Yeah, he put together an amazing taste menu for me, blew me away. And I saw something here I hadn't seen anywhere else -- great ingredients done very simply. I cannot say enough about what I've learned here from Dean: Simple preparations on badass product, dude. We order our salmon straight from Alaska. We get our halibut straight from the Pacific. There's no b.s. with this guy; he doesn't care about prices. I spend so much money on fish, dude -- if you saw one of our invoices...
That's just the way it is, that's what he wants, that's what he believes in, that's his philosophy -- and I stand behind it. He really opened my eyes. Like, instead of using crap, like shitty vinegar, we use the best French vinegars. His style, man, is so clean. I never had a chef drill this into my head: Buy local, and buy sustainable. We don't order from Sysco or any of that shit. We get our mangoes from a farm about 45 minutes west, and our vegetables are from Loxahatchee.
The Paula thing didn't start until eight months after I started here. I didn't even know about it. It had been filmed prior to me coming and didn't air for almost a year after that. It was intense, man -- once that all kicked off, it was a nightmare. She was out here doing her star thing, and I'm the one back there just getting shit on every night. Every Thursday night, we'd have a showing so the guests could watch. And who did the hors d'oeuvres? Of course, me. And she's out here, fuckin' drinking rum and having a blast. But I was willing to back her up any day of the week. I'm so happy I was part of that, a reality show. I've considered doing one, but right now my focus is here.
What challenges does a resort restaurant present that you didn't have at your other jobs?
Well, 40 percent of our business is locals, a really high number for a resort restaurant. Of course, you're always going to get the people who want the well-done beef and stuff like that. But we do it; it pays the bills. But my staff is very knowledgeable. When we get someone who doesn't know shit about food, they can sit there and spiel, basically coming from me. They're a great staff. Some people come in and don't know what a soft-shell crab is. They'll say, there's no meat in here." We'll tell 'em, "You just eat the whole thing!" And that's cool, that's great -- what better way to leave somewhere than to say, "You know what, dude? I ate the shell of a fuckin' crab, man!" That's the true beauty. Try something you've never tried and leave with a new outlook.
Are people concerned about the oil in the Gulf affecting their fish?
Just to appease our guests, this is how much I care: I started bringing in all our fish from Hawaii. People are freaked out. They wonder if our snapper is from a place where the oil is; they see the pictures on TV, and they're not gonna want to eat it. So I started flying in Honolulu fish, and dude, it has blown up. Whatever it takes, man.
What do you see South Florida restaurants consistently doing wrong?
I see a lot of places just beating up what a steak house is supposed to be. I think it's beating a dead horse. Every corner has a steak house. I thought I was coming down here to get some Latin flair, maybe some spicy octopus, Brazilian stuff, and there's not much of that. Working in a chain steak house -- there's no creative freedom; the menu doesn't change. It's all just steaks, and you can't do much with steak after steak after steak. It's just been beaten senseless. Either change it or stop building fuckin' steak houses, man.
Do you rock out to music in the kitchen?
I'm kind of an old-school metal guy, and in the kitchen you'll see my Metallica poster. When I was in L.A., man, I made the best of it -- OzzFest, all that shit.
But while you're back there cooking?
I can't technically have music here, because we're a resort. But we sing, man! Once we've achieved our goal, I mean. If I go back there and this is wrong, that's wrong, this is wrong, it's silence, man.
What about a glass of wine when you're cooking?
It's not illegal, but... here it's not allowed.
Last question -- what's one food you just absolutely could not live without?
If they took wahoo out of my life, it would be detrimental to me. Wahoo is my baby. Whenever I have it here, I'm so excited. You can take anything else away, but just don't fuck with the wahoo, man.
Tomorrow, Jeremy shares his favorite wahoo recipe.