Interview with Chefs Andrea Curto-Randazzo and Frank Randazzo of Talula - Miami Beach, FL

November , 2004

Joy Johnson: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Andrea Curto-Randazzo: I’ve always loved to cook. Growing up in an Italian family, my grandmother was the epitome of an Italian cook.
Frank Randazzo: I started out as a busboy and worked up to a waiter. I enjoyed learning about the restaurant and the kitchen. I wanted to be well- rounded and learn the full spectrum. I enjoyed the kitchen more than I anticipated, and I was successful.

JJ: Who are your mentors?
ACR: From the beginning Alice Waters was my mentor. I watched a film in school about her, and she was the first woman chef to look up to and appreciate.
FR: Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller. They are business-minded and creative.

JJ: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?
ACR: I can’t do without my chef’s knife, or a wooden spoon (to make my risotto).
FR: There are so many basics like a hot sauté pan, a chefs’ knife, or tongs. I would also say a really good quality grill.

JJ: What cities do you like for culinary travel? Why?
ACR: New York –it’s got the best pizza, the best chefs. It’s just amazing and so cultural. I also love New Orleans and San Francisco. California has the best produce available.
FR: New York is the best in the world, you can find it all. Diverse, quality food and the best chefs are all at your fingertips.

JJ: What are your favorite food haunts in Miami?
ACR & FR: Doraku for Japanese, Ortanique, which is owned by our friend, Rosanella for dive-y Italian, and Pub Haus- it’s a German restaurant.

JJ: What is your favorite spice? Why?
ACR: My favorite herb is chives. I also like to experiment with lavender lately. I make a dish with lamb, goat cheese, truffle and lavender.
FR: It’s not exactly a favorite, but I use chili a lot.

JJ: Is there a culinary technique that you have either created or use in an unusual way?
ACR: I like to go back to traditional dishes to give me inspiration, then I invent. We like to do creative but approachable food at the restaurant.
FR: Yucca- I peel, boil and puree it until it turns to this pasty, milky texture. Then I flatten it out to dry for 48 hours and fry it.

JJ: What advice/ tip do you have for culinary students just getting started?
ACR: I would tell them to watch fewer food shows and get real experience in the field. I feel young people don’t have a grasp of how difficult the reality is- the long hours and hard work.
FR: Work for the best chef in the city or town you live in. They’re more likely to simply cook the best food.

JJ: What is your best food memory?
ACR: Sunday dinners, with my family spending time together. My grandmother would prepare antipasto, pasta, meat, fruit, nuts, etc. Also, a 9-course tasting meal at French Laundry when Frank proposed to me.
FR: I remember a meal with Andrea at Mesa Grill in NYC - good food and a fun time. Also, eating my grandmother’s scungilli with red sauce growing up.

JJ: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
ACR: Owning more than 1 restaurant, and continuing to be successful enough so we have more personal time (for pedicures, tennis, etc.)!
FR: Enjoying the restaurant business, and having more time for our family.