Longform

Christian de Berdouare, South Florida's Eccentric CEO of Chicken Kitchen, Sets His Sights Higher Than Fast Food

On a cloudy afternoon in late October, South Florida's most recognizable fast-food magnate approaches a chainlink gate outside a waterfront property on ultra-exclusive North Bay Road in Miami Beach. Christian de Berdouare scrolls his finger and thumb along a large padlock. After several seconds, the lock drops with a clank, and de Berdouare pulls on the gate, which gets stuck on the ground's uneven gravel. By the third pull, the gap is wide enough for his slim frame to slip through. He walks several steps, until he's standing in front of his masterpiece -- the 17,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom, ten-bath home he's spent the past three years obsessively designing.

On this day, the yard is still a barren construction site littered with heaps of rubble and scraps of wood, and inside the expansive concrete structure is a mess of exposed beams and flooded floors -- more Hurricane Recovery Project than Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

But de Berdouare, who has poured more than $20 million into the project, sees only the splendor that is to come. "There is a waterfall here, on the side," he says, motioning above a gravel pile to a wall on the home's exterior. "Here," he says a few minutes later, passing through a bare future dining room, "we're going to have a 1,000-bottle cellar of wine. All glass, illuminated. All specially designed."