A New Standard: Holistic Hospitality at The Standard Miami

by Emily Bell with Will Blunt
Will Blunt and Autumn Stein Will Blunt
May 2011


Chef Mark Zeitouni
Lido at the Standard Hotel – Miami, FL


Chef Mark Zeitouni
Lido at the Standard Hotel – Miami, FL


Raw Living Lasagna
Chef Mark Zeitouni of Lido at the Standard Hotel – Miami, FL

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Chef Mark Zeitouni
Lido at the Standard Hotel – Miami, FL

Paradise Found: Holistic Hospitality at The Standard Hotel – Miami, FL


Interview with Chef Mark Zeitouni

Maybe it’s the Miami sun. Maybe it’s his experimental month of green smoothie consumption. But Chef Mark Zeitouni is bafflingly unflappable in what some might consider a chef’s logistical nightmare: a tourist-based restaurant churning out diet-sensitive cuisine for up to 800 covers at a time, from a bare-bones outdoor kitchen, forever at the mercy of South Floridian Mother Nature. And yet, with nothing more than a panini press, a grill, and two refrigerators, Zeitouni and his tiny team (up to four cooks at any given time) create cuisine that not only satisfies the hotel’s bikini- and board shorts-clad guests, but carries through the “integral living mission” of The Standard Miami, envisioned by Hotelier and luxury guru André Balazs.

Sunbathing at The Standard Hotel - Miami, FL

Holistic Hospitality
The Standard’s basic ethos of “integral living” is “inspired by the traditional Mediterranean diet and lifestyle,” that sun- and olive oil-drenched beachside existence that seems to imbue its happy practitioners with deep-seated wellness (with possible side effects of bronzed good looks and general desirability). It reflects a kind of holistic approach to the guest experience, a trend in the industry to evolve from standard hospitality to a comprehensive, experientially cohesive—and evocative—program. Executed by Zeitouni and overseen by Food and Beverage Manager Dale LoSasso, the cuisine at The Standard and it's restaurant Lido Restaurant & Bayside Grill, not only accommodates but fuels this goal, imbuing the typically tired, perfunctory lightness of “spa cuisine” with a purity and integrity of flavor that rivals the best in sophisticated, seasonal dining.

And it’s no surprise. Like any chef who does his job really, really well, Zeitouni takes it very personally. “One thing I really thought a lot about,” he says, “one of the reasons I became a ‘spa chef,’ is the interaction between how food tastes when you eat and how you feel shortly after.” And Zeitouni has plenty of post-prandial experience to draw upon. “Take [eating a] high-end French food, a big tasting menu,” he offers. “I’m out of commission for a few hours. So I started analyzing ‘How come I go out and eat sushi and feel elated, and then I eat certain meals and I’m feeling tired?’”

Spa Activities at The Standard Miami

Lighter Luxury
Zeitouni brought his consternation to the kitchen, “breaking down ingredients between the Western and Eastern diet.” He even made himself the guinea pig, cycling through ginger and wheat grass shots and the hotel’s signature Green Smoothie (for a full month), analyzing how he felt afterward. “It needed to be a total experience,” Zeitouni explains, a kind of pervasive wellness that could follow a guest from a mud bath or exercise class to lunch and back again, making sure “the food is aiding and not hindering that.”

But Zeitouni’s not creating energy drinks or power lunches. He’s taking fresh product, preparing it efficiently (very often, it’s a Spartan-simple kiss on the restaurant’s one grill, followed by some olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt), and serving it to the diner immediately—“in my eyes, it goes to the guest within 30 seconds.” Sure, he has to accommodate a variety of dietary restrictions; but Zeitouni does it with a chef’s creativity and curiosity. His Raw Vegan Living Lasagna—the end result of a vegan pizza that proved too hard to expedite short of operating 10 dehydrators to make vegan “dough” and basically running them all day—combines a nut-vegetable sausage with fresh zucchini, squash, eggplant, and raw tomato sauce for a dish that delights vegans and non-vegans alike.

Eggs Lido at Lido at The Standard Hotel - Miami, FL

Zeitouni doesn’t shirk French tradition entirely. He’s just building a different, lighter cuisine with a shared emphasis on integrity of product and flavor-building. While most classically-trained chefs might start a sauce with beef stock or finish a dish with a healthy (which is to say egregiously unhealthy) knob of butter, Zeitouni relies on other sources of richness—vegetable purees and stocks, even water (something he learned from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Simple Cuisine, where healthful eating got much-needed culinary street-cred). Zeitouni doesn’t reject richness per se (he’ll happily order eggs benedict every now and then); but when he’s cooking eggs for his guests, thinking about how they’ll feel as they head to yoga or sit out by the water, he opts for a yogurt and dehydrated yellow tomato-based sauce over bearnaise.

For Zeitouni, who looks tan and happy in his Standard chef whites, it’s all about how a guest, with all of his or her dietary and physical idiosyncrasies, feels at the end of the stay. “We really try to work with the guest,” he says, “for the experience they’re trying to have.” Working out of The Standard, where luxury and rest are sublimated into wellness and rejuvenation, Zeitouni has the ideal platform for his role in the theater of “holistic hospitality.” If only it doesn’t rain.