Yesterday, we shared Part 1 of our interview with Buddha Sky Bar's Executive Chef Tony Torres. If you missed it, you can read it here. We continue now with Part 2.
Clean Plate Charlie: What's your favorite "go to" food?
Chef Tony Torres: I like oxtails braised a long time, when the meat's so soft I can pick it up and suck it up in my hands. I mix different things together. French sauces with butter and cream are favorites. For me, a good plate of mashed potatoes with butter and cream and a good braised meat with mac and cheese -- that's my favorite meal. All around, I just love to cook. I try to learn different things throughout my career. As a chef, I try to put the different cultures I worked with together -- Russian, French, Italian, Japanese. That's what I like to do now. I try to put mashed potato in an Asian restaurant to see where it fits. It's all about what the customer wants. If they want something different, I'll give it to them.
What food did you grow up with?
I'm Cuban and Puerto Rican. I grew up with Cuban food and Puerto Rican food. My mother and grandmother were cooking all my life, and sometimes I would help them. It took a long time to cook most of their meals, but it was worth it. There was a lot of time put into each dinner. That's where the passion comes into it. I like to see the people's faces when they eat a dish.
So, do you sneak out to get the diners' reactions? Like when actors say they sneak into a movie theater to see what people think of their movie?
Yeah, all the time, especially when I do some specials for the first time. I follow the food runner out and see their reaction to their first bite. I look for the little nod of the head. That's my favorite part of it. I talk to tables; I ask them how everything is. I like to get feedback. What do they want to see in the future? That's how I get new dishes.
Do you plan on changing the menu for the summer months?
I am changing the menu for the summer. We're keeping some key items that do well, but I'm making items that are lighter and affordable for the locals that stay here. Why not come to the sushi bar and try some sushi or have some Chinese? I want to keep the locals coming in. Because that's what keeps us alive. I want people to come here two, three times a week without spending their entire paycheck.
What food trends would you like to see?
There's a lot of things going on with food right now. Everyone wants to go green and do the whole sustainable thing. Which is all good, but you're going to be spending a lot more money, because it does get expensive, and it does make your menu price higher. I love getting local fish and local produce, and sometimes you just can't get it because it's too expensive and I have to get it from California. Being in South Florida, you always have the seafood and things like that.
Right now, I don't know what's going to happen in the future with restaurants opening and closing. I feel there are too many people trying to do too many things. I would like to see chefs going back to their roots. Just keep it simple and good. I think if restaurants do that now, they're going to succeed for the next couple of years.
What are your future plans?
Florida is my home. I've been offered jobs in New York and different places, but I like the sun, the beach. For now, I don't want to open a restaurant on my own. I like where I am. When I'm older, I would like to have a small restaurant -- nothing too big, something that I could retire into.
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Right now, I'm young enough that I have the energy to open up new restaurants, and I see myself with AMG groups and Buddha Sky Bar, opening up new locations, and I think we'll all do very well. That's what I'm looking forward to.
Stay tuned for a recipe from Chef Torres, coming soon.