The SOBE Food Fest love is still rolling in. Before I left Miami, I sat down with Executive Chef Mark Zeitouni in The Lido, the sun filled restaurant of the renovated and Balazsed hotel, The Standard Miami. I had the pleasure of staying there last Spring and I can’t wait to return. I dream about luxuriating in their big white beds and warming up on the Turkish Hammam in the spa. Can you tell, I have a small crush on The Standard. Don’t laugh, you can have a crush on a hotel.
Whilst I was there last time their resident Chef, Matt Boudrow, borrowed from another Balazs property, Sunset Beach , took care of my dining needs. As his mother has a shellfish allergy, I didn’t have to do too much explaining of the seriousness of food allergies. Hallelujah. He made me breakfast and dinner for three days and not one problem.
Mark Zeitouni took over as Executive Chef last summer and has made the spot his own. Recognizing at a young age that Western cuisine was entirely too heavy and leaves a diner feeling sluggish, he turned to lighter fare: Asian and currently, Mediterranean. His food is healthy, with an emphasis on high quality and organic meats, unprocessed foods, and organic wines.
And did I mention, he’s a true Mensch. I swear, that makes any dish taste better.
We talked about how a diner with food sensitivities can get what they need.
-Chef suggests that a diner should firstly understand the delineation between going to a restaurant that is a vehicle for a star chef versus a restaurant that caters to the diner. A star chef will serve you what he/she wants. It will probably be outstanding, but as a diner with specific needs it will not necessarily be what you need. Pick a place that caters to the diner, not the other way around.
-Plan ahead. Ask the reservationist to ask the Chef if they wouldn’t mind catering to your request. Remind the waitstaff when you arrive of that request. Smooth the staff, as they will be nourishing your body during the next hour or two.
-Once you are at a restaurant that caters to its clients, Chef recommends using the card . Yes, the allergy card . As the waiter is your main line of communication to the kitchen, as well as the reverse, your allergies/sensitivities can get lost in translation. The card with your requests clearly stated will cut out the middleman and potential for mistakes that can lead to disaster.
-Speaking of your waiter, Chef recommends enlisting them. Charm them, be sweet to them, get them on your side so they understand fully the seriousness of the request and the consequences if the request is forgotten, lost, misunderstood, or otherwise overlooked. Sound familiar? If that fails or if you feel your needs are not being heard or if your needs are not understood then leave. Yup, go elsewhere.
-In all things special needs-y, Chef and I agree: honey works better than vinegar. A softer approach works better than hysterical demands. And if after approaching with gentleness your needs aren’t heard, leave.
The upshot: come prepared, charm the staff, if you can’t get what you need, go to another restaurant where you can.
Thanks for the great tips Chef Mark Zeitouni ! See you in the Hammam.