Suite 100 in Fort Lauderdale Promotes Ted Inserra to Top Chef

inserra.jpg
Inserra is now top toque at Suite 100.
When Smith & Jones closed in July, nobody was more in the middle of the fallout than Ted Inserra. In this blog item, Inserra blamed a slowdown in business, but many commenters blamed Inserra, despite the fact that he was just a sous chef at the Las Olas restaurant.

Whatever caused the demise, there's no denying that Inserra has a hell of a kitchen résumé, and that's what helped him land quickly at the new Suite 100 in the Las Olas Riverfront complex. After just over a month as sous chef, Suite 100 has promoted Inserra to executive head chef. He spoke to Clean Plate Charlie about the new gig.

Clean Plate Charlie: You've just been promoted to executive head chef at the new Suite 100. What led to the change?

Inserra: I believe the owners thought the restaurant needed a new direction. Chef
Reed Alenik did a great job setting us up for success, but as in other businesses, a new voice was required to move Suite 100 into the top of the restaurant elite in South Florida and thought I could better take us there.

You've worked with South Florida's most well-known chefs, including Mark Militello, Michelle Bernstein, and Johnny Vinczencz. What did you take away from that experience?
 
It has been an honor working with these chefs and also chef Oliver Saucy and chef Peter Bouloukos. I was at Mark's Las Olas from day one and stayed for three years. Michelle was actually a sous chef for Mark, and we became very good friends. Johnny Vinczencz is an incredible talent and can blend hard work and still make it fun. All of these chefs do not compromise on the quality of their food. Mark once told me the difference between a chef and a cook is seasoning. I always taste everything all day to ensure top quality. 

I was on the D.L. in Melbourne when reading an article about chef Mark Militello in Bon Appetite magazine, about his "Floribbean"-style food, and it hit home. And the last line in the article said "and soon to open Mark's on Las Olas," and for that very reason, in the cover of darkness, I came back to Fort Lauderdale to work for chef Mark, which really put my culinary career in motion. I was determined to be hired by Mark, and after several meetings with chef Peter Bouloukos and GM Tim Petrillo, I was hired.
 
It has been a few months since the rough collapse of Smith & Jones, where you were a sous chef. Any thoughts on what went down?

Ah, the Smith & Jones question. Let's stir up that hornet's nest again. It was not any one thing -- it was the number-seven combination platter. As with any business, it all boils down to money. We slowed down, overhead was very high, and that is a recipe for disaster. I still believe if you would have placed Smith & Jones on the other end of Las Olas or on Atlantic Avenue in Delray, it would have been a tremendous hit.
 
The Suite 100 menu now is pretty wide-ranging, from a meatball sub to tostones. Will you be changing it? If so, how?

We are very proud of our menu. Our food is outstanding. Once you try us, you will be back. We are starting to do specials now geared to my strengths, with Italian and Latin influences. Saturday and Sunday brunch is without a doubt the best in town.

Crowds haven't found the place yet. What do you do from here to change that?
 
Also changing with Suite 100 is going to be the marketing aspect of the restaurant. We have some advertising coming up, and we are scheduled to be present at the upcoming South Florida Culinary Events. We also have the best seating for the fantastic Christmas Boat Parade, and with all the people coming to the waterfront, we are expecting a big surge in business. Like I said, once you try us, you will love us.
 
The space has an amazing bar, and with that view of the New River, it could become a hot spot for happy hour. Any plans to make that happen?

We do have a beautiful bar, with a great staff, and the view is the best Fort Lauderdale -- the "Venice of America" -- has to offer. Our daily happy hour is two-for-one, with appetizer specials. Also, we have some martini-themed nights.

The Riverfront is something of an enigma. Great location, beautiful building, but it fell apart the last few years. How do you guys survive there, and can you help bring it back?

 
I love the Riverfront. I worked at China Grill when it was first opened, with even a Big Pink upstairs. Then, it was the bad parking situation, and the owners thought the theaters were going to be a big enough draw. Hopefully, we are the first of many new openings in that location. Off the Hookah and the Living Room do a great late-night, younger crowd, and we will capture the sophisticated and still-want-to-have-fun crowd. On the weekends, our outside bar along the water is a very fun place to hang out, and we have a water taxi dock within steps of our beautiful establishment.

What upsets me more than the decline of the Las Olas Riverfront is the decline of Las Olas Boulevard. And what do they both have in common? The Las Olas Co.! I was against the "alleged" Riverside Hotel from the beginning, and now what do we have? A torn-down O'Hara's, an institution, and a huge empty lot so we can show the movie E.T. on the side of the building and people can bring their own food and drink and not contribute to the businesses on Las Olas. Do not get me wrong: I love Atlantic Avenue in Delray, but I cringe every time I hear about another top chef or club opening there. Why not Las Olas? I was born in Broward General Hospital. I know Las Olas. It is a treasure that is failing because of "the corporation." I have spilled blood, sweat, and tears on that street, and when I die, my ashes will be spread on Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale beach, and Club Duece in South Beach!

In many kitchens, executive chef is more of a manager than a cook. Do you see yourself still working the line?

 
I am not a "clipboard" chef. I am very hands-on. I do all the butchering and soup- and sauce-making. The line is too exciting not to jump in. I have a "bring it on" line-cook attitude. I can still hang with the younger up-and-comers and sometimes can even show them a thing or two. Give me a speed rack full of tickets, my guys on the line, and some loud Rolling Stones and it becomes like a ballet -- except with chef pants and not tights.
 
Money is no object, and, let's see, Anthony Bourdain, is coming to Suite 100. What do you make him?

Ah, Anthony Bourdain. His book Kitchen Confidential changed my life. It's a very realistic view of the great restaurant business and how it becomes your family. You are together days, nights, weekends, holidays -- more than our own family! I am a South Florida native, so I would treat him to some true taste of our culture. Start off with some fresh conch ceviche, followed by my favorite plantain-crusted mahi, wild mushroom picadillo, chayote slaw, mango syrup, and a side of slow-braised oxtail, yuca mash, and sweet plantain flan. Not the most expensive dish but truly my style.

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB

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32 comments
Stb168
Stb168

All of the comments in response to your article "Suite 100 Promotes Ted Inserra" claim to be made by "RA." Implying these comments were made by Reed Alenik. He has never commented on the article. Please remove all comments implying so, or legal action will take place immediately.

Eric Barton
Eric Barton

Guys, again, be sure to keep comments away from you-might-get-sued-for-saying-it territory. If, for instance, you're thinking about accusing someone of sneaking a doobie during his shift, don't write it here, because we'll have to take it down. Otherwise, feel free to have at it.

Joan
Joan

I'm never going there again! Food and service was horrible. The menu has a great selection but it was not executed properly. Everything was salty, spicy, and over cooked. Sad to say, it was dead.

Tony
Tony

I went for the boat parade... what a catastrophe!

ted inserra
ted inserra

not good, i promise EVERYONE, come in, give us an try, ask for me, i love table visits, i WILL MAKE SURE YOUR DINNING EXPERIENCE IS FANTASTIC, or i will ......humm, any suggestions....HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE...

dennis
dennis

Why do I have a feeling there's going to be a FOOD FIGHT at THE SUITE?

Anonymous
Anonymous

@ Reed... I didn't know your family owned suite 100. NOT. there you go lying again. And if anyone needs to worry about working for your family IT IS YOU. After all. They fired YOU. Even your relatives couldn't save your lazy butt !!! Put down the peace pipe and become a man or are you too "cool" to show us what you've got? You're a man with potential throwing it all away for reefer. Grow a pair and grow up.

Teri R.
Teri R.

CONGRATULATIONS on your promotion!!! Loved the interview and I love the food. Suite 100 has a great ambiance and the quality of design on such a great location is definately a thumbs up! The menu is diversified and caters to all types of dishes. I enjoyed the Caesar salad with Mahi, the flatbread was very good compared to many flatbreads I've tried. I love food and I enjoying eating out, I would definately recommend this. Chef Ted came out and introduced himself, great guy, great personality. I liked his hands-on approach to making sure the food quality was good and the plate presentation was outstanding. Pricing on the menu is average and nothing not worth paying for. Congratulations, once again! You must be doing something right and my guest and I like it. See you again real soon!

Eric Barton
Eric Barton

Several comments have been removed here for violating our terms of use (click the link below if you'd like to see them). Here at New Times, we dig a lively debate, but be sure to stay away from saying someone's a drug user, breaking the law, or anything else that might get someone sued for libel.

Now back to the non-libelous debate.

REED ALENIK
REED ALENIK

Bunch of anonymous babies. All you people who cant own up to these comments are scared. Scared that they themselves might just get called out for the piss poor job that they do, or dont do, at there jobs

P.S. to the above commenter, you work for my family so watch what you say

HAVE A SWEET DAY

The Suite is now SWEET
The Suite is now SWEET

Let me first say, I work at Suite 100. Having said that, I would just make a few points. I know Ted and and I know Reed. Ted works his tail off and I have never seen any indication he is using drugs. Quite the contrary in that he is on top of everything going on and making sure everyone is happy with their work and doing their best, and that our food, plating etc., goes out perfectly. Plus the setup Ted has done for us is very organized and easy to follow/understand. I cannot say that about Reed when he was there, and he was rarely there. Ted did all the work. Reed was always cutting out early. Also, Reed didn't have a clue and was often very rude. As someone above stated, I did see Reed always smoking his pot off and on all through his shift. That is if he made it through his shift, since he was, like I said, always leaving early. I'm glad he's gone and we now have someone with drive who we can respect and go to who is not zoned out from smoking pot all day. Keep up the good work Ted! We are lucky to have you in charge at last. These people lying about you in their comments above are most likely Reed and his family, friends or girlfriend.

ted inserra
ted inserra

well Dennis, i will admitt that wer disagree on just about...everything, but you have my respect because atleast you put your name on your comments and "own them", that, i can appreciate..

dennis
dennis

This is why I said that Ted should just shut up and cook. This sort of banter hurts the restaurant.

