In what part of town do you live?
How long have you lived in the area?
Off and on since 2006 but full time since 2011.
Where are you originally from?
Originally from Michigan. Before Miami, I lived in San Diego.
What brought you to Miami?
I’m a private chef. My boss’s main residence is on La Gorce Island in Miami Beach and then he has a summer home in San Diego. So, I’ve gone back and forth seasonally since 2005.
How long have you been cooking for the same family?
Since, January of 2005. 15 years. I started off as the chef on their yacht and then I became the chef for their homes and now I manage most aspects of their logistics – anything that needs to be done appointment wise, cooking wise, dinner parties, dignitaries, you name it. I do the whole gamut now.
Does that mean you do the same for your family?
In a way. Julie and I kind of take turns at home, one of us will cook and the other person will clean. It depends on who has had the more difficult day.
How did you become a private chef?
I was living in Michigan at the time. It was January, freezing cold, and I saw a job posting to be a chef on a private yacht and get paid to see the world. And I was like, that sounds fun. I sent off my resume, had a couple phone interviews, flew down to Miami for a 45 minute interview, and then the following week they flew me to Panama and I started working on the boat. It was a two week working interview and they hired me about five days in.
Did you meet Julie through work?
Julie’s from San Diego and there’s a local farm out there called Chino Farms, where I go every day to buy my produce. We were both standing in line one day, and she picked up a celery root and asked me what it was. So, I told her everything I knew about celery root, and everything I could make up along the way. We got to talking, she had a personal chef service in San Diego, and wanted me to come work for her. And, all I wanted to do was date her, so I played along. We got married in 2008 and now we have two kids.
Are you still traveling a lot?
Since the pandemic, not really. Beforehand, I would travel once a month, to check in on the estate out there and make sure that the staff is doing what they need to do. Generally we go out there for the summer and it works out well because Julie has a flexible enough job. Her parents live out there, so they love to see their grandkids. It’s kind of a win-win scenario.
Where did you learn how to cook?
Professionally, I went to The Culinary School of the Rockies in Boulder, Colorado. But, my real love for food came from my grandmother. She had seven kids and was a whiz in the kitchen. I remember her big family Sunday dinners every week. That’s where it all began.
What are the steps you take when putting together a meal?
That’s a good question. First, I feel out if there are any dietary restrictions. With every meal, whether it’s a special event, or just a Monday dinner, I approach it with finding the best possible ingredients that I can get my hands on and letting the ingredients speak for themselves. I have a huge vegetable garden behind the house where I get many of the ingredients. Lately, we’ve taken our weekly field trip down to Homestead, and buy a lot of produce there. I have a guy who goes out spearfishing every week and I get amazing fish. I went and visited yesterday and got African Pompano, Mutton Snapper, Yellow Jack, a small Black Fin Tuna, a little bit of grouper, and some swordfish.
Are there any meals that you have prepared that stand out in your memory?
I think the one that stands out was during president Obama’s last year in office. He came to the house and we did a private event for him and about 20 people. I was involved in everything from designing the menu to meeting with secret service. It was an unbelievable and humbling experience. When you hear his motorcade roll up, the house is literally shaking, and then all of a sudden he is standing right there in the house. The biggest thing that I remember is when I said, ‘Mr. President, I’d like to introduce you to my wife Julie.’ I have a photo of that exact moment hanging in our house.
You’ve been coming to our drive-through every week, would you tell us a little bit about what that experience is like?
It’s been amazing. For us, we tend to get in ruts and do the same thing and not really leave Miami Beach. But Covid has forced us out of our comfort zone, and you guys having the drive-through has exposed us to your amazing products. It’s been a fun activity to do with the kids, they’ve really come to count on it and it’s just what we do now. I love everything about it.
Would you share with us a little about how you make a day of it?
First we go to Tina’s Pride and I pick up all my produce for the week. Then, we come to you and I get the delicious smoothies, turmeric, and the ice cream. The ice cream has been phenomenal by the way. My kids are sort of ice cream connoisseurs and they’re just going crazy for this ice cream. And, we make cocktails with the kombucha. And of course, we enjoy the smoothies the whole ride home. It’s been really wonderful.
