You may recognize this face from season three of Hell’s Kitchen. But now, you’ll recognize him for a different reason: his delicious food-- he’s the new executive chef at Symcha’s on the Beach. Joshua Wahler’s experience at big-name restaurants such as Nobu South Beach, Gramercy Tavern, and Spice Market NYC have brought him here; and for him, it all starts with incorporating delicious homemade sauces and first class proteins that brings any meal to life. At the heart of Symcha’s lies Wahler’s ability to bring a great-tasting gastronomic experience to the table. He tells us here about the dinind scene, his must-haves in any kitchen, and his foodie dinner-dates with grandma (insert gratuitous “awwww!” here).
I'm sure all the dishes on each of your menus are like your children, but if you had to choose only one dish from the menu, which ones are you most proud of?
Our fresh Maine lobster is poached and the rich meat is removed from the shells. It is sautéed with wild mushrooms, roasted cipolin onions and artichoke heart confit. It is then served over our decadent creamy truffle polenta and finished off with a lobster amaretto tarragon cream sauce that I reduce for two days. It is outrageous and all the flavors meld beautifully together, with all the components on your fork it is hands down the perfect bite.
Most popular item on the menu?
Chilean Sea Bass, our customer loves it! We are proud to use 100% sustainable seafood; it is the most amazing quality. Combined with our creamy, decadent white truffle risotto, the earthiness of the sautéed cremini mushrooms and the crunch of multi colored cauliflower it is an outrageously delicious meal.
How would you describe Miami's dining scene?
“Growing!” There are many new restaurants popping up showing off excellent food. Miami is becoming a strong culinary town and I’m happy to be a thread in the movement.
The secret to cooking perfect pasta?
Salted water, fresh pasta and timing. I do not cook pasta all too often, but our squid ink linguini that we serve for lunch is perfect. It begins with sea-salted water. Once there is a rolling boil, add a touch of oil and fresh pasta cooked for a very short period of time. At home I know my pasta is finished when my raviolis are floating.
At what point did you realize you were destined to be a chef?
My grandmother is my biggest fan and she has encouraged me from the beginning. We kept a dinner date where she would come from Long Island and I would come from Jersey and we would meet in the city at an incredible restaurant for a meal. We would enjoy each other’s company and discuss what we were tasting, what worked, what didn’t, etc. She definitely put me on the road to my destiny and I am forever grateful for our dinners then and now-- the time I get to spend with her is so important to me.
The 5 ingredients every kitchen should have?
Maldon Sea Salt, mélange peppercorns, duck fat, white truffle oil and Yuzu juice
The 5 utensils every kitchen should have?
Japanese Gyutou Knife 8.2 inches, Robotcoupe blender, hand blender, fishbone tweezers, stainless steel pots and pans
First dish you learned to make?
Old school peasant Italian Soup “Pappa al Pomodoro” taught to me by my first mentor. We would sweat leaks, celery and onion; add some Pinot Grigio and canned San Marzano tomatoes, dry oregano, and bay leaf. We would tear day old Tuscan bread and add to the bottom of the bowl, pour over the tomatoes and add chunks of house made, fresh mozzarella. Absolutely incredible!
Favorite dish to make at home?
I have two go-to’s when I get home: A big green salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radish and avocado. I make a dressing that consists of Fresh Market’s Carrot Ginger dressing, Crystal Hot Sauce and Spicy Szechuan Sauce. I also love a BLT, but it has to be Wright Brothers or Nueske bacon. Both I enjoy with freezing cold Labet Blue beer.
What's your favorite food to eat? In other words, what could you live off of for the rest of your life if you had to?
My wife (Monika’s) sandwiches! Being a New Yorker, a fantastic sandwich is a necessity and she makes the best. Her latest creation: Boar’s Head maple turkey, Boars Head tavern ham, Boars Head London broil, Boars head smoked chipotle gouda, Boars Head 3 pepper jack, smoked sundried tomatoes with a special sauce made of wishbone Russian dressing + spicy Chinese mustard on toasted rye is to die for. I am a happy man with my beautiful bride and her grub, especially the sandwich!
Tell us a little more about your restaurant.
In regards to the food served at Symcha’s, they are all unique dishes, original creations and a collaboration of everything I love. It is all about flavors that work in perfect harmony together; I call it a “happy food movement.” Symcha and Anna, owners of Symcha’s, love the finest things in life and that is conveyed through the understatedly elegant décor of the restaurant and their choice of only the finest quality ingredients, wines and spirits. It is a beautiful experience for all the senses from beginning to end of your meal; our service is unparalleled in my opinion. Symcha’s is beautifully designed and intimate, from the Cyprus wood bar (reclaimed from the Everglades) to the shagreen and linen adorned dining chairs; every detail of Symcha’s is thought out and exudes style.
If there’s one tip or piece of advice you could give to all aspiring chefs out there, what would it be?
Close your mouth and open your ears and eyes. I am sure you have the best ideas, but it is important to watch and learn in the beginning. And second, it is a difficult lifestyle so be sure you are doing it for all the right reasons. If you are then enjoy--- it’s a wild ride!
What’s your favorite Holiday dish, and how do you prepare it?
Colorado Lamb, always! Let it rest on rosemary and thyme for 24 hours with salt and pepper then sear it in oil on all sides, sealing in the juices, and finish in oven until medium rare. I serve it with my vanilla scented, sweet potato puree and citrus asparagus. It is a holiday gift for the palette!