Kitchen Inquisition: Sean Brasel

The Meat Market chef and owner talks Lincoln Road, psychology and rhubarb

It was only a matter of time before a restaurant on South Beach took advantage of two things that seem to be everywhere: sex and steak houses. Meat Market, which moved into the old Pacific Time spot on Lincoln Road last year, is now the go-to spot for a see-and-be-seen cocktail and dinner on this pedestrian street. And the man behind the meat is Sean Brasel, who, below, talks dropping out of school to follow his dream, growing strawberries and why every kitchen should have a good French knife.

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 Meat Market, which ones are you most proud of?
I'm most proud of the Kobe skirt steak, not only because it's an under-used cut of beef that's not given the recognition it should receive, but also because my kitchen line was constructed around making it the center of the line. It's marinated in aji pancha with ginger and jalapeno for two days, and then wood grilled, giving it a unique flavor unlike any meat dish I've ever tasted.

How would you describe Miami's dining scene?
Miami's dining scene is truly like no other - so eclectic with a very diverse clientele, ranging from Europeans to South and Central Americans. It's an exciting city to cook in.

Restaurant-wise, what's the secret to longevity on Lincoln Road?
Lincoln Road is a gorgeous place to eat - hip and relaxing with great people watching and a ton of foot traffic. It's important to keep this in mind when designing the restaurant's layout. Diners need to be able to take advantage of the people watching, and the restaurant needs to be designed so that it looks inviting and exciting to those walking by. Of course, you need to give folks an amazing dining experience, and that means perfecting everything from hiring the right hostesses, to ensuring excellence in service, and producing a delicious product.

What brought you to South Florida?
I lived in Denver for most of my life and I really wanted a chance to grow into a city that had much more of a dining scene. I fell in love with the weather in South Florida and jumped at the opportunity to open Touch with my partners here on Lincoln road 10 years ago.
At what point did you realize you were destined to be a chef?
I've loved cooking ever since I was five years old. I got my first kitchen job at the age of 14, and the love deepened. My real turning point was when I was 21 years old, in college studying psychology.  I was offered my first sous chef job and as I considered dropping out of school to take it, I started to realize that a life of creativity and stress would be a much greater internal reward than that of a psychologist. I finally took the job and pursued cooking with the same intent that I had pursued school.

The 5 ingredients every home kitchen should have?
Olive oil, vinegar of some sort (good balsamic is always nice), flour, agave nectar or honey, high quality sea salt.

The 5 utensils every home kitchen should have?
High quality, non-reactive pan, high temperature resistant plastic spatulas, good French knife, any Microplane product, a quality cutting board. 

Which chefs inspire you?

Grant Achatz's work is mystifying. The thought he puts into something so simple is revolutionizing; he's taking food to another level, cooking in the new millennium as did Escoffier in the 1900's. I also respect how Laurent Tourondel opened up a new breed of steakhouses years ago in New York, paving the way for chefs like myself to push the creativity to new levels.
Your fondest food-related memory?
I remember when I was a child learning how to raise vegetable in a home garden. Eating the rhubarb and fresh strawberries that I had planted with my parents was such a rewarding experience. I recall, perfectly, the taste of them dipped in a bit of sugar; it was better than any candy I could have ever purchased. Years later, I bought strawberries at the store and tried to recreate the flavor; it just wasn't the same. I will always remember cutting the fresh picked rhubarb and sticking it in a cup of sugar; the sweet tartness was the best.
Favorite dish to make at home?
I love cooking simple Italian dishes, such as a breaded eggplant parmesan, layered like a lasagna, with buffalo mozzarella and spinach, and baked to bubbling perfection. Also, black linguini seafood pasta with tomato sauce made from the highest quality Italian tomatoes and fresh white water clams.


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