Chef Michael Gilligan. Serve him.
Chef Michael Gilligan. Serve him.

Rusty Pelican's Chef Michael Gilligan on Bad Brunches and British Food

​There's a lot of chatter surrounding the Rusty Pelican, the Key Biscayne landmark that finally reopens today after a multimillion-dollar restoration, and its salty chef, Michael Gilligan.

Inquiring minds wanted to know why the heck he flew the coop after serving as executive chef at the W for ages. And, of course, we had to ask if the strange, old-school name of his new home was off-putting. As he explained in the current issue of Miami magazine: "I thought, I just can't get past the name. But then a friend asked, 'Where do we go in New York?' Spotted Pig. My favorite restaurant in England? Fat Duck." He said, "It's a Miami landmark -- everyone knows the Rusty Pelican. I'm gonna take this job."

We sat down with the British chef just after he was hired for the gig to hear what he had been planning.

New Times: So why did you leave the W? Was it because the Dutch was coming in?
Michael Gilligan: It was a mutual thing. It was just time to go and move on.

Were you a fan of the old Rusty Pelican?
I had never been there.

What did you think when someone showed you the old menu then?
I looked it up online. It's the kinds of things I loved. [But] I'm not keeping anything from the old menu.

When people talk about it, though, they don't recall any memorable meals. It's always all about the view.
The food wasn't the focal point. I want to make it fun. I want to be able to do what I want.

Planning any big Sunday brunches and such?
That whole brunch thing is horrible. I hate walking around with a plate like Oliver: More, please! I hate that shit. Serve me.

Will we see any British food on the menu?
No. I don't think people want to go out of their way to eat British. 

And why does it have such a bad rap anyhow?
It was horrible for years and years. They still had rationing until 1954. So the people who grew up in that generation didn't know great, fresh, local produce. They used to eat beef hearts and Spam.

While we're on the topic of bad food, what's the most unusual food combination you've ever created or been served?
Calf's brain and asparagus salad. It tastes like ass.

Check back tomorrow to find out about the famous prince and princess he cooked for, which sticky American food product confounded him, and what he is doing at Rusty Pelican with a cotton candy machine.

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