MORE

Suite 100 in Fort Lauderdale Promotes Ted Inserra to Top Chef

Inserra is now top toque at Suite 100.
Inserra is now top toque at Suite 100.

When Smith & Jones closed in July, nobody was more in the middle of the fallout than Ted Inserra. In this blog item, Inserra blamed a slowdown in business, but many commenters blamed Inserra, despite the fact that he was just a sous chef at the Las Olas restaurant.

Whatever caused the demise, there's no denying that Inserra has a hell of a kitchen résumé, and that's what helped him land quickly at the new Suite 100 in the Las Olas Riverfront complex. After just over a month as sous chef, Suite 100 has promoted Inserra to executive head chef. He spoke to Clean Plate Charlie about the new gig.

Clean Plate Charlie: You've just been promoted to executive head chef at the new Suite 100. What led to the change?

Inserra: I believe the owners thought the restaurant needed a new direction. Chef

Reed Alenik did a great job setting us up for success, but as in other

businesses, a new voice was required to move Suite 100 into the top of

the restaurant elite in South Florida and thought I could better take us

there.

You've worked with South Florida's most well-known

chefs, including Mark Militello, Michelle Bernstein, and Johnny

Vinczencz. What did you take away from that experience?

It

has been an honor working with these chefs and also chef Oliver Saucy

and chef Peter Bouloukos. I was at Mark's Las Olas from day one and

stayed for three years. Michelle was actually a sous chef for Mark, and

we became very good friends. Johnny Vinczencz is an incredible talent

and can blend hard work and still make it fun. All of these chefs do not

compromise on the quality of their food. Mark once told me the

difference between a chef and a cook is seasoning. I always taste

everything all day to ensure top quality. 

I was on the D.L. in Melbourne when reading an article about chef Mark Militello in Bon Appetite magazine,

about his "Floribbean"-style food, and it hit home. And the last line

in the article said "and soon to open Mark's on Las Olas," and for that

very reason, in the cover of darkness, I came back to Fort Lauderdale

to work for chef Mark, which really put my culinary career in motion. I

was determined to be hired by Mark, and after several meetings with chef

Peter Bouloukos and GM Tim Petrillo, I was hired.

It has been a few

months since the rough collapse of Smith & Jones, where you were a

sous chef. Any thoughts on what went down?

Ah, the Smith

& Jones question. Let's stir up that hornet's nest again. It was

not any one thing -- it was the number-seven combination platter. As with any

business, it all boils down to money. We slowed down, overhead was very

high, and that is a recipe for disaster. I still believe if you would have

placed Smith & Jones on the other end of Las Olas or on Atlantic

Avenue in Delray, it would have been a tremendous hit.

The Suite 100 menu now is pretty wide-ranging, from a meatball sub to tostones. Will you be changing it? If so, how?

We

are very proud of our menu. Our food is outstanding. Once you try us,

you will be back. We are starting to do specials now geared to my

strengths, with Italian and Latin influences. Saturday and Sunday brunch

is without a doubt the best in town.

Crowds haven't found the place yet. What do you do from here to change that?

Also

changing with Suite 100 is going to be the marketing aspect of the

restaurant. We have some advertising coming up, and we are scheduled to

be present at the upcoming South Florida Culinary Events. We also have

the best seating for the fantastic Christmas Boat Parade, and with all

the people coming to the waterfront, we are expecting a big surge in

business. Like I said, once you try us, you will love us.

The

space has an amazing bar, and with that view of the New River, it could

become a hot spot for happy hour. Any plans to make that happen?

We

do have a beautiful bar, with a great staff, and the view is the best Fort Lauderdale -- the "Venice of America" -- has to offer. Our daily

happy hour is two-for-one, with appetizer specials. Also, we have some

martini-themed nights.

The Riverfront is something of an

enigma. Great location, beautiful building, but it fell apart the last

few years. How do you guys survive there, and can you help bring it

back?

I love the Riverfront. I worked at China Grill

when it was first opened, with even a Big Pink upstairs. Then, it was

the bad parking situation, and the owners thought the theaters were

going to be a big enough draw. Hopefully, we are the first of many new

openings in that location. Off the Hookah and the Living Room do a great

late-night, younger crowd, and we will capture the sophisticated and

still-want-to-have-fun crowd. On the weekends, our outside bar along the

water is a very fun place to hang out, and we have a water taxi dock

within steps of our beautiful establishment.

What upsets me more than the decline of the Las Olas Riverfront is the decline of Las Olas Boulevard. And what do they both have in common? The Las Olas Co.! I was against the "alleged" Riverside Hotel from the beginning, and now what do we have? A torn-down O'Hara's, an institution, and a huge empty lot so we can show the movie E.T. on the side of the building and people can bring their own food and drink and not contribute to the businesses on Las Olas. Do not get me wrong: I love Atlantic Avenue in Delray, but I cringe every time I hear about another top chef or club opening there. Why not Las Olas? I was born in Broward General Hospital. I know Las Olas. It is a treasure that is failing because of "the corporation." I have spilled blood, sweat, and tears on that street, and when I die, my ashes will be spread on Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale beach, and Club Duece in South Beach!

In many kitchens, executive chef is more of a manager than a cook. Do you see yourself still working the line?

I

am not a "clipboard" chef. I am very hands-on. I do all the butchering

and soup- and sauce-making. The line is too exciting not to jump in. I

have a "bring it on" line-cook attitude. I can still hang with the

younger up-and-comers and sometimes can even show them a thing or two.

Give me a speed rack full of tickets, my guys on the line, and some loud

Rolling Stones and it becomes like a ballet -- except with chef pants

and not tights.

Money is no object, and, let's see, Anthony Bourdain, is coming to Suite 100. What do you make him?

Ah,

Anthony Bourdain. His book Kitchen Confidential

changed my life. It's a very realistic view of the great restaurant

business and how it becomes your family. You are together days, nights,

weekends, holidays -- more than our own family! I am a South Florida

native, so I would treat him to some true taste of our culture. Start

off with some fresh conch ceviche, followed by my favorite

plantain-crusted mahi, wild mushroom picadillo, chayote slaw, mango

syrup, and a side of slow-braised oxtail, yuca mash, and sweet plantain

flan. Not the most expensive dish but truly my style.

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >