Buckley at Nobu and Laurent Cantineaux at Juvia. When are you taking me out on the town?
Haha, anytime! So how does the culinary landscape differ from what you experienced in New York? How does it differ from Europe and the other destinations where you worked?
I get the sense here in Miami that chefs are open to combining different cooking styles all in one menu. At db Bistro Moderne we definitely mix French and American, and even some Spanish flavors. Right now on our menu you'll find a beautiful Andalusian Gazpacho, a summery French Salade Niçoise and then our famous db Burger. I guess that makes us very Miami.
What changes do you see coming to our city's culinary scene?
At db, we're discovering Miami is becoming more and more of a real wine lovers town. My initial impression was that it was all about cocktails, but sommelier Chris Lindemann and I have been hosting monthly wine dinners to sold out crowds. The most popular have been the ones centered around family style menus that really bring connoisseur and casual together. But we mix things up with cocktails too. We're hosting a cocktail pairing dinner on August 21. Then in September we'll be back to wine pairings with a Rioja dinner.
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How does your current position differ from your experience working with Club Med?
At Club Med the entire focus is on pleasing guests and making sure they leave happy. Actually, things aren't much different in the world of Daniel. Only here people are a bit more fully clothed than at a typical Club Med - except at the one I worked at in the Alps.
How does your hometown affect the menus you create for db Bistro Moderne?
I am from Normandy - the land of butter and cream - but I've come a long way, and I love cooking food that is light, refreshing and healthy, as long as the flavors are exciting and the food is satisfying. Right now the dish that best fits that bill is my grilled Berkshire Pork Chop with a Hearts of Romaine Greek Salad, Tzatziki and Chickpea Hummus. It's hearty, healthful and full of flavor, all at the same time.
What dish would you say is most representative of your former experiences and travels?
I've spent a lot of time cooking along the Mediterranean and in seaside resorts from Spain to the Canary Islands, Greece and even the Bahamas, so I often create with seaside cooking in mind. Right now I'd go for my grilled prawns with Zucchini Pesto, Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomato.