Chris Miracolo, Chef at Max's Harvest in Delray: A Q&A About Good Food, Mean Customers, and the Swedish Chef
His latest post, as executive chef of Max's Harvest in Delray Beach, which New Times named Best Palm Beach County Restaurant this year, has brought his name to the forefront of the local culinary scene. Miracolo sat down with us to chat about his first year at Max's, winning, and the strangest thing he has ever stuck in his mouth.
New Times: Just over a year into Max's Harvest, how has it evolved since you first opened?
Chris Miracolo: We're pretty much the same place we opened as and set out to be; however, the public's embrace of the concept, paired with the recognition we've garnered, has given us a platform to educate our guests about the message and benefits of the slow-food movement. It has also allowed us to raise awareness about childhood hunger through our partnership with Share Our Strength.
Do you have a favorite or signature dish on your menu?
I don't really think I--or any chef these days--have a "signature dish." I think it's more of a signature style. But, I'd have to say the meatballs are my favorite. A few weeks ago a seven-year-old girl told me, "your meatballs are better than chocolate chip cookies." I don't think you can get better than that! Otherwise, I usually like what is newest.
Speaking of newest, how do you come up with the many incarnations of your recipes?
Have you ever seen the end of That '70's Show? Just exchange the flannel shirts and bellbottoms for chef coats and Birkenstocks.
What about our #2 Favorite on our 100 Favorite Dishes--your pork belly?
Pork belly dishes are inspired by anything and everything. I could eat a PB&J, a bowl of fried rice, or an apple, and think, this would go great with some pork belly.
Tell us a bit about your relationship with your farmers.
My farmers really are my partners and friends; we help each other in so many ways. It's wonderful when the person that delivers vegetables to your back door is the same person that planted the seeds. They have taught me so much in the past year about things I've never worked with before and they've shared their passion for good, clean, food with me. You're not dealing with companies as much anymore, but families. You become friends with their husbands and wives, you know their kids' names. They bring their families and friends in to dinner and they open their homes to you anytime you want to visit them or the farms. I could never go back!
Who are your least favorite customers?
The mean ones. Our guests are just like any other slice of humanity; you're not gonna be friends with all of them. Just so long as people treat each other with respect, we're all happy.
How diplomatic. Seriously, we know you have some horrible customer stories. Give us the goss.
>Over the span of my career, I've had people complain that a B.L.T. had bacon, lettuce, or tomato in it. I've had a frittata sent back because it had eggs in it. I once had to assure a gluten-sensitive guest that the risotto was safe to eat. They told me, "maybe you make your risotto with rice, but the rest of the world uses pasta, and obviously, you don't know what you're doing." I even once had a lady that ordered salmon, forgot she order it, and somehow thought she ordered chicken, proceeded to eat half of the ordered salmon, and then grab a food runner to complain that her fish tasted funny. To which he responded, "that's because you ordered salmon, ma'am."
Who do you consider to be your culinary idols?
Thomas Keller, Tom Colicchio, anybody's grandmother, and the Swedish chef from the Muppets.
What is your ideal date?
One stuffed with cheese and bacon marmalade.
Favorite animal? And why?
A Pig. Why? Bacon.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, which three things would you bring?
A six pack of Dale's Pale Ale, a piece of bacon, and a satellite phone.
Strangest thing you've stuck in your mouth.
Don't judge me. I was in college and couldn't afford the ticket.
A bottle of '92 Screaming Eagle.
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