2016 South Florida Rising Star Chef Brad Kilgore of Alter

2016 South Florida Rising Star Chef Brad Kilgore of Alter
April 2016

One of Brad Kilgore’s earliest memories of cooking on his own—back in third grade—is mistaking tsp. of salt for tbsp. in a brownie recipe. By age 12, he was making pancakes and French toast at a diner in Overland Park, Kansas. Kilgore eventually enrolled in culinary arts classes at Broadmoor Technical Center under chef and mentor Bob Brassard while working at a local country club. After a trip to Tuscany with his class, Kilgore continued his studies at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, where he worked at restaurant Tante Louise. Graduation called Kilgore once more to Italy, this time alone, to work in a kitchen in the northern countryside.

Back home, Kilgore made it his mission to work for the best chefs who would hire him. He joined the kitchen of Celina Tio’s American Restaurant in Kansas City and then headed east to Chicago, where he worked for Grant Achatz at Alinea and then L2O with Laurent Gras. After spending time at Boka, Kilgore opened Epic as executive sous chef, which earned three stars from the Chicago Tribune. 

The plaudits followed Kilgore to Miami. Azul earned five stars from Forbes Travel Guide when he was sous chef, and the J&G Grill earned four stars from the The Miami Heraldwhen he was executive chef. Sensing the opportunity to establish roots in Miami, Kilgore opened Alter in 2015. The Wynwood restaurant is one of the most exciting and progressive eateries in the country. It won The Miami Herald’s “Restaurant of the Year” and was a semi-finalist for James Beard’s “Best New Restaurant.”

Interview with South Florida Rising Star Chef Brad Kilgore of Alter

Lisa Elbert: How did you get your start?
Brad Kilgore:
I started washing dishes. Occasionally they would have me cook pancakes and French toast and things to order, and I was on the line by 11 or 12. That was all in Kansas. I went to Italy twice, once after high school and once after graduating Johnson & Wales in Denver—both times to cook. It was an awesome experience, and I learned a lot. I made my way back to Kansas and worked at The American Restaurant. At 21, I moved to Chicago and worked at Alinea, Epic, and Boka. I always wanted to work for Alain Ducasse, but I’m not French, so I went to work with Laurent Gras and opened L2O. You had to be the right type of person to work there. Chicago felt stagnant, so I moved to Miami and started at Azul at the Mandarin Oriental before moving to J&G Grill at The St. Regis. It was a big change going from the independent to the hotel world. When it comes to opening a restaurant, I felt like it was my time. I wanted to get out of the constraints of corporate world. I wanted complete creative freedom.

LE: Who do you look up to in the industry? 
Andoni Luiz Aduriz is my favorite chef. I love what they do over there at Mugaritz.

LE: What’s the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
I think sourcing local ingredients is the biggest challenge. Getting food in Florida is hard. Florida is lacking the infrastructure when it comes to organic produce and livestock, and now is the beginning of the future. It’s coming together. I’m partnering in building my own farm outside of Tampa. The advantage of that is that there are more seasons in Tampa than here.

LE: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
Other than building my own farm, you have to support the little guys. There were these two guys in a truck driving around from other farms, and even though they didn’t have really good stuff, I wanted to buy things to support them. They’re starting to expand, and they’re about to launch a website with a ton of different farmers, produce, purveyors, etc..

LE: What’s your five-year plan?
I really want to open some casual restaurants. I love sandwiches, and I love barbecue. Being from Kansas, I’ve done a pop-up barbecue concept in the past. I’m so passionate about those things. I enjoy cooking so many different types of food, and I’d like to be able to do that and present some of those ideas and styles. Expansion outside of Miami will always be an option. Also, acquiring quality and interesting ingredients. Alter will be better every year.