Later this summer MR Hospitality is opening two projects in the heart of Brickell — Marion and El Tucán — and they’ve brought in a Michelin-pedigreed chef to create the cuisine, Jean Paul Lourdes.
Lourdes has worked with practically every big name in the restaurant industry including time with Pierre Gagnaire in Paris and Joël Robuchon in Tokyo to working in kitchens like Maison Pic in Valence and Tetsuya's in Sydney. Eater sat down with the chef to learn more about his unique background and what we can expect on the menu of this latest project.
Eater: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started cooking?
Lourdes: Prior to being a chef I was in the perfume industry. I made perfume as part of my thesis in University and did that for a few years prior to being a chef. Then I met Pierre Gagnaire in Paris when he was doing a collaboration with Hermes, the clothing brand, and we got to talking. I went and ate his restaurant and then I went and worked in his restaurant for free for a few weeks. Then I decided to give it a shot at cooking. I didn’t get paid for the first three months.
Then I just worked my way through three-Michelin starred restaurants. I tried to keep them at three, no reason of any arrogance or anything like that but just the level of attention to detail that I felt very comfortable with. It’s not that I sought after three stars it’s just that transferring from each post to each post. Then I joined a hotel company called Shangri-La and worked my way up to the corporate office. Then I met Stephen Starr in New York and worked with him and that’s where I am now.
What made you change from perfume to food?
In food there aren’t so many limitations in creativity. Food for me is an outlet for creativity. Even when it comes out wrong you learn the process it took to get to the stage where it was wrong. Where as with perfume, it’s so much harder because the average perfume has 450 ingredients in it. So to make a mistake is a lot different, it’s more controlled, and the science behind it is more specific and more exact, where as in food things change all the time.
What brought you to Miami?
Believe it or not, I live in Hong Kong. I have an agent in New York who approached me with this project and I thought I’ll go down to Miami and check it out. I wanted to meet with these guys and find out what their vision is and what they want to do because they are new to the industry and I wasn’t sure if we could pull it off together. We sat down and had multiple conversations, multiple tastings, and then it kind of all just came together. I really liked their vision and what they wanted to do and their passion, and I just want to bring their dream alive to the best I can.
Can you describe the two concepts for me?
Marion is going to be an restaurant, oyster bar, bakery, market kind of deal — multiple concepts in one. The food is Mediterranean from places all over the Mediterranean including North Africa. There will be Spanish influence predominately from an ingredient aspects; French influence in regard to techniques; Italian in regards to produce and seasonality and Greece as well for flavor profiles. We are really trying to encompass the whole Mediterranean.
And Marion will feature a rather extensive pastry program?
We have a very large pastry menu, it’s almost the same size as the savory menu — it has about 28 dishes on the dessert menu. Our pastry chef starts next week and is coming from Jean Georges. She worked with him all over the country. We’re lucky to have her. She’s going to do great things. Pastry is a big influence to my career. Throughout my career I did a lot of pastry work including time with Pierre Herme in Paris. I like it because it’s very feminine and I can create subtle flavors with multiple ingredients and tailor the flavors to the feminine side of things.
You’re handling the menu at El Tucán as well?
Yes, it’s a cabaret so it’s dinner and a show. So you go there and dinner starts at 8 p.m. and the show will start a little later around 10-10:30 p.m. and would finish around 1 or 2 in the morning. The food is Latin, which is a new style for me because I haven’t really lived in this part of the world before so this is very exciting for me. I’ve used ingredients from the Amazon before so I am trying to build off those flavors. I staged at D.O.M. in San Paolo and they do a modern approach to Brazilian food but using a lot of Amazonian products as well. The approach of what we are doing is a little modern to what Miami might be used to. The menu will have your typical ceviches and what not, but Peruvian has a Chinese and Japanese aspect to it as well so we are trying to approach it with some of those underlying flavors as well. We are 50 to 60 percent through the menu, it still has a little ways to go but it will definitely get there.
What challenges have you faced so far?
The tasting have been really interesting. Many, many flavors. Some way too complicated. Coming from the background I came from, I spent all my life making food more complicated and now my job is to make it less complicated. My challenge for myself, to be able to produce high quality food that is more approachable to a broader market, for a lot larger audience. They are looking to do 600-700 covers a day and I just came from a restaurant where we did 20 a day.
Is the opening still planned for this summer?
Yes, in July. Everything is on track and the site is coming along. The kitchen is looking good.