How have you been using the turmeric?
A couple of different ways. I take a shot of it every morning. Then, I bring it to work and I make a cold pressed juice for my bosses every morning and I put a shot in there. My boss was like, ‘I have a little buzz today.’ I’m like, you know, ‘that’s a good buzz.’ And right now, I’m making a sliced cucumber salad with pickled onions and a yogurt based dressing. I put a couple double shots of the turmeric into the dressing. It tastes really, really yummy. That’s going to be on their menu for dinner tonight. It’s like gold. It is literally gold.
Which of the ice cream flavors from our drive through is your kids favorite so far?
I think, the Grasshopper. For me, Rocky Road Stout takes the win.
You mentioned that you’ve been making cocktails with the kombucha. Would you share a recipe?
The Celery Kombucha is really good with gin. We do one part gin with two – three parts kombucha, maybe a little crush of cucumber and a crush of lime and it’s good to go. Also, we’ve been doing the Mango Habanero with tequila and a squeeze of lime and mango from our tree. I found this tequila, called Maestro Dobel. It’s a Reposado but it’s triple filtered, so it’s crystal clear and pairs really well.
What restaurants do you guys enjoy going to?
People always ask us and it’s a tough one. Boia De for sure. It’s such a memorable experience because they actually care. The servers take time to know you and they’re not trying to just pump you through. That was the last restaurant we ate at. We like getting takeout from Lobster Shack, south of fifth. One of our perfect afternoons is getting lobster roll takeouts, bringing a bottle of wine, and going to sit in the park with the kids. And, Michael’s Genuine is always a crowd pleaser for us.
What’s Miami’s best kept secret?
It’s a secret that’s out in the open. We’re completely surrounded by water, and it’s actually very accessible to get out there and enjoy. Pre Corona, we would rarely be out on the water, but being locked down, you look at this amazing natural resource and you want to get out there. We bought some inflatable kayaks on Amazon and found a hidden boat launch on Miami Beach. Every weekend, we go out and enjoy the canals and the Intercostal and the Bay.
What is a worthy splurge for you?
A good bottle of wine for sure or a nice bottle of tequila. As this was all going down, I bought a Traeger smoker grill. It uses like little wood pellets and you can control the temperature within two degrees. It makes for very consistent cooking. That was kind of a splurge, but it’s been the best investment that we’ve made year to date for sure.
Where’s the most romantic spot in Miami?
South Point Park, around sunset, underneath the palm trees with the wind blowing and the boats going by. As the ocean starts to darken, the city of Miami gets the last bit of the glow behind the buildings.
Are there any community groups that are important to you that you might like to promote or share?
Feeding South Florida. They are an unbelievable organization, and I just hope that more people can help them. The other charity that is close to our heart is called the Children’s Bereavement Center. They provide counseling and grief support for children who have lost a close loved one. I know that they’re hurting because their major fund raising gala got canceled in April.
Is there a question that you would like to ask us?
(RF) At the farmer’s market, sometimes people discover you at random, but now – everyone is driving to see you. That’s so cool! Have you found the drive through to be better than the farmer’s market in any way?
(A+W) We are always in awe when a car comes up to our random Kendall warehouse location. We appreciate it so much. It’s been a special way to keep that ‘market feeling’ going. And, somehow it’s greatly expanded where our customers are coming from. We’re meeting people who are coming from North Miami, Miami Shores, Boca, and like your family – from, Miami Beach. Being in our own space has allowed us to experiment with new products like our turmeric heart cookies and soon a turmeric hummus.
(RF) Do you ever run low on fruit?
(A+W) Always. That’s why we change the flavors of the rainbow smoothies based on what we have that season.
Is there question or challenge that you would like to pose to the community?
What can people take away from this Corona virus situation that’s positive? What things have you learned or done differently during this pandemic that’s been a positive effect in your life and how can you continue on with it? We’ve gotten to slow down and connect with a lot more with people like you guys, our neighbors, and people that you would normally just kind of see in passing. I just want to keep up those connections and continue cultivating them.
We’re interviewing Julie next, what question should we ask her?
Ask her if she really didn’t know what celery root was.
(A+W) Thank you so much.
(RF) See you this weekend!