I N T E R V I E W
Miami's great melting pot has borne some fabulous treats. Namely innovative
It's become the hotbed of the new and the hip.
The latest thing happening there is the transition of Max's in South Beach
to new ownership keeping the same wonderful chef, Kerry Simon.
In August Max's will become mercury . Kerry will continue serving his
celebrity fare......with a new twist.
PG: Are you excited about the evolution towards the new mercury restaurant?
KS: Yes definitely, It's taken me a little while because I went through the transition
from being a partner in Max's.....to letting someone else do the driving. I was hesitant
but wanted to do it. Now I can just concentrate on the food. I'm looking forward to it.
PG: How will mercury differ from Max's?
KS: Well, our restaurant Max's concept was "American Bistro". But now I will be
tapping into my education and training. It will still be American cuisine because
I am American.....but my training is very French.
PG: What will some of the dishes be?
KS: One is pork loin, chili marinated.....grilled and served with roasted spicy apples
and sweet potato hash. Another.....cold lobster salad. There are many new dishes.
I can't think of them all right now.
PG: I agree with the new owner of your restaurant, mercury when he says that
restaurant is theatre.
KS: I come from a different school. Kenneth looks at it as it being theatre. Sometimes
I don't like to relate it to things like art and theatre because it seems too
pretentious. I like to serve good food and give good service. But I can see how it
can be perceived as theatre because you set up a show, bring a person to his/her
seat and you perform food for them. My philosophy is just about being on top of
PG: You have worked in some fine restaurants with some fine chefs before
becoming an executive chef yourself. At which restaurant and with which chef
did you learn the most?
KS: Oh that's a tough question. I learned different things from different people.
Off the bat, working with John George Vongerichten was the most exciting food
situation I had. He would come in and every day was a new day. He would challenge
you to come up with new ideas. It was myself, Pierre Shultz
(Vong's chef under John George) and John George. It was the first time I had a
little independence.....once he trusted me.
PG: You worked at Lutece, what about the master chef Andre Soltner?
KS: It was the first place I worked before I went to CIA.
It was so glamorous.....whites, toques. It was all about being disciplined.
It had a certain Zen to it. Everyday you'd do the same thing. At some point you'd
change your jacket and put on a toque and the place would get crazy. It was always
busy and glamorous with celebrities. I was there to learn and follow in Andre's
tracks. I learned a lot about Alsatian cooking.
PG: You were the executive chef at the Edwardian Room in New York's Plaza Hotel.
What was it like working for the Trumps?
KS: Intense. It's the first word that always appears in my mind whenever I think
of that period of time. Their lives were insanity. Ivana interviewed what seemed
like hundreds of chefs. There was a lot of weight on my shoulders. It was fun,
many hours. But I was able to innovate once he (Donald Trump) trusted me.
This is after I was able to meet a certain criteria on the menu.
PG: At the Plaza you were famed for having a special table smack in the middle of
the kitchen where celebrities would eat. What was that like? Did it make you self
KS: At first I never thought I could do that. I used to watch Andre (Soltner)..... at first
it was difficult. Then I got used to it. It probably changed my career. Sometimes
certain celebrities would come in and I'd get flustered. It was great for my chefs.
Right away they could see how people reacted to the food.
PG: Sounds like fun.Are you ever planning to do that again?
KS: Yeah I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I am always looking for that
perfect kitchen that could accommodate a table. Le Bernardin has one and so does
PG: David Burke has one too at his Park Avenue Cafe in NY.
KS: Oh, a funny story......I came in one day and someone said there was a chef here
that had a measuring tape and was mapping out the dimensions of the table area.
It turned out to be David. He didn't take the idea from me. It's not something new.
It's been done for years in France and other places.
PG: If you were to describe your cuisine what words would you use?
KS: Modern American. Everything is based around American products.
PG: How has your cuisine evolved over the years?
KS: I feel almost like a chameleon. After leaving the Plaza, I wanted to do food that
was very simple. So you didn't have to be wealthy in order to eat my food. I wanted
to be more accessible to the public. And I guess I'm going a bit more vegetarian.
I'm very fat conscious with my cooking.
PG: Except your famous meatloaf. Now for the prize questions. What makes your
celebrated meatloaf so good?
KS: It's partly because it has veal and is made with fresh herbs. It's finished with
smoked bacon. We actually might take it off the new menu for mercury . Kenneth
feels it might not be part of the new feel of the restaurant.
PG: Oh, what a disappointment! How do you feel about that?
KS: I don't get attached to dishes. Maybe I'll make another that will be just as
popular. But I'm there to please the public. If they still request it.....we'll see.
PG: Where do you think cuisine is going? What do you think the next trend is going to be?
KS: It's hard to read right now. It's the first time that it seems that there are so
many things going on. There was comfort food for awhile. It might be going high end
again. There are a lot of Asian things going on. Vegetarianism is getting a bigger
market. There is a lot of cross cuisine. For instance, sushi bars in restaurants...like
Match. Also, more & more people are requesting low fat. They have been for
10 years but it is becoming considered the norm.
PG: Now my choice question. What is your favorite ingredient?
KS: Ooh boy, that's a hard one.
Maybe right now I'd say Chiso......it's a green leaf that the Japanese use. It has a
minty-peppery taste. It's spicy. The Japanese roll sushi up in it. I steam fish in it
or wrap tuna in it. Also, I like soft shell crab.
PG: How do you prepare it?
KS: With a curry cinnamon crust and then sauteed. I serve it with a blood orange and
tomato salsa. Then I add a cilantro pesto.
PG: Now my second favorite question. What tools can you not be without in the kitchen?
KS: French knives, my Champion juicer and my All-C>