After a Decade, Las Olas' Johnny V Is Still the Boss of the Boulevard
Vinczencz says Las Olas has improved dramatically in recent years. He doesn't call out restaurants that aren't up to snuff, though, and even speaks admiringly of the popular "gastropubbish" trend as well as the Royal Pig Pub and American Social. He calls the Rainmaker Restaurant Group's Grille 401 "beautiful."
"I think we have a good mix. There are some cool places, and I love the art galleries," he says. "You can do more walking down the boulevard these days... I think it's going in the right direction."
In his youth, Vinczencz didn't seem destined to become the king of Las Olas. At 15, he was a dishwasher at a Columbus, Ohio, restaurant called Sadie's Emporium. One day, a cook walked off the line midshift and the chef, in a pinch, threw Vinczencz on the grill.
"I haven't had another job doing anything, ever," he says in a deep voice. As with his menu, there's a just a hint of an Italian accent.
He never went to culinary school or college, but while living with his grandmother in Ohio, he was steps from Ohio State University.
"I had a lot of friends who went to college, and I came down for spring break one year with the idea that I would stay," he says. "One of my friends was managing a restaurant, and I started working for the Marriott" on 17th Street.
At 26 years old, he took a job as an executive chef of Ferguson's Gator Bar & Grill, then opening in the Cypress Creek Embassy Suites. The restaurant was owned by Joseph A. Meloy's company, Restaurant Concepts Inc., which developed food and beverage outfits for the hotel chain across the country.
Despite the tacky name, "what was cool was the guy was out of California, and he brought things I had never seen before," Vinczencz says. "This was 1986, and we were doing rotisserie chicken of the day, salads with jalapeño vinaigrette."