Hollywood restaurateur Fulvio Sardelli Jr. is turning the third floor of his family's pricey, beachside steak house into a chef's room where he'll soon serve tasting menus for groups as small as four and as big as 30.
"For me, it's not about eating," he says. "It's all about entertaining and the people who come into the room."
"I'm here 24/7," he says. "I live it, I eat it, and I don't know how to do anything else."
He seems torn over how chefs like Miami's Michael Schwartz, who now runs a small empire of restaurants, and Dave MacMillan, co-owner of Montreal's Joe Beef and whom Sardelli worked for when he trained at Le Globe, do it. He loves the fraternity of life in the kitchen.
"Dave used to put me in a headlock and tell me my sister was a whore," he says and laughs. He doesn't ever see himself getting out from behind the line.
"You go from chef to businessman," he later admits. "I used to envy people in office jobs, but I can't do it."
An elevator near the entrance of the restaurant's main dining room carries you to the higher level. It's an airy, white space with dark wood floors, a baby grand piano, and a large communal table in the center.
Off in the corner of a newly built stainless-steel kitchen sits a trio of immersion circulators.
The hot-water baths have become common in haute cuisine and are cherished for their ability to hold a specific temperature for an extended length of time, allowing for 72-hour short ribs and 12-hour strip steaks cooked to a perfect medium. A quick char on the grill and they're off to a table.
Sardelli pops a pair of vacuum-sealed salmon fillets into the churning water and sets a timer for about 20 minutes. When they emerge, the tender fillets glisten from the olive oil marinade. He tops them with a spoonful of homemade tzatziki sauce flecked with mint.
Wall-to-wall sliding glass doors lead out to a patio where Sardelli is growing sage, basil, thyme, rosemary, and flat-leaf Italian parsley. Yet the terra cotta pots holding small green pepper sprouts aren't doing quite as well.
"The sun is absolutely frying them," he gripes. "They do a lot better at my mom's house."
He pulls a few sprigs of basil and mint and heads back inside to chop them up and mix them into a salad of heirloom cherry tomatoes sitting atop cubes of watermelon and goat cheese.
As he stuffs peppers with a mixture of fennel sausage, onions, and toasted bread, he says he has yet to come up with a name for the space, but -- whatever comes next -- he always has a long-term plan.
"I own the property," he says of the land on which the three restaurants sit. "It's a good philosophy I have with my family and gives me the luxury of having a retirement plan."
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