Thomas Connell, vice president of operations, culinary, at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach
Why he’s Food 50: For overseeing a massive food-and-beverage operation with precision and care yet never seeking the spotlight.
Chef Thomas Connell is a chef’s chef: clean, organized, on time, moves fast, knows his stuff and has paid his dues. He joined the Fontainebleau in 2010 after a nearly two-decade run with the Ritz-Carlton hotel group and was promoted last year from executive chef to VP of operations, culinary. And while it’s the Fontainebleau’s signature fine-dining restaurants — Scarpetta, Michael Mina 74, Stripsteak, Hakkasan — and their marquee chefs who get the most attention, it’s Connell who quietly and efficiently manages the labyrinth of kitchens and 1,200-plus employees who feed the resort’s 12 on-site food-and-beverage outlets.
One of Connell’s lasting marks on the Fontainebleau has been overseeing Water World: 1,800 gallons of salt- and freshwater fish tanks tended to 24 hours a day in the resort’s underbelly. The tanks are refilled daily with fresh hauls from BleauFish, the resort’s 43-foot fishing boat docked at Dinner Key Marina. “We want them to feel as much at home as possible,” Connell said of the temperature- and light-controlled conditions of Water World. “The less stress a fish feels, the fresher it’s going to taste when we pull it from the tanks. And that’s the whole reason we did this: to give guests the freshest seafood experience possible.”
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Where to find him: Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-538-2000