Jeremy Ford sits in a prime spot, geographically and careerwise. He's chef de cuisine -- that means he pretty much runs the show -- at 3030 Ocean. The beachfront eatery inside the Marriott Harbor Beach hotel is perhaps the swankiest restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Not bad for a 22-year-old.
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Ford landed the job after his predecessor, Paula Da Silva, appeared on the reality show Hell's Kitchen and then split to run the restaurant at the Eden Roc resort in Miami. The big boss -- Chef Dean Max, who started up 3030 Ocean and now oversees a five-restaurant kingdom -- trusted Ford enough to hand over the keys earlier this summer. Ford now handles the day-to-day tasks at 3030 while Max tends to the empire.
New Times met up with Ford in the dining room during a brief calm before a Saturday night storm. In a totally awesome interview, he told us how he strategized his way to his current position; how French chefs used to torture him for having long hair and talking too much; and why working at 3030 is the shit!
I grew up in Jacksonville. When I was 9, instead of watching Barney or whatever, my mom would put on the Food Network or The Galloping Gourmet.
He was my favorite. From then on, I've been intrigued by food and the
happiness it brings people. I feel like I'm doing more than feeding
someone. We do a taste menu here that's seven courses, and you can see
the glimmer in someone's eye after they've had that experience,
especially if they've never had high-end food before.
really exciting for me being back there [in the kitchen], because while
I don't cook everything that comes out, I'm at least orchestrating it.
But it's intense. These guys will tell you when I do taste menus, it's not fun. It's hard-core. I'm up in everybody's shit.
Jacksonville, I worked at a really nice restaurant there called
Matthew's, run by Matthew Medure, who came from the Ritz-Carlton. I
started working there at 16, illegally. I went to school all day, got
out of school, and went straight to Matthew's. It was intense, man. I'd
get out of school at 1:30 and start work at 2:15.
school. Just wasn't into school. I knew my ultimate goal was to be a
chef, and just from researching school, I knew I didn't need to put
myself through four years of a CIA bachelor program to do what I wanted
to do. I had friends that went that route -- and one of them works for
me right now.
can be a huge debt on your shoulders, and you have to pay that off, and
that can add a lot of stress to you finding a job. So I bypassed that. I
was 16, working at Matthew's, and I did pantry. It wasn't your normal
pantry, though -- I wasn't just tossing salads. It was really high-end.
He had carpaccios of tuna, salmon, and bison. I got thrown into that
place and didn't know what I was getting into. I was thrown into a
I stayed there about two years, and then I realized I needed to get
out. So in 2002, I moved to Los Angeles. I went to L'Orangerie, which
was an immaculate French restaurant. Everyone was French except me and
my best friend. We were on a journey to find the ultimate restaurant.
That was our goal. We worked everywhere. But when we walked in the doors
of that place, we were like, "That's the one." When we walked in, there
were huge bouquets of flowers, a piano player, and gold everything...
this was like, high-end. When I walked in, I knew, "This is where I'm gonna become a cook."
I went from Matthew's, where I could barely hold my own, into a
five-star, five-diamond environment. I walked in, and they put me on poisson, fish, which is crazy -- everywhere I've worked, I've been thrown into fish.
and now I'm here at a seafood place. I know that every step I've taken
was definitely meant to be taken. And every place I've landed, I was
meant to be there. But the French guys I worked with there were intense.
I had really long hair, I was all rockered-out, and they would come up
behind me, yank my hat off, grab me by the hair, and slam me up against
the wall if I messed something up. If something was not perfect, it was over.
They would throw pans, turn the ventilator off -- if we started talking
too much, 'cause my friend and I were the only ones who spoke fuckin'
English, and it would get a little loud -- so then they'd cut the
ventilation system, no fan.
stayed about a year and a half at L'Orangerie. But you can pretty much
soak up a chef's knowledge in a year. You see the whole season. So,
after a year, it was like a repeat, seeing all the same things. I wasn't
a chef yet -- I was cooking -- and my goal was to go and soak up every
guys' knowledge in the city. I went to Patina, to their flagship
restaurant on Melrose Avenue, so my standards never dropped. I stayed
there about eight months because my mother had gotten ill, so that's
when I made my way back to Jacksonville in 2007.