With his new stubborn seed, Ford marries classic French training with a laid-back, all American attitude.
The Jojo tea-cured cobia is lined with finger lime, hearts of palm and spicy celery broth.
A tattoo sleeve used to mean you were a biker—or a convict. Now it indicates you are a chef who can turn out a killer short rib with a drizzle of miso. Meet Jeremy Ford. The winner of Bravo’s 13th season of Top Chef is bringing his brand of laid-back cool to Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood. The chef/partner of the newly opened Stubborn Seed is kicking formalities to the curb in favor of a down-home approach. “I don’t want people to feel like this is a place just for an anniversary or special event,” says Ford, whose love of cooking stems from memories of preparing homemade pappardelle in his grandmother’s kitchen.
In partnership with Grove Bay Hospitality Group, Ford opened his hot spot on the heels of Hurricane Irma. “It was very scary to open—with the city not being full, our labor model didn’t make sense, people had evacuated, and we weren’t sure when staff were coming back,” he recalls. The team—including former Matador Room chef Joe Mizzoni and pastry chef Dallas Wynne—proceeded, launching a menu focusing on seasonal ingredients and technique- driven dishes that reflect the kitchens in which Ford was trained. Think chicken liver prepared as a delicate mousse, laid on top of a cracker-like lavash with beads of smoked chili jam; or an umami short rib with trumpet mushroom, miso mustard butter and infusions of carrot accompanied by celery root braised in olive oil and citrus. Dishes are topped with fresh herbs and blossoms for an unexpected touch of elegance.
Ford’s culinary career has taken him through Michelinstarred kitchens that seem to be the exact opposite of his easygoing persona. At 17, the Jacksonville native moved to California and landed in the all-French-speaking kitchen of L.A.’s legendary L’Orangerie under famed chef Ludo Lefebvre. After perfecting classic dishes typical of haute French cuisine, Ford moved to the more progressive kitchen of renowned chef Joachim Splichal’s Michelin-starred Patina. Here, he manned the bustling fish station and made regular trips to the Third Street Promenade to pick out locally sourced produce.
But it was in South Florida that Ford experienced a turning point in his career, working for esteemed chef Dean Max at the now-shuttered 3030 Ocean. “He taught me how to grow up,” says Ford. In fact, it was Max who first introduced him to Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Ford vividly recalls sweating through a two-and-a-halfhour audition for Vongerichten, for which he was sent a three-page recipe to follow with a day’s notice. “He would just walk in and out, saying things like, ‘It could use 15 percent more salt.’” Landing the Matador Room chef de cuisine gig was followed by a two week training with Vongerichten, kicked off by a massive email file titled “Jeremy Ford Practice.”
Whether it is Max or Vongerichten, Ford notes that all his mentors have much in common: strict, militant cooking operations, a drive for perfection and a relationship to the ingredients served. And while his three years at Matador Room included the nationally televised Top Chef title that opened many doors, Ford ultimately decided to take the one that led to Stubborn Seed. And it’s here that he will continue to delight gourmands with his own signature style—haute cuisine served with a badass beachside attitude.