Which port was your favorite?
As far as my favorite port, Fort Lauderdale must have been because I never left! I'll tell you something I have never mentioned in an interview before. In 1992, that yacht brought me to the United States for the very first time. It was 3 months after Hurricane Andrew. I had four things with me that mattered: my suitcase, a wad of saved cash, my experience and my credentials.
My immediate plan was to buy a one way ticket back to England; however a series of chance meetings and events led me to stay, along with the fact that I fell in love with the weather. The restaurant business was healthy enough. Jobs came easily. I became the head chef at the Plum Room, which was an upscale restaurant at the former Yesterday's on Oakland Park Blvd; the head chef at Stephanie's Market on Oakland, which closed a few years ago, they did a lot of catering; I worked as a waiter at Café de Paris and the Ambry when I first arrived; I worked on the line at the Blue Moon Fish Company.
I'll tell you what, in reality, these are the experiences that make one qualified to own and run a business from the inside out. I learned a lot about Florida--and how crazy it was back then. That's another story. No job was ever too big or small for me. It's the same way now. Here's another ridiculous story, In 1999, while running a busy restaurant in the Caribbean, I was asked to take over the kitchen at the very successful Left Bank off of Las Olas. They wanted me to pretend I was a former chef there so the customers wouldn't know he left. The guy who asked me to do this was also named Andy. I remember telling him where to go.
Can you tell us about your experience at the Art Institute? What was it like to teach in that environment?
I mostly enjoyed the 7 years I spent there teaching a multitude of culinary classes. When the students were serious about learning, that is. The rest who were not really into it, annoyed me because they were wasting their own time, fellow students' time, my time, and a lot of money. I remain in close contact with many of my former students who have gone on to become caterers, restaurant owners, some who work for me and others who have become instructors themselves.
How has Kitchen Nightmares affected your business? Is Gordon Ramsey actually an ass hole in real life?
We are very glad we participated in the show. The fact that we are a thriving landmark South Florida restaurant helps. Elin and I have proven to be successful restaurateurs. It's great to have a little PR assistance from our friend Gordon to push things along. Either spend thousands on a good publicist or do what we did, have Gordon come in, put up with his shit for a week and Voila! Two major network shows, International TV--repeated often--paid for by a little mocking. So what?
This was an excellent business decision. I don't think Gordon is an asshole. If he is, he is a very, very successful asshole. Gordon and I had the same start, schlepping it in some very high-end perfectionist kitchens with hard-ass, ruthless, tyrant chefs. Only the strong survive. Being verbally and mentally beaten up in a kitchen over time can make anyone an asshole. Me, I sometimes wonder what would have become of my career if I stayed in England. However, we have done everything on our own and I am very proud of that. We don't owe anyone anything! We sleep easy at night.
You have mentioned your frustration with the South Florida culinary scene. Which improvements would you like to see?
There should be more to offer than mango salsa, plantains, rice and beans and chopped parsley on the rim of the plate. We have chefs with great culinary talent that need to be recognized, and not just in Miami. Maybe then the Michelin Guide will take an interest in South Florida.
In what ways does the average palate here differ from that found in other cities and countries?
Based on the availability of so much pre-made, prepackaged food items available in supermarkets and majority of restaurants here--just go to Restaurant Depot, Sysco, Chaney Brothers and take a look at what can be purchased already prepared. Read the labels; note the sodium, sugars, and calories in addition to other questionable ingredients. I sometimes think the majority of people here even don't even know what real food is and tastes like. It is truly unnerving. The U.S. concentrates on sweet items, maybe that's why America is the largest consumer of sugar in the world. breads, soda, sauces, even French fries. America is not the only one guilty of this. I find Asian cooking guilty the same way. Lots of salty and sweet prepared sauces used.
Which culinary professionals do you most respect?
The trained working chef, like me. Works his ass off: respects the food and the costs.
Which are your three favorite ingredients?
Great salt, chilies, fresh seafood.
In America - yeunling, black & tan. In England - Boddingtons - on tap of course.
Do you have a favorite dish from the food club?
Too many to mention.
A least favorite?
Baby anchovies and chilli beer shot.
4626 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, FL