From reopening The Palm Court at New York’s Plaza Hotel to competing on Food Network’s ‘Beat Bobby Flay’ to cooking for President George Bush Jr., this culinary star - Nicolas Bour - can do it all. Now he’s testing his skills at a new cuisine from south of the border. Launching new Mexican-inspired restaurant Agaveros Cantina at The Gates Hotel, Bour will be serving up Miami locals delicious plates paired with over 100 tequilas and mezcals. We sat down with Bour to discuss his impressive culinary endeavors and his hopes for Agaveros Cantina.
Tell us about your new Executive Chef position at Miami Beach restaurant, Agaveros Cantina.
NICOLAS BOUR: I was contacted by the property to reinvigorate the restaurant. It was previously a Steven Starr restaurant, Continental. I came to Miami, checked it out, and obviously, South Beach isn’t a bad place to be. So, I decided it would be a good time to come down here and make some changes.
How did you make the menu unique and what are your favorite plates?
NB: Luckily for me, I’ve never cooked Mexican food before. But, I spent some years in San Diego, so I’ve eaten a lot of Mexican food and been to Mexico a bunch of times. That was an advantage because I wasn’t pigeonholed into making a certain dish. So, I would say it separates itself out because every other Mexican restaurant you go to is a plate of beans, rice, and a taco. We broke out of that mold and decided to fuse Mediterranean style influences together with Mexican cooking. The chicken skewers are my favorite. I eat it all the time. And the snapper. We have a great source for fresh fish here in South Florida.
You also recently reopened the food and beverage program at The Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel in New York. What was it like to work at the iconic New York hotel?
NB: Well, before then, I never knew who Eloise was. And she’s a big deal there. Everything we did was surrounded by Eloise. And part of what we did was relaunch afternoon tea. It sounds simple, but it’s actually really intricate. We served 100 – 120 people a day. We also launched an Eloise tea program for children, served in a very sophisticated manner. Betsey Johnson even came one day and designed a suite – the Eloise Suite. So, I was able to work with her a little on that too. And Kelsey Grammer made an appearance one late night.
Do you have a favorite memory from The Plaza Hotel?
NB: The Kitchen is below subway level. It was a New York kitchen – tiny. And on my first day there, someone actually told me that my office was Chef Boyardee’s old office. I said what? And he said yep! So I googled it, and he was indeed one of the original chefs at The Plaza. And then of course, he became Chef Boyardee Ravioli in a can.
Tell us about cooking for President George Bush Jr. and Prince Abdullah of Saudi-Arabia.
NB: I loved him and I loved being around him. He’s a funny guy. It was interesting. We had the Prince of Saudi – Arabia and President George Bush Jr. together. He would walk through the kitchen and joke with us not to burn the soup, and meanwhile, we had the Prince of Saudi – Arabia’s bodyguards with us in the kitchen, while we were cooking.
What was on the menu?
NB: Scallops and quail with blackberries. We also did a barbeque for them one day. He’s a very simple, straightforward kind of guy.
Where did this take place?
NB: In Crawford, at his ranch. They actually requested me, while I was working at the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami.
Adding to your list of impressive culinary endeavors, you also cooked for the French Olympic Sailing Team, correct?
NB: Yes, I initially applied to be a translator. And then, they said if you want to come to Atlanta, you can come cook for the French Olympic team and translate for them. It was really fun.
Who is your all-time most favored person you have ever cooked for?
NB: Robert De Niro. And it was just like the movies.
If you could cook for anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
NB: My grandparents. They died before my career became real and I know they had so much influence over me.
What would you make for them?
NB: Leg of lamb with handmade noodles. That’s the dish I remember from when I was a child and the best way to someone’s heart, is through their stomach.
You've accomplished so much! What's next?
NB: I would love to own my own restaurant again. Probably casual, serving French cuisine.
Do you have future plans for Agaveros Cantina?
NB: I would love to have fun events outside and have plans to buy an Evo Grill. I would like to start doing some tequila dinners too.
Photography by: Photography Courtesy Nicholas Bour