Famous for his fine French culinary skills and beloved for his nice-guy personality, Jeremy Ford has been heating up the Miami dining scene as executive chef of The Miami Beach Edition’s Matador Room and Market at Edition, both by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, Ford credits the “school of hard knocks” for his culinary education.
At just 16 years old, he got his start as garde manger at Matthews, a noted Mediterranean-style restaurant. A year later, he moved to Los Angeles to work under the helm of executive chef Christophe Emé at world-renowned L’Orangerie, where only French was spoken in the kitchen and Ford didn’t know the language. It was here the young protégé developed the keen attention to detail and precision in cooking that is evident in his signature dishes at Matador Room.
He later went on to continue perfecting his craft under the tutelage of such top toques as Joachim Splichal at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Patina. With such accolades, it’s hard to believe the chef is barely into his thirties. Fresh off his season 13 Top Chef win (Miami’s first!), Ford caught up with us to reveal what he’s cooking up next.
With Matador Room in its second year, how would you say the restaurant has evolved?
We have been able to learn more about what the customers want and have been able to adjust the menu to play more to their tastes and flavor. You’ll see this throughout the menu’s different categories — Table Snacks, Light & Bright, Golden & Crispy, Pizza, Masas & Tortillas and Grilled & Roasted.
Where do you find your culinary inspiration?
I’m inspired by the ocean and get much of my cooking inspiration from there. There are so many amazing flavor combinations when it comes to seafood. I also look to ingredients of the season. When new products come in that are in their peak, I like to showcase them through specials.
You’re definitely in demand these days. What’s next for you and Matador Room?
I’m taking the off-season time to develop new menu ideas and dishes for the fall. We’re focusing on recipe testing, taking ingredients of the season and working them into new combinations.
What can diners expect to see on Matador Room’s and Market’s menus?
At Matador Room, look for Florida snapper with apricot-lime emulsion, squash and sunflower; mezcal- and chipotle-cured salmon with cucumber, yogurt and herbs; and an herb-roasted beef tenderloin with stewed sweet and hot peppers and crispy potato.
At Market, you’ll see burrata and summer tomatoes with aged balsamic and basil; kale and pork sausage pizza; and fresh salmon with corn polenta and tomato salad.
On Top Chef, Jean-Georges was your sous chef in the final service. What was that like?
The experience on Top Chef has been incredible, really life changing. It was everything I thought it would be and more. Jean-Georges has helped me evolve my cooking style. He has taught me new techniques and introduced me to different flavor profiles to play with, like chilies and fermentations.
Having Jean-Georges as my sous chef was crazy — writing his initials alongside my prep list was definitely something that happens once in a lifetime.
Who would you most like to cook for and why?
I’d like to cook for [marine wildlife artist and conservationist] Guy Harvey because we both share a passion for the ocean.
When not manning the kitchen, what do you do for fun?
When not working, I like to read [and] plan my week for what is going to be new on the menu. I’ve been studying a lot of my cookbooks for menu inspirations as well as catching up on great food publications like Food & Wine magazine.
And I always have dinner with my daughter. Maddy and I usually cook together. She picks beans and has recently started using a knife to slice garlic. We tend to gravitate towards Italian, nice greens with tomatoes and herbs, pasta, etc.