The Forge: Christopher Lee Keeps Things Classic (With a Few Twists)

In the past few months, the Forge has gone through some changes, announcing the departure of Dewey LoSasso and the arrival of Christopher Lee, its new executive chef.

Lee, who was hired by the Forge's owner, Shareef Malnik, in January, comes with a long resumé. He received the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef of the Year award in 2005 and was named Food & Wine's Best New Chef in 2006. He has worked at many New York powerhouses, including Daniel, Jean Georges, Oceana, and the Michelin-starred Gilt and Aureole. Miami diners might remember Lee from Eden, which opened in 2010 and closed in March 2012.

Since then, the talented chef has co-owned Sophia's in Philadelphia, which had a life span of less than a year. In December 2012, Grub Street reported Lee planned to open several restaurants in Philadelphia and then concentrate on Washington, D.C. It seems, however, the Forge's Malnik enticed the chef to take over the kitchen at the iconic Miami Beach restaurant. Since his hiring, Lee has been busy updating dishes while staying true to a classic steakhouse concept. He's now launched a new menu, presenting it at a recent media dinner where New Times tried some dishes and spoke with the chef.

Lee took a classic steakhouse menu and turned it around with some innovative twists. For instance, bacon is given a spicy Jamaican jerk preparation.

In Lee's play on pastrami on rye, duck pastrami is served over braised cabbage with rye gnocchi.

Creekstone Farms' wet-aged Black Angus filet mignon, "accessorized" with duck egg 'n' smoked bacon, blue cheese creamed caramelized onions, shrimp scampi, Maine lobster gratin, and chimichurri.

New Times: How did you get the executive chef position at the Forge?

Christopher Lee: It was like a perfect storm. Shareef Malnik was looking for a new chef, and I was looking for a new home. When I talked to Shareef for the first time, I knew it was the right move for me and my family. We were welcomed into the Forge family with open arms, and it has been a great ride so far.

You were in Miami before, at Eden. Did you have a plan to return to Miami, or did this opportunity present itself?

I was a consultant at Eden, and it opened my eyes to this great city. Since then, returning to Miami has been on my mind. I was ready to get back into fine dining and to the warm weather, and the opportunity with the Forge was one I couldn't turn down.

What was your primary goal when taking over the Forge?

We have kept to the Forge's roots as a steakhouse.The Forge is such an iconic restaurant here in Miami, and after the incredible redesign to the interior in 2010, enhancing the culinary program felt like the next step in the Forge's evolution.

Generally at a steakhouse, you lead with that foot. What steaks are you working with?

With the new menu, we are continuing to focus first and foremost on quality. Since the Forge has such a long-term reputation for fine steaks, to enhance this, we are working with Pat LaFrieda out of New Jersey to source the absolute best steaks possible.

What is your favorite steak and why? What is the best value at the Forge?

The best steak on our menu in my opinion is the 16-ounce New Your dry-aged Prime "Super Steak." I love the aged flavor it has, and it's my favorite cut of meat as well. The best value to me is the 12-ounce New York strip and the 16-ounce boneless spice-rubbed rib eye.

The Forge is known for its extensive wine collection. Did that in any way influence your menu?

Wine will always influence food I create. Our sommelier, Gino Santangelo, has 38 years of experience at the Forge and is an incredible resource for pairings.

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