It wasn’t that Adrienne Grenier’s mom was a bad cook. But raising two kids on her own while working crazy hours as a flight attendant meant that making a square meal every night was a struggle. Which is why, Grenier says, there was never salt in anything. Ever.
“My mom, she cooked to survive,” Grenier, 34, said from her kitchen at 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale.
The idea that food could taste good, that it could be an outlet for creativity, that came from an aunt. Every Thanksgiving, she would show up at Grenier’s home in Hollywood Lakes to roast a turkey and make deeply seasoned sides that Grenier would devour.
A Biology Major Turns to Food
In her last semester at Florida State University, Grenier switched majors from biology to food and nutrition science. A newfound interest in cooking led her to enroll at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale’s culinary program. To make money on the side, she got a job as a cook at 3030 Ocean, prepping ingredients for pioneering farm-to-table chef Dean James Max.
That was in 2006. Twelve years later, Grenier now runs the kitchen as executive chef of 3030 Ocean. She took a detour from the restaurant for several years, working on the culinary team at the Eden Roc and competing in an episode of the Food Network’s Chopped.
“It was awful. I hated it,” she said of the TV appearance. “At least I won. That was great.”
She’s a Teacher, Not a Yeller
Grenier’s quiet, calculated demeanor in the kitchen is all about careful planning and perfect execution. When one of her cooks messes up? “I try to show patience and show them how it’s done, the right way,” she said. “Nobody wants to go to work and get yelled at. I just don’t have the energy to be this beast. It’s not me.”
And the right way to compose a steak dinner? Grenier starts with a flavorful skirt steak to bring out the nostalgic flavors of backyard grilling. Then she looks for seasonal and local vegetables to complement the meat — in this case, heirloom beans and peppers from Swank Specialty Produce in Loxahatchee.
“[Being on TV] was awful. At least I won. That was great.”
The most important part of the steak recipe, she said, is something she picked up along the way, from her mom’s weeknight meals to her aunt’s Thanksgiving feasts to her culinary school education: season with salt to taste. It’s a fundamental step that’s even more important when cooking light and simple meals like this one.
Said Grenier: “This is kind of a celebration of summer harvest.”
3030 Ocean at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort and Spa, 3030 Holiday Drive, Fort Lauderdale; 954-766-6100; 3030ocean.com.
Recipe: Grilled Skirt Steak with Charred Corn and Pepper Chutney
Makes 4 servings.
1 small yellow onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups roasted red peppers
2 dried Thai chilies or 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
4 ears corn, peeled
1/2 cup snap beans
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
4 sweet baby peppers
1 lime, juiced
2 pounds skirt steak
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 cups baby arugula
Olive oil, vegetable oil, salt and pepper to taste
1. For the chutney, heat a pot over medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Sauté the yellow onion and garlic until soft and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the red peppers and continue cooking until almost dry. Stir in the chilies, coriander and cumin. Add the vinegar and sugar, and simmer on low for 5 to 10 minutes. Purée in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and cool to room temperature; set aside.
2. Toss the corn, beans, tomatoes and peppers in extra-virgin olive oil, season with salt and place on a medium-high grill. Char the corn on all sides, but take care not to overcook the other vegetables. Set aside.
3. Coat the steak with vegetable oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Set aside.
4. Cut the corn off the cob, chop the beans into 1-inch pieces and thinly slice the peppers. Toss the veggies with the sliced red onion, chopped parsley and arugula. Lightly dress the salad with olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Slice the skirt steak against the grain and serve over top of the salad, with the chutney on the side.