Food Industry

Vongerichten, Robuchon Must Do More Than Offer Michelin-Quality Meals

Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Joël Robuchon’s forthcoming Design District restaurants aren’t anything to celebrate, yet.

The multibillion-dollar enclave being developed by Craig Robins in partnership with Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy-funded L Real Estate has already been a hub of culinary creativity. Today, you can walk through the beating heart of Michael Schwartz’s empire. David Bracha’s Oak Tavern and Dena Marino’s MC Kitchen aren’t far off, and the pair have helped make it one of Miami’s best dining neighborhoods. Michelle Bernstein’s shuttered Sra. Martinez was once a resident and Buena Vista Bistro and Deli help round things out with more low-key offerings.

Whether Vongerichten and Robuchon will actually be good for dining in Miami dining will depend on whether some of those staffing the kitchens are given the training to blossom into chefs themselves.

Vongerichten has already had some success on this front. His Bal Harbour restaurant was a platform that gave former chef de cuisine Brad Kilgore a place to experiment and prove himself to investors now backing a Wynwood endeavor.

Promoting from within has long been the practice at Schwartz’s fledgling restaurant group, and his flagship’s kitchen has turned out chefs like James Seyba (soon to open Michelle Bernstein’s Cena), Samuel Gorenstein, and Matt Hinckley of the loved but short-lived Box Park.

“Bradley Herron, my executive chef for the hospitality group, started as a cook,” Schwartz says.

Such opportunities will be doubly important as restaurant spaces in the Design District become too large, and too pricy for smaller outfits.

“For the big new high-end mall that’s almost ready to open ,the rent was was too much,” says Javier Ramirez, who’s partnering with Kilgore on Wynwood’s forthcoming Alter.

Moreover the high-end imports aren’t necessarily for Miamians, even the ones planning birthday celebrations. They’re for the well-to-do Colombians, Russians, Brazilians, and other moneyed tourists who jet into town for luxury shopping. Still these newcomers should make some effort to fit into the set and setting, much as Conor Hanlon has done at Andrew Carmellini’s The Dutch.

Certainly chefs like Robuchon have a place in Miami. After all, Indian Creek Island Road is the most expensive street in America, according to the real estate website Zillow.

And Miami will surely welcome his infamous mashed potatoes (believed to a one-to-one potato to butter ratio) that one cook stirs throughout the night. But what the city needs most of all is a developing mind under the toque, because any monkey can be taught to whisk.

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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson