What does it take to be a Top Chef? Jeremy Ford knows. And with his first eating house, Stubborn Seed, celebrating its one year anniversary on South of Fifth, he can now add restaurateur to his list of culinary achievements. Understanding tenacity, after winning the challenging, nationally televised competitive cooking show on Bravo, Ford is pushing himself up to the top again, winning over Miami and opening yet another boutique restaurant in the Grove Bay Hospitality Group. We sat down with Ford, to talk about championing Bravo’s Top Chef Season 13, opening two restaurants in Miami Beach, and his plans for the future to take over Miami.
Jeremy, tell me about Stubborn Seed!
JEREMY FORD: At Stubborn Seed, we focus on using the best seasonal ingredients in a creative way with innovative techniques. We want people to come and enjoy an amazing meal and we have received great response from the neighborhood because of our unique concept and style of dining.
Celebrating a one-year anniversary this September, tell me about your favorite featured items you've served to diners this past year.
JF: Some of my favorites are items we currently have on the menu—Thyme roasted black bass with habanero butter and summer squash and the slow cooked lamb loin with trumpet mushrooms and heirloom carrots. A fan favorite from this past year has been the warm celery root with maitake mushrooms. It’s one of our most popular dishes.
Do you plan to add additional new menu items this fall?
JF: The menu changes on a regular basis depending on the season and the ingredients available. You will almost always find something new on the menu weekly.
The winner of Bravo's hit television series, Top Chef Season 13, you've taken the culinary world by storm. What was it like winning this coveted television show?
JF: By far it was my greatest achievement. I never thought I would win it. I never thought I could win!
What was your most memorable moment on Top Chef?
JF: When JG [Jean-Georges Vongerichten] came to be my sous chef for the finale. Very few people get to spend that much time with him. Even when I worked under him, he has over 40 restaurants and I was never with him for a long period of time. For the finale, I got to spend two days with him!
Who inspired you to first start cooking and why?
JF: I was inspired by my grandmother when I was a teenager and decided to pursue my passion for food. The first job I got was at Matthew’s—a four-diamond Mediterranean-style restaurant in Jacksonville—where I learned basic chef skills. After that, I had the chance to learn from some of the industry’s bests like Christophe Eme, Joachim Splichal, Dean Max, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
If you could pick one favorite kitchen that you've ever cooked in, which would it be?
JF: Stubborn Seed. It’s my baby. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted!
Always up for any challenge, it was mentioned you plan to open a second outpost in Miami. Tell me about it.
JF: I’m partnering with Grove Bay Hospitality Group again. We will be opening a seafood restaurant in the Grove where Charthouse used to be. I’m really excited because it’s approachable and not fussy. I want it to be a place where you can get off the boat and go to a gorgeous restaurant dressed in sandals and board shorts. The goal is to redefine the quality of what oceanfront dining can be.
Encompassing endless drive and determination, what are your plans for the future?
JF: Keep learning. This time next year, I want to see us using a lot of newer techniques. I want us to always be pushing the envelope. We’ve been playing it safe, so far.
Where - if you could travel to any place in the world - would you open a restaurant next?
JF: California. Spent a lot of time out there in my early years. I love the produce that’s available there. I love to build dishes around dishes around great product and some of the best is in Cali.
Last question! Where is your favorite restaurant to eat in Miami and why?
JF: That’s a tough question. There are so many great restaurants here and I’m friends with some really talented chefs. But ultimately, I’m a redneck at heart, so I love some good barbeque. KYU does the most amazing brisket BBQ and Michael Lewis is my homeboy.