Some say dessert is the most important part of a meal, and you'll find no argument here -- or from Rodney Barchi, the pastry chef at The Forge Restaurant and Wine Bar. The best thing about Chef Rod, besides his soufflé? If you ever have a cooking question, just ask him.
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 one are you most proud of?
Definitely the Coconut Peppercorn Flan is my favorite. For the complexity of the components and the variety of flavors and textures. Coconut, bananas, fresh lychees, pink peppercorns, caramel and ginger blossom plus a beautiful local sparkling lychee wine are all part of this dessert that is rapidly becoming the number one dessert of the summer menu.
Most popular item on the menu?
On our menu, souffles are the number one seller. Aside from souffles the apple pie sundae has been the best seller and, following close behind, the coconut peppercorn flan is making its mark during this summer.
How would you describe Miami's dining scene?
I think that for the last two years Miami's restaurants have taken a giant leap forward. First of all, there is no place like Miami as far the diversity of cultures creating the ideal place to have all kinds of cuisine, fusions or real ethnic restaurants. The South Beach Wine and Food Festival put Miami on the culinary map, which resulted in many great chefs venturing to the Magic City to open their concepts. Without a doubt, Miami's dining scene is on the upswing and I look forward to watching it get even better in the coming years.
The secret to cooking perfect soufflé?
Have it at The Forge.
At what point did you realize you were destined to be a chef?
I always knew I loved the food industry but I didn't know how I would fit into it. Maybe about 7 months ago, I realized this is it and there is no looking back. Working at Etoile in Napa Valley was a decisive moment for my career.
The 5 ingredients every kitchen should have?
A pastry kitchen should always have eggs, dairy (milk or heavy cream), vanilla beans or extract, sugar and chocolate. With these ingredients you can make creme brulee, flan, ice cream, sauces, meringue or even a cake. Flourless chocolate, anyone?
The 5 utensils every kitchen should have?
A sharp knife helps you work faster and safer, wooden spoon, whisk (a mixer always helps), thermometer, a good sauce pan or pot and someone to have fun and talk while cooking.
First dish you learned to make?
Favorite dish to make at home?
My house is my lab; I generally tend to experiment there with new recipes so I’m cooking/creating new things every day.
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?
Skirt steak is my favorite cut of meat. It's very flavorful and if you add roasted red peppers, I’m sold!
Tell us a little more about your restaurant.
The Forge serves American progressive fare or, as some people call it, the New American Cuisine. Here you can find the best local, seasonal food served in the most whimsical and delicious ways. And the steaks have always been known to be the best in the nation. One of my favorites is served on house-made yucca patties (which for me was a very common breakfast item in Ecuador) and topped with a unbelievable leek marmalade. The Forge has a fusion of many cuisines without losing that American essence.
If there's one tip or piece of advice you could give to all aspiring chefs out there, what would it be?
This industry is hard work and long hours. Once you understand that and if you have the passion, then go for it, keep your mind open and go for every opportunity presented to you with confidence. This industry is always looking for the next big chef. Why can't that be you?