Ford, most famously, won the title of Top Chef on the award-winning Bravo television series last year. During the season finale, Matador Room owner Jean-Georges Vongerichten served as Ford's sous-chef. That teamwork secured a victory for the chef.
Now the 31-year-old has forged a partnership with Grove Bay Hospitality Group that will allow him to further his career path. In a statement, Ford said, “I’m not looking to replicate anything I’ve done in the past. This is an incredible opportunity to create new concepts."
The Grove Bay team — which consists of CEOs Francesco Balli and Ignacio Garcia-Menocal and chief operating officer Eddie Acevedo — has partnered with some of Miami's most promising culinary names, including Giorgio Rapicavoli on Coconut Grove's Glass & Vine and Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth on Stiltsville Fish Bar, which is scheduled to open this summer in South Beach. The team also owns and operates Big Easy Winebar & Grill and American Harvest.
Garcia-Menocal says Ford weighed several opportunities before going with his company. "We feel very lucky and blessed to be partners with him." Grove Bay's initial plans are for the chef to helm two restaurants. The larger of the pair will be located on the site of the multi-use Grove Bay project on Coconut Grove's waterfront, which recently broke ground.
Rather than wait for construction to be completed, Ford will open another, more intimate restaurant in the interim. "We didn't want to wait another 12 to 18 months," Garcia-Menocal says. "We were eager to start our partnership sooner rather than later."
Details about Ford's first restaurant — such as the name and location — are still being finalized, but the Grove Bay executive does tease a few tidbits: The eatery will not be located in Coconut Grove or Wynwood, and it will be an intimate, chef-driven restaurant.
Garcia-Menocal also explains that the reason behind his company's ability to attract so many top chefs is the relationships they form. "It's a complete collaboration and partnership. There are brainstorming sessions of recipes, location, the name of the restaurant, the uniforms... whoever comes up with the best idea. The word is getting around that we are a good group to work with," the CEO says.
"We allow the chefs to do what's best, and they recognize what we do best is the infrastructure. We work behind the scenes so they can shine with a great menu. It's the best of both worlds."
Garcia-Menocal also says the team is going all to claim a James Beard Award for Miami. Who better than a Top Chef winner to bring home the Beard?