The Tudor House dining room, with its warm, clean design, rich earth tones and vintage photographs of Miami Beach

You know Geoffrey Zakarian as the quick-witted recurring judge from the hit Food Network series Chopped, where he demonstrates an exceptional level of culinary knowledge garnered over the three decades he worked in and ran some of the most critically acclaimed kitchens in America. Zakarian is no stranger to South Florida, having opened the Delano’s Blue Door during the untamed ’90s. While more recently active in New York (as chef and partner of The Lambs Club and the now-closed Town and Country restaurants), he’s back with the Dream South Beach hotel’s Tudor House. The new gastro café features neighborhood American fare (think hearty meats and seafoods, such as organic buttermilk fried chicken with gingered slaw and black grouper cheeks with caulif lower, pearl onions and romesco) and a charming indoor/outdoor design in rich sepia tones and sustainable teak furniture. Zakarian recently sat down with Ocean Drive to provide a glimpse into how his extensive expertise—honed up north—translates to South Florida’s ever-evolving culinary landscape.

You’ve worked in plenty of renowned kitchens. Which has most influenced you professionally?
GEOFFREY ZAKARIAN: Le Cirque really set the standard of my career, both in cooking technique and my base philosophy of running restaurants.

After 30 successful years in the business, what’s your overall culinary point of view?
GZ: The way I see things definitely comes from the diner’s standpoint. I try very hard to see what’s missing and creatively fill that void. I always come at food from a historical perspective, looking backward for ways to determine my future culinary strategy.

Several of your restaurants have received three stars from The New York Times, and your Manhattan restaurant Country garnered a Michelin star in its first year. What does that mean to you?
GZ: I have been very lucky with reviews and blessed with wonderful staff. However, I think of the reviews as a snapshot of that particular few days in the restaurant’s history, because we are only as good as our last meal. I try to file the review as a memory and think of the future: How can we improve? How can we make the customer experience better? There’s no resting on your laurels in the restaurant business.

You also have a history in Miami, opening the Blue Door at the Delano. What was the culinary scene like here in the ’90s?
GZ: Miami in 1994 was not the same. Certainly South Beach was a bit unstable, crime was high, there was very little scene directly on South Beach and the hotels available were only moderate in their sophistication. But Ian Schrager really changed all of that almost overnight, with that magical design by Philippe Starck and the creation of a whole new hotel lobby culture.

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