This week’s Spotlight shines on one of my favorite people who also happens to be a very talented chef, Dean Max. Chef Max is driven and focused, meticulous, and organized, successful, kind, and culinarily gifted. Thatabout sums up my intro of Max, anyone who knows him knows all that to be true; some people just don’t need lengthy forewords. I present this week’s Chef in the the Spotlight, Dean Max.
South Florida Food and Wine: You’re a man wearing many aprons in many kitchens; your South Florida property, 3030 ocean, Amp 150 in Cleveland, Latitude41 in Columbus, Ohio, The Brasserie in Grand Cayman, the Cayman Islands and Asador in Dallas. What is a typical day for you as the owner of five restaurants?
Dean Max: I am always mentoring and in turn, learning myself. I am in the kitchen with the chefs, tasting, developing new dishes, I’m at the bar pushing towards the new trend of artisan drink making, and in the restaurant making sure we are servicing our guests. I spend time in the day helping all those managers understand the importance of grass roots marketing (i.e. social media planning specialty dinners, participating in local charity events, etc). Another big focus is looking at products, where we are getting things and sharing new purveyors with each place. All our menus in each restaurant are different, but they all have one thing in common, and that is they are all product driven. On any typical day I could be traveling from state to the next and dive into their daily activity and see how they are handling their business. It’s always different and always fun!
South Florida Food and Wine: Are there plans for more Dean Max restaurants?
Dean Max: Yes, I am always working out details for more restaurants. I love working with different concepts and developing my managers. To watch them grow and accomplish great things is very rewarding for me. I pride myself in maintaining a great core of managers that are high achievers. The only problem with expanding is having enough of them. I am always looking in each property to develop that assistant manager or lead cook and move them up when capable towards a bigger leadership position.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the most challenging thing about being a chef entrepreneur?
Dean Max: It’s hard to balance all that you want to achieve. Any entrepreneur will have drive and ambition as a character trait and being able to juggle all the balls in the air becomes your challenge. You must be a great multi-tasking person to handle this position. You also have to be able to let people make mistakes and enjoy helping them in the right direction. All my chefs are great cooks, and that has tobe, but developing them to be great leaders and people who inspire people is the key to them being successful.
South Florida Food and Wine: Who is the one person you would love to cook with and why?
Dean Max: Georges Blanc, a French 3 star chef who’s simple and flavorful food was always inspiring for me.
South Florida Food and Wine: Who is the one person you would love to cook for and why?
Dean Max: My dad, since he really passed away from cancer before I had a change to make it bigger in my career and I would like share with him some of my more developed dishes. He would have loved to see how things unfolded.
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your last day on earth, what would your final meal be?
Dean Max: Chilled oysters and champagne, followed by steamed crabs with great beer, summer corn on the cob, a tomato salad, and a table full of my family and best friends overlooking the ocean.
South Florida Food and Wine: Where was the last place you ate at, other than your own restaurant?
Dean Max: ElJefe… after picking my 4 year old up from school…and sharing some tacos and a steak salad.
South Florida Foodand Wine: This is not an easy business, what motivates you to be bigger, better, stronger?
Dean Max: I have always been a self motivator which is what pushes me to grow, and my strongest passion in life has always been food. In doing more, I learn more and I’m not done learning yet.
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your day off, what do you do for fun? Definitely something at the beach!
Dean Max: Volley ball with my oldest daughter, or fishing with my son, or just hanging out at our pool with the family. Surfing whenever I can find a wave here, and diving in the Caymans.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the one piece of advice you would offer chef entrepreneurs starting out today?
Dean Max: Get food knowledge first! Be a great chef inthe kitchen before you start to expand, develop others to understand your thinking process, and then help them to grow with you. If you can’t grow people, you can’t eat at this table. So work on your leadership skills as well.