Kitchen Inquisition: Joel Huff

The new chef is already cooking up a storm of yum at Mandarin Oriental Miam


Azul’s new Chef de Cuisine, Joel Huff, is no stranger to the Mandarin Oriental hotels, having previously worked in the kitchens of New York and California. Now Chef Huff is bringing his talent and passion for food to Miami. Foodies all over the Magic City are excited to see and taste his upgrades to the menu, coming at the end of March.  

I'm sure all the dishes on a menu are like children, but which one is your favorite?
Currently, it’s not my menu, because I have just a few days starting here, but all the dishes from the previous menu are great. If I had to choose one, it would be the hamachi dish. 
Most popular item on the menu? 
The pan-seared bass is a big seller. It is very fresh. It has hot and cold aspects, which makes it good for the weather here in Miami. The dish combines light, fresh, and complex flavors, the sauce has a little spice to it, and the cashew makes it creamy. It pairs great with a pandano salad with yogurt and cashew sauce.

How would you describe Miami's dining scene? 
I actually haven’t had the chance to eat out yet! But I know there are a lot of great chefs here. It is definitely a food Mecca on the east coast, with New York and Miami being the two hot spots. The food here is light and fresh and goes along with its surroundings perfectly. 

The secret to cooking perfect pasta? 
Use lots of water and salt, and also good quality pasta. I like dry pasta, personally, for the bite, but the secret would be lots of salted water.
At what point did you realize you were destined to be a chef? 
I started very young working in sushi bars, and also worked for my father in the construction industry. I was going to college in California and knew that construction wasn’t for me. I knew I liked the restaurant business, and I just happened to fall into it. I went to Europe with a friend, traveling and working in Denmark, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Indonesia, Africa and Australia; I love to travel, which got me excited about different foods and what I learned, and I was able to put those aspects into my food. I also love surfing, and being a chef allows me to do that.
The 5 ingredients every kitchen should have?
Kosher salt. Good olive oil. Fresh ground pepper. Soy sauce. Dashi sauce. 
The 5 utensils every kitchen should have?
Good spoons, sharp knives, nonstick pans and pots, a rational and water bath are very important equipment in my kitchen.

First dish you learned to make?

I remember being between the ages of 6 and 8, making cookies and brownies with a babysitter, and I fell in love with it, and thought: Cooking is fun!

Favorite dish to make at home?  
We do a lot of barbeques and pastas and braises because my wife likes that a lot. Spaghetti and meatballs is a staple in our house.

What could you live off of for the rest of your life?
Tacos! I’m a Southern California boy and I can eat tacos all the time.
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