It’s probably the understatement of the century to say that Alter’s first year was a success. The restaurant, helmed by chef Brad Kilgore, received dozens of accolades including a four-star review by the Miami Herald, winning the title of Eater Miami's restaurant of the year and chef of the year, received two James Beard semi-finalist nominations, and most recently, Kilgore was picked as one of the country’s best new chefs by Food & Wine magazine.
With so much achieved in its first year, where does the restaurant go from there? Kilgore sat down with Eater to dish on what we can expect from the Wynwood hotspot in year two.
Overall, how has the first year at Alter been?
It's been really amazing. It's gone by really fast, but it's also been extremely successful and I couldn't have asked for anything to go any differently.
What would you say was your biggest challenge this past year?
I don't know. That's a really tough one. I’m going to change your question and say that my favorite challenge has been building a team and getting the right people in place and training them on how we like to do things.
It was a crazy phone call from Kate Krader that I didn't see coming.
Needless to say you garnered many accolades and accomplishments this past year, what would you say has been your biggest achievement?
Absolutely the Food & Wine Best New Chefs. It was a crazy phone call from Kate Krader [Food & Wine's restaurant editor] that I didn't see coming and it's something I wanted ever since I knew it existed from when I was a teenager. I definitely did not expect it. It's something you can get up to five years after taking over your first place, so to get it in our first year is pretty amazing.
How long did you know about the Best New Chefs pick before you could talk about it?
Wow, really? You had to hold that quiet?
Yeah. It was hard because it was so exciting. I think I told my parents, my wife, my partners, and my lawyer. The issue is just came out. Then we go to Aspen Food and Wine in a couple weeks, which I'm very excited about. I went to college in Denver. I used to work in Aspen, so I'm excited to go back there. There has been just a lot of attention, a lot of people reaching out, some interesting gifts have shown up, just presents for winning it.
What's the craziest thing that's shown up?
There was some random notebook with my initials on it that I thought was just really random. It had nothing to do with food and then a letter from Daniel Boulud was pretty cool. Today, I got a saute pan in the mail and I literally was handing it to my sous chef just put this in the mix and I flip it over and it says "Food & Wine Best New Chef." I was like, "that's mine, I'll take that back." Whoops [laughs].
Right now, it's the most forward thinking cuisine that we've been doing.... I really just appreciate the clientele letting me do my thing.
How would you say, since opening your doors a year ago, how has the restaurant evolved in the past year?
The restaurant has evolved a lot. The menu has evolved a lot and it's gotten more intricate, it's gotten more creative. I'm finding myself in the style here at Alter because it's been a new style to do "controlled chaos," what I call some of the platings and the guests have really just gone for anything that I put on the menu. It's really opened up the freedom for creativity. Right now, it's the most forward thinking cuisine that we've been doing. When we started, I really liked our menu. All the dishes had a meaning for being there and I really just appreciate the clientele letting me do my thing.
So what's in store for the next year at Alter?
As we speak, I've designed a really cool Yakitori cart for the bar, Bar Alter, that we have. It's going to have two robata grills, an induction burner built into it, refrigeration, rice cooker. It's really cool. A friend of mine, he's an architect and he builds things, is making it. I drew it all out and told him functionally what I wanted and this guy's really creative. It should be here by close to the end of the summer.
You'll do that as part of happy hour or is that going to be its own standalone thing?
Full blown thing out here at the bar. We'll have different grilled items, smoked scallops, probably some chicken thighs. We'll have a rice, sushi rice, and egg bowl. It's going to be pretty cool and we'll just see where it goes from there. A little more casual. Some shareable items and you'll be able to watch the guy cook as you're hanging out at the bar.
Last question, does it feel like it's been a year?
Yes and no. It's been a very long, hard work in one perspective and it's blown by on the other perspective. I'm just gracious to have made it this far.