Laurent Tourondel is not your typical chef. With early training in the French food market and having traveled to places like South America and Asia, Tourondel grasps a deeper understanding of food, ingredients, and techniques than most in his line of work. These days, the infamous BLT Steak, which just opened inside the Betsy Hotel on Ocean Drive, is where he now calls home -- and what a delectable home it is.
I'm sure all the dishes on BLT Steak's menu are like your children, but which one are you most proud of?
If I had to choose, I would say I am most proud of the Tuna Tartare.
What brought about the opening of a BLT Steak in Miami?
I love Miami as a city, and my partners and I feel that it is one of the country's top new dining destinations. A number of our best customers in New York travel to Miami during the winter, and we thought that it would be a natural fit for us. Our style and sensibility matches those of The Betsy, and you can't get a more beautiful location on South Beach!
What do you think is the biggest difference between the dining scene in Miami and the dining scene in New York?
The convivial late-night dining scene in Miami is fantastic. I love that Miami has year-round outdoor dining and lots of fresh-fruit cocktails and tropical ingredients on menus. I think the scene in Miami is a little more casual and laid back than the scene in New York.
What's the most popular item on the menu?
I would say all of our steaks are equally popular; what cut you order depends on personal preference. I think our NY Strip is excellent and extremely popular. Even though they're not technically on the menu, the popovers are definitely our most popular item.
What did you find to be most challenging when you made the initial move from the French food market back to the American food market?
Americans tend to be slightly more adventurous in their food choices than Europeans, so that was an initial adjustment for me. I enjoy cooking seasonally, which has always been the tradition in France. It has taken chefs in this country many years to convert American diners to the pleasures of eating seasonally. I think a lot of progress has been made compared to the way it was when I first came to the U.S.
How have your vast traveling experiences changed or altered the way you approach food?
I've traveled extensively through the U.S. on a road trip. Exploring this country and traditional American foods has helped me define my culinary style. I have a deep appreciation for unique American ingredients and dishes - ketchup, Tabasco, peanut butter, strawberry syrup, succotash, lobster rolls-and have incorporated them into my menus to create a style that is simultaneously familiar and fresh.
The five ingredients every home kitchen should have?
Olive oil, Tabasco, Maldon sea salt, fresh herbs, and canned tomatoes.
The five utensils every home kitchen should have?
A great chefs knife, serrated knife, cast iron sauté pan that can go from the stovetop to the oven, a saucepan, and a blender or food processor.
Your favorite dish growing up?
My grandmother's potato cake and my father's rabbit civet.
Favorite dish to make at home?
I like to cook on the grill at home, everything from pizzas to local fish.