A little over a year ago, Fooq's made its debut in Downtown Miami. An instant hit as it featured "international feel-good" cuisine in a homey atmosphere. Owner David Foulquier sat down with Eater to reflect on the restaurant's first year and what he has up his sleeve in the future.
Overall how was the first year at Fooq's?
The first year has been absolutely incredible. It's been one of the most ... probably the most exciting year of my life. Definitely. It's been the hardest, the one I've worked the most in. It's been very, very interesting to say the least.
What would you say was the biggest challenge the restaurant has faced over the past year?
Wow. I think the biggest challenge was probably overcoming the fact that I was on a little
I pulled people from a lot of different areas and made this a very eclectic neighborhood joint.
lost corner in downtown Miami. Surrounded by not the most pleasant surroundings. Being able to draw the clients that I've been able to draw. I've been able to bring everything from 70-year-olds to the BMW crowd from Fisher Island, to young hipsters from Wynwood, to just the locals from downtown. I pulled people from a lot of different areas and made this a very eclectic neighborhood joint.
That kind of moves us into my next question. What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment?
I would say my biggest accomplishment was probably overcoming the loss or departure of Nicole [Votano] and bringing in a new team that not only lived up to the expectations, but I think superseded it. The restaurant has now really started to take a whole new form. The food, the organization, the service. Obviously this comes with time, but everything seems to be clicking now, more so than ever. That's probably what was the most impressive to me because, obviously when you are opening your first restaurant and you lose your chef, you get nervous.
It just showed me that really, first of all, that a chef is not always 100 percent what runs a restaurant, and it showed me that I was able to put in place a team of people that I believed in, and for me it really gave me a lot of confidence moving forward. It'll definitely help me in my ability to grow and to expand Fooq's, and to do whatever I want to do. It's that first hurdle that you really have to get the butterflies out of your stomach.
How would you say the restaurant has evolved since a year ago?
I'd say that we've definitely started to take on more. We've focused the menu more,
It's really becoming more of an expression of how I grew up, with French and Persian flavors.
we've started to take on more of a Persian and French direction. Where, obviously in the beginning, there was a lot of Italian inspiration because of Nicole. There was our Fooq's meatballs and our Bucatini, which have been two of our best dishes. It was also a little bit out of focus. There was not enough of a cohesion within the menu. When Roel came to consult with Bryan, he kind of put that idea in my head that you should focus the menu a little more. Not stick to one thing, but really find your identity and I think that Bryan took that to heart and he obviously has brought, him and Sergio, have brought a lot of Persian elements to the food that wasn't really there before.
I do keep some French flavors in there. We still have foie gras, truffles. We still have elements of a French bistro but it's really becoming more of an expression of how I grew up, with French and Persian flavors influencing my palette, because I'm both French and Persian. That's really what's starting to take form.
And with hitting the year mark, what's ahead for Fooq's in year two?
I think, first of all, Bryan [Rojas], the chef, who's been doing a great job and is going to be able to spend a lot more time focusing on the dinner menu now that he has removed himself from figuring out day-to-day operations. The dinner menu is probably going to elevate. We are going to add a couple of brunch days in the new year. Hopefully develop brunch because brunch has been a pretty big hit even though it hasn't been around for so long, everybody really gets down with it. It's such an outstanding menu that once people start finding out about it, the Fooq's brunch thing is going to become the big thing.
I have a couple cool ideas in stock that I want to be able to play out, but I'm not going to rush in.
Other than that, I'm going to keep my options open, see if any good opportunities come along and if they do, I have a couple cool ideas in stock that I want to be able to play out, but I'm not going to rush in. If the right opportunity comes, then there will be something very exciting. If not, I'm very much committed to making Fooq's as good as it can possibly be. I think that's something I learned from Danny Meyer. He took a long time after Union Square Café before he opened Gramercy Tavern. I think something like four years, or something like that. He said in the book, don't try and expand too fast. I have obviously gotten a lot of people who wanted to do things, and real estate developers, and so on and so forth. Sometimes you have to learn how to just take your time and not rush into something.
Does it feel like it's been a year?
It feels like it's been 10 days and it feels like it's been a year at the same time. It's been wild. I actually was thinking about how crazy it feels because I feel like I've aged about a decade but I feel like I'm so young in business years, its crazy. Obviously it's a blessing that we've been able to make it through a year. It's something that a lot of restaurants don't really get the chance to do. Being 25 years old when I opened this, barely. Just turned 25, now I'm 26. It's very rewarding and gratifying, but it really makes you want to get to the next year and the next year. Can't wait for the next year.