Jeremy Ford of The Matador Room, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Latin restaurant at the Edition Hotel in Miami Beach, blew away the competition on Top Chef Thursday night. Ford, the first local to bring home the crown on 13 seasons of the Bravo competition, believes it was his cheese/dessert course that tipped the scales in his favor.
“I have this really cool technique that I learned from Jean George’s son Cedric,” he explained. “You create this kind of cylinder of burrata. Padma [Lakshmi, one of the judges] was raving about it.”
South Floridians will still be able to enjoy Ford’s cuisine — he’s not going anywhere.
“I”m really stoked to come back and cook for everyone,” said the Fort Lauderdale resident, who plans on using the $125,000 in prize money to send his 9-year-old daughter Madelynn to private school next year. “I’m looking forward to the future.”
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You blew away the judges all season. Are you getting a lot of love from viewers at home?
It’s really important for me to represent Miami as best I can. Their support is amazing. I mean, beyond social media. Now when I go out in public, so many people are rooting for me, and it’s a super humbling experience, to say the least. It’s awesome. A year ago, I had to beg to get into events. Now they’re inviting me!
What was the biggest lesson you learned?
I would say: Believe in yourself and your techniques. And know what you’re going to be doing is good. A lot of time in this profession you doubt yourself. Stop and absorb everything around you. I’m still working on that day to day.
The hardest challenge?
For me, Restaurant Wars — creating a restaurant — was incredibly daunting and scary and so taxing on your body. We were exhausted that day. By the time we got through lunch I got my second wind, but then that weight started setting down during dinner service. The cracks start to show. Oh my God, the pressure. I feel like I went from a boy to a man.
When did you know you wanted to be in the food business?
I started out when I was 15. I’ve never had formal training and never went to culinary school, just the school of hard knocks. I had passion and a work ethic. I love being in the operation and learning from professionals. It was a good route for me. After some time in Los Angeles, I was under the tutelage of Dean Max at 3030 Ocean. When he left, I migrated south. I got a call from a friend who helped me interview with Jean-Georges. We had a great relationship from day one.
What was the best thing you ate on the show?
One of my idols, Hubert Keller of [renowned San Francisco restaurant] Fleur de Lys cooked dinner for us: A really old-school French stew, with a beautiful frisée lardons salad. You just felt like you were in France, enjoying a meal with your family back in the 1960s. One of the best moments in the conversation was when I asked him how to be new and innovative in an industry that moves so fast. He told me that he waits until everyone goes home and the restaurant is quiet. He sits down with a glass of wine and draws his idea around a protein, kind of like an artist. A very special experience.