Top Chef Star Josie Smith-Malave Will Open Champagne Raw Bar in Wilton Manors

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Former Bravo Top Chef competitor Josie Smith-Malave is opening her first restaurant in the heart of downtown Wilton Manors. 

The restaurant will open in early August at the former 13 Even space at 2037 Wilton Drive and is one of two new concepts slated to launch in the next several months, including a second location for Coconut Creek-based Ethos Greek Bistro. Both restaurants join a growing trend of new establishments to open in the small community in the past few years, including the subject this week's restaurant review, Thirteen.

Dubbed Bubbles & Pearls, the concept will specialize in just that — champagne and oysters — Smith-Malave says. Details on the champagne raw bar's full menu haven't been released yet, but the chef is quick to point out that daily $1 oysters will most certainly be a thing.

"I want to elevate the game — to bring casual fine dining to Wilton Manors," says Smith-Malave, who recently relocated to the neighborhood. "This concept is a celebration of all things decadent and delicious."

The Bubbles & Pearls menu will also focus on an upmarket selection of seafood and small plates and will offer a well-curated wine list that concentrates on white varietals. As the name suggests, you'll also be able to find variations of bubbly available by the glass or bottle — from prosecco, cava, and champagne to lesser-known sparkling wines such as espumante and sekt.

A Hialeah native, Smith-Malave has cooked alongside some of the world's most prestigious chefs. A classically trained chef, her career began in New York City, where she studied at the Institute of Culinary Education and spent many years exploring Manhattan's global food scene.

In 2006, Smith-Malave competed in season two of Top Chef. She was ousted in the fifth round but returned to compete in several subsequent seasons. Now, Smith-Malave says she is back in the South Florida area for the first time since the start of her culinary career.

For close to a decade, Smith-Malave worked under a number of renowned chefs, including Alder founder Wylie Dufresne, French phenom Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Marlow & Sons creator Caroline Fidanza, and hospitality veteran Walter Hinds. 

Most recently, she served as executive sous chef for the Manhattan-based NYY Steak and, prior to that, as executive chef for Norwood, a members-only club off NYC's 14th Street.

A self-described culinary adventurer who has traveled the globe exploring other cultures and cuisines, in the past several years Smith-Malave has also worked tirelessly to bring her nonprofit, Global Soul Project, to fruition. The mission: creating "soul-utions" for ending childhood hunger on both a national and global scale.

Bubbles & Pearls. 2037 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors; 954-533-9553; bubblesnpearls.com.

Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.

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