Thirteen years ago this month, chef Chris Miracolo helped open Himmarshee Bar and Grille,
which soon became a local institution and shows no sign of decline. A few years later, he worked the same magic for Tarpon Bend, which enjoys a similar stature.
He and his chef hat then moved around the country, with stops in Dallas; Carmel, California; and Denver. Upon a return to South Florida in 2005, he went to work for Max's up in Boca, but since late last year he's back at Himmarshee.
His recent successes include special dinners with unique wine and beer pairings that have rocketed from merely popular to better-get-a-spot-now in a matter of weeks. Chris recently told us how he made it full circle.
It was more than ten years ago when I first went to Himmarshee Bar and Grille -- as a matter of fact, it was my interview with the first editor of New Times. I'm sure you weren't around back then...
Actually, I was. I was the sous chef when it first opened. I was here when the tables were being built!
A lot of changes on this street since then.
Yes, but mostly just the changes that go with the marketplace. We've stayed contemporary with food trends. That's been the consistent part for us. Economically, Riverfront kind of rose and then fell, and that took some restaurants down with it. Right now, we're one of the only casual upscale dining places left on Himmarshee.
Did you grow up in South Florida?
No, I moved down here in 1985 at the ripe old age of 12.
And were you cooking by then?
I actually started cooking when I was in the ninth grade. I got a job as a breakfast cook at a little Greek diner on 441 and Oakland Park Boulevard.
Wow -- any formal schooling?
No, I never went to culinary school. I started flipping pizzas when I was in high school, and that's how I really got bit by the bug.
As a kid, you weren't trying out recipes on your mom?
No, not at all. My mother had a lot of food phobias, so I only cooked for myself. She wanted her food very bland.
What sort of food phobias?
Well, her family was French, and back then, in the '50s, they ate all of the cow, every part -- I mean, all of the innards. Nothing was wasted. And you had to clean your plate or get in trouble. So after that, I guess she just didn't want to experiment with food ever again.
How about you? You don't sound like a guy who'd balk at a thymus or three.
Oh, I love me a sweetbread. But that No Reservations show? I'm not eating that stuff -- there's a reason a bag of dog food has a label reading "meat byproducts."
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of our chat.
And on Friday, Chris shares his recipe for gouda mac-n-cheese!