Kitchen Inquisition: Ken Lyon and Jorge Cardenas

Double the trouble? More like double the awesome

By Lourdes Reigosa
|  Monday, Dec 14, 2009  |  Updated 10:26 AM EDT
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Kitchen Inquisition: Ken Lyon and Jorge Cardenas

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Ken Lyon (right) and Jorge Cardenas (left) are THE dynamic duo. Restaurateur and chef respectively, foodies can't deny the perfect combination of taste and design. Ken is one of Miami's most distinct and celebrated restaurateurs, and has 30 years of experience under his belt. Jorge, executive chef of The Cape Cod Room, is notorious for his commitment to using organic ingredients, and sources seafood and fish directly from Massachusetts and Maine in the name of fresh taste. The phrase, "two heads are better than one" was said with this au pair in mind; and here, they both tell us about the wonders of the Cod.

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?
Jorge: I would say the Nantucket Bay scallops. When Ken presented me with the menu for the Cape Cod Room he asked that I stayed true to the preparations of all the dishes because they were so dear to him. This was one of the items that I had the most liberty to play with and so I consider it my own.

Most popular item on the menu?
Ken: Lobster. Chilled lobster salad with bibb leaves, green beans, corn, tomato and basil; our famed lobster stew, JFK style; twin miniature lobster rolls on griddled brioche; and the Cape Cod lobster pot pie.

How would you describe Miami's dining scene?
Jorge: Being from NY, I think I have been around well-rounded diners and food savvy people. To be honest, Miami diners have held their own. They know what they want as far as ordering and they are not afraid to experiment. This as a chef is exciting to me because I can play around with a variety of specialty items.

Jorge, at what point did you realize you were destined to be a chef?
Working at Le Cirque, I had taken the job as a summer thing, but working around all those great chefs and cooks I felt that I wanted to be part of that and I just applied myself. Growing up I was always around the kitchen, but it never became a reality for me until I first started working at Le Cirque.

The 5 ingredients every home kitchen should have?
Jorge: Depends what you are trying to make, but basics you should always have are thyme, limes, salt, pepper and a good bottle of wine.
 
The 5 utensils every home kitchen should have?
Ken: Quality knives; good pots and pans -- stainless, copper or enamel coated; oversized cutting board, fish spatula, and a microplane.

Jorge, has your life in New York helped in any way adapt to South Floridian lifestyle? How about in terms of your culinary career?
New York teaches you how to be thick skinned and work at a really fast pace -- two great qualities in being a chef. It helps you adapt to any lifestyle and career thereafter.

Ken, what makes the seafood up North different from here in South Florida?
The cold water. The fish that grow in the Northeast is very different from that in Florida. The Northeast seaboard is home to cod, bluefin tuna, flukes, striped bass and much more, whereas Florida waters include dolphin (mahi-mahi), grouper, snapper, etc.

Your fondest food-related memory?
Jorge: Cooking for my grandmother's 90th birthday. There were about 100 people in attendance, all family. My sister and I prepared everything and we really showcased our skills. It was a tremendous success and most importantly, my grandmother loved everything.

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