One year ago this week, during the height of Art Basel mania, Matador Room inside the Edition Hotel opened its doors. Its chef de cuisine, Jeremy Ford, took the reigns of the restaurant helmed by mega-chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and helped add his spin to the menu — all while competing on the latest season of Top Chef. Eater spoke with Ford about the restaurant's first year, working with Vongerichten and what his Top Chef experience was like.
Overall, how's the first year at Matador Room been?
First year has been outstanding. You know, we've done very, very well in regards to even the locals, really seem to dig the weekly changes that we have on the fall menu. They love the stuff that are the kind of staples of the restaurant and it's been busy as hell so I can't complain.
So the restaurant seems to be embraced pretty well then by Miami?
Yeah, I think from all the stuff I hear and all the Chefs that are around, it's always very positive feedback. When we first opened, we didn't have the right flow in place and we felt it on the service end. I think the struggle is real when it comes to good service in Miami so I think overall, we've finally gotten past that and the locals seem to be digging us.
What has been your biggest challenge this year at the restaurant?
Biggest challenge? That's a tough one. If I had to say the biggest challenge, is just always training. The biggest challenge for me is making sure that our staff knows every single detail on the plate and exactly how we want the flow to go. That's the hardest thing for us.Getting the staff to understand how do you flow that are order fire and it's coming out at different times, at different stations and making it all land in a correct and not overwhelming the guest with 19 plates, you know.
How would you say the restaurant has evolved since you guys opened up? It was a year ago today, right?
When we first opened, we opened with a straight Jean Georges menu. There was 100 percent only their recipes and it was a very limited menu. Now we've taken that limited menu and we've added of my own touch, my Sous Chefs have had a lot to do with menu changes. We also run a seasonal menu, which is separate. It give us a chance to use Swank Farms, utilize local stuff, you know.
And what's it like working with Jean Georges?
It's amazing, dude. Whenever we ask, I have a question, let's say, soft shell crabs came in this season. It's always great because as a Chef and a creative mind, you're always sit and getting their decisions. When you have somebody like Jean Georges there to say, "Oh here, try this out or try that out", it takes that doubt away. It's like having someone on your shoulder.
Besides working with one of the top chefs in the world, you also recently competed on Top Chef. Like my segway there?
What was that experience like?
Being on Top Chef, I think it was just the experience alone and getting to work with such amazing chefs and be involved in that, the most elite cooking competition in the world is, was very exciting.
And what should viewers expect for this season?
You gotta tune in to find out.
(Top Chef season 13 premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on BRAVO)