Why are Top UK Restaurant Concepts Launching & flourishing in Miami?

It’s not called ‘The Magic City’ for nothing; the infrastructure continues to augment, moreover, investors and businesspeople are flocking to Miami in their droves, which means the economy and local restaurant scene is absolutely booming.  New accommodation being constructed on a massive scale, means more restaurants and the UK seemingly has it covered!

There are a whopping 32 new restaurant openings planned over the next 2.5 years – 14 are already open and there have been only three closures – A far cry from the scenario back in Blighty.

Recent additions have included the launch of Tom Keller’s Bouchon in Coral Gables and Gordon Ramsay’s seventh location of Hell’s Kitchen in downtown Miami.

Ramsay has also just launched Lucky Cat, located in South Beach’s quaint South of Fifth neighbourhood.

The original Lucky Cat by Gordon Ramsay opened in 2019, and is located in the heart of Mayfair London, but Ramsay said he thought it was the most fitting of his concepts for Miami’s South Beach, that was until he launched Hell’s Kitchen last September.

Are we noticing a trend here? I think we most certainly are!

In a recent podcast for The Miami Guide, Kurt Zdesar, Founder of Chotto Matte said that Miami was the obvious choice for his first international venue.  Originally launched in 2018, the restaurant was hampered by the pandemic, as was the case with the entire industry on a global level, however, Chotto Matte Miami has recently been relaunched and held a grand reopening last October.

The Chefs’ Forum’s Founder, Catherine Farinha recently visited Miami and took the opportunity to visit both Chotto Matte and Sexy Fish and caught up with the chefs on the cultural nuances and comparison of diversification in launching an existing restaurant concept from the UK in Miami.

First up was a lovely meeting at Chotto Matte with Head Chef Jorge Echeverry

“We pride ourselves on using locally-sourced seasonal, organic ingredients and produce wherever possible” said Echeverry – “It is really important that our menu is clean, healthy and fresh – We have a strict ban on any MSG, or GMO being used in our kitchens across all six Chotto Matte sites in Canada, America, Middle East and the UK.

“We’ve had a great festive season so far and I’m delighted to say that we’ve been very busy indeed, which is fantastic to see – Last week was Art Basel (North America’s most comprehensive international contemporary art fair) and we were packed every night.  As you can see from the  Tokyo-Meets-Miami interior design and striking murals that adorn the walls, we have a genuine connection to art and this is communicated through every dish we plate.  We celebrated the prestigious art fair with live art throughout the week, featuring artists we work with on-going, also introducing new artists.”

“We have created a fantastic menu of innovative Nikkei cuisine – A fusion of Japanese and Peruvian flavours and it has proven as popular here in Miami as in London with our two sister sites in Soho and Marylebone.

“ We have a whole range of tempura, delicious meats cooked on the robata grill and mouth-watering , eye-catching sushi dishes, all designed by our brilliant Group Executive Chef, Jordan Sclare.  Kurt and Jordan travelled from Japan to Peru, meeting local chefs and learning traditional techniques, which makes for a really authentic and vibrant menu. It’s great to have The Chefs’ Forum here today to show them the venue and give them a taste of the Chotto Matte Miami menu.”

It would have been rude not to have stayed to try some of Jorge’s food, as it was now 6pm, so we plumped for the Nikkei Menu II, which had lots of our Chotto favourites in the line-up:

We had a wonderful dinner at Chotto Matte Miami and really enjoyed meeting the team and sampling the delicious tasting menu available at just $90.00 per person.

Sexy Fish another concept first launched in the UK opened in Miami in Feb 2022, two years after its scheduled 2020 opening due to the pandemic.

Just like its UK counterpart, it serves a Japanese-influenced menu created by Bjoern Weissgerber who also helped lead the kitchen at Zuma Miami, another British restaurant concept that has flourished in Miami.

Sexy Fish is the brainchild of Richard Caring, a British businessman and restauranteur, who owns many of London’s most celebrated restaurants, including 34 Mayfair, Scott’s and The Ivy.  He’s also behind the globally renowned private members’ club Annabel’s and is a major shareholder in the Soho House Group.

A sit down and chat with Executive Chef Hugo Moran, revealed that he had in fact assisted with the launch of Zuma in Miami back in 2010 (under the same Group Exec, Bjoern Weissergerber), so this wasn’t the first time he had worked with a globalisation-specialist culinary team in taking a UK concept to Miami or vice versa in assisting with the opening of Oblix Restaurant in London.

With lived experience of doing the same job for the group in both cities, Hugo was very well-placed to help with this feature on launching UK restaurant concepts in Miami.

Hugo said

“I am really grateful to Zuma, Sexy Fish and also my constant Group Executive Chef throughout, Bjoern Weissergerber for giving me the opportunity to work around the world.  I think it’s incredibly important for any young chef to experience working in different countries.  We have been working with the Miami Dade Culinary College to recruit for our kitchens and are all about supporting the next generation of chefs and hospitality professionals – We have a young, energetic and passionate team here and I’m delighted that everyone works extremely well together.”

Originally hailing from Miami, Hugo has a great knowledge of local suppliers and chef talent, but that wasn’t the same when he travelled across the pond to open Oblix with Bjoern.  He said that he found it quite a challenge when the situation was reversed, but found the experience extremely valuable indeed.

“In America, everything has to be bigger, we have our global brand standards, but our steaks have to be bigger here in Miami! There are distinct differences in the Miami customer, versus the London customer which are vast, but both share a clear appreciation for the Sexy Fish brand and the immersive experience offered in dining with us – In Miami, size matters… so big steaks it is! We use a lot of Australian beef and lamb – We just love the quality.  I’m really lucky in that I have a full brigade here in Miami and our retention rate is great.  There is a lot of competition locally, but when your team stays, you know you’re doing something right.”

We were treated to a fabulous selection of signature dishes from the seasonal ‘Sexy Fishmas’ menu.

What we sampled:

Our dessert was a beautiful platter of ‘Fishmas’ delights, available now across all four sites of Sexy Fish (showcasing the very best in chocolate and sugar art, featuring a Christmas Tree made from white chocolate and wasabi cream, with a raspberry compote centre, sprayed and decorated with stars and pears to resemble a Christmas tree, along with a reindeer made of gluten free chocolate sponge with coffee and milk chocolate whipped ganache with roasted macadamias and a salted caramel centre.

Another delicious element is the Christmas Bauble, made from a white chocolate shell, filled with strawberry and lime gel, macerated strawberries, topped with vanilla cheesecake and finished with milk crumbs, strawberry crisps, snowman pavlova, sugar snowflakes and crystallised ginger.

The bauble is covered with a semi-transparent sugar glass and finished with a golden chocolate sea creature on top – This is the ultimate in Christmas indulgence and lovely to share as a family or group as we did.

All dishes sampled, including the show-stopping Fishmas Dessert Platter are available across the four Sexy Fish sites, come January The Chefs’ Forum Team will have visited three so far – Miami, Manchester and London!

Our time in Miami was wonderful and it was lovely to see UK concepts thriving in this wonderful, magical city, where style and cool come as standard and nothing is ever too chic or flamboyant. To celebrate our trip, we will be featuring both Jorge and Hugo as Chef of the Week, so keep your eyes peeled and enjoy learning more about them both!

Any chefs interested in learning more about global career opportunities with either Chotto Matte or Sexy Fish should contact catherine@redcherry.uk.com

Photography by Carlos Farinha