20 Year Retrospective: Hospitality
by eric newill
In the beginning—or, for our purposes, 1993—Miami was still something of a second-tier city on the hospitality front. But a curious thing was happening on old Miami Beach: A contingent of displaced New Yorkers and European visionaries had banded together to create a hipster haven that was gaining traction on the international trend circuit. South Beach had become an official stop on the glamour grid, and Ocean Drive magazine was there to document it.
Of course, nothing would have happened without the structures themselves, the Art Deco whimsies and Mediterranean reveries that offered a crumbling, glorious backdrop for fashion. And so they came—the photographers, designers, and, essentially, models—and when they did, they needed places to stay. Forward-thinking developers such as Chris Blackwell and the late Tony Goldman restored the Deco gems, making icons of their Marlin and Park Central hotels. In 1993, a new level of boho chic was also attained when Ken Zarrilli brought life back to The Raleigh.
But two years later came the moment that changed everything: Royalton hotelier Ian Schrager brought his New York cachet—and designer Philippe Starck—to the Delano, not only creating one of the country’s most memorable lobbies but also inspiring a horde of minimalist, billowing-curtained imitators for the next decade. But Miami’s hotel renaissance wasn’t all cozy rooms and restored terrazzo. Thinking big, Jonathan Tisch built the city’s first new hotel in 30 years with his family’s convention-minded Loews, which opened in 1998 to enormous fanfare (and Ocean Drive coverage). Brickell and downtown soon followed with the Mandarin Oriental, Miami, Epic, J.W. Marriott Marquis, and the Four Seasons.
The city’s culinary evolution paralleled the hotels. Once defined almost exclusively by steakhouses and Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami’s food scene was given a revolutionary identity by the Mango Gang, a group of fusion-minded chefs who used local ingredients to create a unique hybrid known as “Floribbean.” In the early ’90s, Alan Susser, Mark Militello, Norman Van Aken, and Robbin Haas operated their signature properties as a gastronomic vanguard, and the national press took notice. Jonathan Eismann’s Pacific Time charmed on Lincoln Road, and Prime One Twelve has distilled extravagant dining and A-list celebrity into a heady and oft-copied cocktail. So hot became the scene that it grew essential for global culinary heavyweights to have a location here, first with Nobu Matsuhisa and his Nobu in the Shore Club Miami Beach, and now with Jean-Georges Vongerichten (J&G Grill), Daniel Boulud (DB Bistro Moderne), Rainier Becker (Zuma), and Scott Conant (Scarpetta).
http://gotham-magazine.com/articles/fine-romance-10-chic-valentines-day-gifts/edit And in 2013, everything has come full circle with Sam Nazarian’s SLS Hotel South Beach, where star chefs and celebrity guests again meet in a restored Art Deco hotel that sat abandoned for decades. José Andrés’s Bazaar and Katsuya by Starck point the way toward a continuing confluence of haute hospitality and glamorous gastronomy. Miami’s all the better for it.
The moments that carved out Miami's place on the global food scene.
1993: Lincoln Road Foothold
Jonathan Eismann ushers in globally influenced fine dining with Pacific Time on Lincoln Road, establishing a location in a then-rough area and attracting celebrities such as Madonna, Calvin Klein, and Cindy Crawford. His pioneering laid the groundwork for David Tornek and chef Sean Brasel to open Touch on Lincoln Road a year later, and its success (and opulent design) inspired other eateries. Tornek and Brasel went on to create Kiss steakhouse in 2002 and Meat Market in 2008.
1995: Hotel Haute Cuisine
Geoffrey Zakarian opens the Blue Door at the newly revamped Delano Hotel, marking the beginning of Miami’s renaissance in hotel cuisine.
1997: A Festival is Born
The now-sprawling South Beach Wine & Food Festival began as a one-day event called the Florida Extravaganza food festival, held at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay Campus. In 2002, Lee Brian Schrager relocated the event to South Beach, attracting a crowd of close to 7,000. In 2012, more than 60,000 guests attended.
1998: Dining Decadence
Nicola Siervo, Chris Paciello, and Ingrid Casares establish Italian eatery Joia on Ocean Drive, the scene of much celebrity decadence and symbolic of South Beach at the time. Today, Siervo’s influence can be seen at Quattro, as well as Living Room Bar and Wall at The W South Beach, while Paciello is currently involved with FDR at Delano.
1998: A Legend Updates
Joe’s Stone Crab appoints its first executive chef, André Bienvenu, who upgrades the menu. This year, Joe’s celebrates its 100-year anniversary, and its no-reservation policy can sometimes mean three-hour waits.
2000: A Star is Born
Michelle Bernstein takes over as executive chef at Azul at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami, earning five diamonds from AAA (the only Miami restaurant to ever do so). She would go on to run her own restaurants—Michy’s, Sra. Martinez, and Crumb on Parchment—and win a 2007 James Beard Award for Best Chef South, for her work at Michy’s.
2001: The Big Leagues
A legend in Tribeca, Nobu Matsuhisa debuts Nobu Miami Beach at the Shore Club, kicking off the craze for celebrity chefs and high-end Japanese food. Chefs to follow suit include Scott Conant, Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and José Andrés.
2001: A Gamble Pays Off
Casa Tua opens, combining an upscale restaurant with a private-membership club. At the time, people thought Miky Grendene was crazy for purchasing a non-waterfront building on James Avenue, but the risk paid off, and the restaurant and five-room mini hotel are still running strong.
2002: Early Deconstruction
Angel Palacios and Sergi Arola launch the laboratory-like La Broche in downtown Miami, the first Spanish-style molecular gastronomy restaurant in the city. This innovative deconstruction cuisine was just becoming all the rage, but alas, Miami’s location may have been too far ahead of its time, as it closed nearly two years later.
2004: A Dynasty Begins
Myles Chefetz unveils Prime One Twelve, which becomes the ultimate dining destination for athletes and other entertainers. To this day, it dominates the Miami steakhouse hierarchy.
2008: Getting Our Due
The New York Times names chef Michael Schwartz’s Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink one of the top 10 US restaurants, anointing the Design District as a dining destination.
2012: End of an Era
After 58 years in business, Jimbo’s, the historic bait shop and fish shack, closes.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF THE RALEIGH (raleigh); seth browarnik/worldredeye.com (Hilton, Jay-Z, simpson, brito); Robin Hill (Fontainebleau); claudia katz (jimbo’s); manny hernandez (pérez)
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.