After butting heads with the Riverside Hotel's Executive Chef Toby Joseph, Jon Sanchez, the 28-year-old chef de cuisine at Wild Sea Oyster Bar & Grille, has parted ways with the restaurant.
"The executive chef asked me last week to 'dumb down' the menu for the clientele," Sanchez said. "I refused to produce mediocre food."
It's unclear whether Sanchez quit or was fired.
Joseph argued Sanchez wasn't follow hotel ordering protocols and said the menu needed to be changed in order to give diners what they expect which still includes an array of seafood along with a few more meat options.
"You can't necessarily bring New York to Fort Lauderdale and you can't bring Las Vegas to Fort Lauderdale," Joseph said. Prior to Wild Sea, Sanchez worked in Vegas at David Myers' Comme Ca. "There's an expectation Fort Lauderdale people have."
Wild Sea opened in March taking the place of the longstanding Grill Room, a stodgy, wood wrapped Victorian style steakhouse. The idea was to serve sustainable, wild (get it) seafood, in simple yet elegant preparations.
In that goal they succeeded and in a late June, our review called Wild Sea the best restaurant on Las Olas.
Yet the seas were not as calm as they seemed.
"They will now be using products of less-quality and pre-made," Sanchez said, "in order to offer a wider variety at a lower price point."
An August 30 menu shows a smaller selection of oysters, two, compared to the six or more offered when the restaurant opened. Gone are the wreckfish and tilefish entrees, replaced by whole roasted bronzini, Scottish Salmon and "East Florida Grouper."
The Sun Sentinel's John Tanasychuk in early August slammed the restaurant inconsistent service and ever changing menu, saying it leaves "much to be desired" and "Thankfully, the dining room can very easily be transformed for another concept."
Joseph, who's run the hotel's food and beverage options for four years, said the ever-changing made running the restaurant difficult.
"The concept really wasn't what we needed to do here and the menu was changing daily," he said. "It was hard to get consistency, we had guests come and say 'we loved the halibut we had yesterday, why isn't it here today?'"
While Sanchez said some of his deliveries were turned away, including $1,000 of fresh fish. Joseph said it was because suppliers weren't brought in through the proper channels, noting that vendors remain the same now that he's taken over the kitchen day-to-day.
"Everything goes through me in regards to proper procedure and how we do things," he said. "The only thing that has ever been sent back was that truck."
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