Atrio restaurant: taste "French Spice" with a Miami twist
e-Toile: Jonathan McCann, you are the Executive Chef of Atrio Restaurant at Conrad Miami, what is your background and what or who has influenced your work during your career?
Jonathan McCann: I began my culinary career in London at the Connaught hotel. I was very lucky to work for a French chef, a gentleman named Michel Bourdin, he had been a Sous Chef at Maxime’s before he came to London.
It was a very traditional classical French kitchen, all the orders were called out in French, it was a great experience.
From there, I worked in different hotels in the Savoy group: Claridges, The Berkeley and I had a spell at the Dorchester. My first job as Executive Chef was at The Westbury Hotel on Bond Street in London.
I worked for the Lord Mayor of the city of London where we looked after the Queen , politicians and heads of state. Shortly after, for Hilton, I was the opening chef for Hilton London Tower Bridge on the banks of the Thames... and four years ago I arrived in the USA.
My career in the USA began in Washington DC, where I worked at the Hilton Hotel on Connecticut Avenue. It is a huge hotel with a ballroom for 3000 people. I was involved in the Presidential run up for Obama. We did the MTV Ball there ... I watched the new President dancing with his wife, Michelle.
It was a great experience, then I spent six months at Mclean in Virginia and then I moved to the Conrad hotel in Miami, I think Miami is a beautiful city, which I’m never going to leave! (coming from rainy England!)
e-Toile: Being tagged as a European chef... is it in asset to be introduced in the best American kitchens?
Jonathan McCann: When I arrived in the U.S. I had already been an Executive Chef in London, I was hired as the number two at the Hilton in Washington and it was a very humbling experience.
All my background had gone away, I was a new boy in a new country and I had to prove myself: all the ingredients were different, the way they ran the kitchen was different and I had a very, very steep learning curve. I learned a lot there regarding products and kitchen management.
After maybe two and a half years in Conrad Miami I feel like I finally found my own little niche here and my own style combining Europe with the USA and Latin America.
e-Toile: In 2009, you took over the Atrio Restaurant. At the time, the menu was showcasing a Latin twist. How did you find the way to remodel it?
Jonathan McCann: When I arrived in Miami, Atrio’s menu was very Latin inspired. My team is built from many different countries and backgrounds. I think that it’s a boiling pot of ideas; everybody throws cultures and ideas in. Miami is full of this great melting pot, different cultures being joined together.
We found our style with the menu, which does have some Latin influence, but also European and American flavors. The menu has been adapted as well in order to please the clients in our hotel, which is a very international clientele.
e-Toile: Atrio is participating in French spice. What are the dishes you have created for this menu?
Jonathan McCann: Yes, we are participating in French spice. We have a good connection with the French consulate that operates in the Espirito Santa Plaza as well.
I set up a menu offering three starters, three entrees and three desserts. What we have tried to do is to showcase French cuisine with a Miami twist to the dishes.
It starts with a Vichyssoise, which is a very traditional French soup made of leeks and potatoes. Here, I decided to put pork belly with it and to add it a new flavor brought by a smoky chipotle.
For the entrees, I’ve stayed true to French cooking with one dish: the coq au vin, a very rich French dish where the chicken is marinated and cooked in a Burgundy wine sauce. This dish is the perfect accompaniment for the creamy garlic Dauphinoise potatoes.
As dessert, I picked one of my favorite dishes; we have taken a very traditional Tarte- Tatin, which is a hot caramelized apple tart. We chose to twist it as a cold dish to suit Miami with frozen apples. It will be served as a parfait with caramel ice cream and a crispy puff pastry cookie.
e-Toile: Do you see Miami as a thriving area regarding culinary area?
Jonathan McCann: Looking at Miami in my two and a half years here I think it is a great place for Cooks to come.
I know my repertoire has increased 100%. I have been exposed to so many cultures here thanks to my cooks that are from all over the world.
By dining out here, I think one can find a little bit of everything in this city. Miami is unique since people arejoining their cultures, not so much in a fusion but more of a blend. With the work of the culinary colleges here and the way the hotels and restaurants are growing, I think Miami is becoming a real focal point for cuisine in the USA.
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