Public relations is more important than the food. Of course if the food is bad, people will not come back. If the press is bad, people will just not come in the first place.

Most owners will not permit their employees to post things all over the internet. They do more damage than good. Touting your own skills is not marketing. It has no positive impact, and can potentially have a very negative impact.

Jenny
Jenny

I�m sorry about all of these false accusations Ted. I think you are a wonderful chef and friend. Keep your head up and your ears and eyes focused on the comments from people who actually matter. Congratulations on your promotion and the success of Suite 100! The food is great, the staff is great and I will definitely be back to relax at the outdoor bar. See you soon friend.

yami
yami

Ted is a great person, a great chef , great friend and if u don't like what he is cooking just get out of his kitchen ! Congrats to you Mr. Ted JOB WELL DONE !!

TED INSERRA
TED INSERRA

love you "anonymous" people, but enough is enough, i do not pop oxy's all day, herion is my drug of choice....people usually have to wake me up to do anything..haha, since Suite 100 has opened up, i have had one day off, Thanksgiving, only because we were closed, my next scheduled day off is Christmas, because we are closed, no other key, except mine has opened the front door since we have opened, AND I CHALLENGE ANYONE TO DISPUTE THAT!!! i work an average of 13 hours a day, EVERYDAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK, as called "the snake in the garden of eden" in another stupid post, that makes me THE DEVIL, to that i say=="PLEASE ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF, I AM A MAN OF STYLE AND TASTE, BE POLITE, OR I WILL LAY YOUR PATHETIC SOUL TO WASTE...."

Anonymous
Anonymous

Here are a few of my thoughts about this article. Firstly, is it an article about Ted or an article about Suite 100? You can't really tell; it seems like an article about Ted, and if that's the case, then the comments above are appropriate since they seem to be about Ted. If its about Suite 100, then where are the comments about the restaurant. Has anyone eaten at this place as a customer? You could run a line from here to the moon relative to what drug a person in the restaurant business is using. Its the nature of the beast unfortunately. As for Ted, could you tell us what makes Suite 100 so great and why would we want to go there. As for Reed Alenik, are you seriously blaming Ted for your firing? Business owners make decisions for a reason, and more than anything its because they're trying to save a dollar, unless you truly were doing a poor job (and you know, in your heart, the answer to this question - the public doesn't need to hear it). Either way, it won't matter a year from now when the place is boarded up. I've eaten there and it doesn't have a "draw". You have to have something which stands out from the other restaurants in the area that will make people want to come in. I do not see anything so far that warrants a second trip to Suite 100; the first trip would be just to see what the restaurant is like (which I have done) and I see no reason to return. Also, have any of the people writing comments in this article such as "Dennis" or the author of this article himself eaten at Suite 100, and if so, where's the "review".

Anonymous
Anonymous

oh, and p.s., Ted states above... , but as in other businesses, a new voice was required to move Suite 100 into the top of the restaurant elite. Now if that doesn't scream "I'm high on drugs", I don't know what does. Elite? Suite 100? They don't go together or, oh, maybe Ted thought they did because the words rhyme.

TED INSERRA
TED INSERRA

you guys are thee best, i say Mickey Rourke plays me in the movie!!

Lesley
Lesley

I CAN"T BELIEVE TED IS TAKING ALL THIS CREDIT!!! CHEF ALENIK DID EVERYTHING! VERY LOW TED!

L
L

Reed did not write that

REED ALENIK
REED ALENIK

The last comment hase been provided by REED ALENIK

Anonymous
Anonymous

First off good or bad Ted never created a damn thing. Hes a chump, and so are DEBBIE A, JIMMY G, DENNIS and TRAVIS. Hard work pays off dividends, riding coat tails dosent prove shit. WEAK SAUCE. Try something on your own sometime. WHERES MY MONEY PUNK ? With all that loyalty right ? See ya when I see ya

Travis
Travis

Hard work Ted. :)

JimmyG
JimmyG

I cannot believe I am saying this but I agree with Dennis. The menu does need to be updated. If any body can do it, Ted can. Good luck with the new restaurant!

Debbie A
Debbie A

Congrats to Ted who is an amazing chef, person, environmentalist. South Florida is lucky to have him.

dennis
dennis

Thanks for proving my point, Ted. You're making a big mistake if you don't change that menu. It's weak. Nobody is going to the riverfront for that menu.

ted inserra
ted inserra

darn, dennis, what took you so long to respond, the over/under was 11:30 am!!!

dennis
dennis

Why ruin Ted's big chance by interviewing him? He's one of those people who should just cook and keep his mouth shut.

R A
R A

That was quick. TopChef huh ?

Stb168
Stb168

Haha Ted was fired for stealing and food cost went up 20%

Attorney
Attorney

Sadly there are still several comments that are detrimental to the reputation of certain parties. This is the last warning, please remove all assumptions and claims before legal action takes place under Florida Laws: FL Statutes - Title XLVI Chapter 836 Defamation; Libel; Threatening Letters and Similar Offenses.

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