Tim Doolittle is the chef de cuisine at Emeril's Miami Beach. Hailing from Kansas City, Chef Doolittle has worked in the industry since he was 18. His resume includes Wolfgang Puck and some of Kansas City's best American restaurants. Most recently, he specialized in modern American fare as executive chef at Postrio and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill in Las Vegas. Chef Tim spent some time talking with Clean Plate Charlie about food and South Florida.
Clean Plate Charlie: What is your background?
Chef Tim Doolittle: Classically European trained, I suppose. I've worked 20 years now in the best kitchens I could get into. When I was 18, I decided I wanted to do this for real and I started knocking on doors and hanging out with the right guys and I begged, stole and borrowed to get into the kitchens I wanted to work in.
How are you incorporating your style into the Emeril's brand?
My style of cooking works well in Miami because its light, its fresh with a lot of seafood. I don't really create anything. I take what I'm given, preserve the integrity of it and put it on a plate for people to enjoy. So I think that bodes well in south Florida with the seafood that I'm able to get a hold of, the farms in Homestead and beyond. I have relationships with farmers around the country that I use, so how well that works in Emeril's, that's for other people to decide.
Do you think with all the celebrity chefs and Food Network that chefs are the new hot profession?
It's always been "in" for me. I don't really have an interest in the celebrity part of it. I think I'd pull away from that if it were presented to me. I just have an interest in making good food and taking pride in it and going to bed at the end of the night knowing I made people happy - myself included. I don't have an interest in getting out there are trying to be famous. For me, it's good because Emeril is shouldering that celebrity for me. I don't have to worry about being "that guy". I go in and do my thing. I like working with ingredients and working with people. I'm not in it to get my own website or anything. Feeding people is a very noble thing and that's where I get my enjoyment.
Do you think that the era of the celebrity chef is good or bad for the industry as a whole?
It's got to be good. Any publicity is good. The television shows bring ingredients and ideas into people's living rooms that they haven't been exposed to. That makes it a lot easier to me when people come into my restaurant and they're not scared to eat conch or sea urchin roe. I don't have to come out and be a salesman for the idea.
I hear you're a big barbeque guy.
I love barbeque. When I lived in Las Vegas there were really no options for it. On the drive down here, I spent half my trip looking for where I was going to stop for gas and the other half where I was going to stop for barbeque.
Where do you live now?
I live right on the beach. I like Miami. It's tough to not like the ocean and the palm trees and all that good stuff.
I know that you've changed the menu at Emeril's. Tell me about some of the items that you put on the menu.
Its spring so I'm a little bit ahead of the game, We're putting a new crab cake dish with a pastis and lemon emulsion and a spring salad. We have fava beans with grouper and lemongrass butter. This spring I'm thinking about herbs and aromatics and fresh but strong flavors. It's completely about seasonality.
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Look out for part two of our interview with Chef Tim Doolittle, coming soon.