This week’s Chef in the Spotlight is rising star Andrew Balick, Chef de Cuisine at DiLido Beach Club, at The Ritz-Carlton South Beach. The young and very talented Balick earned his stripes at Miami’s Azul restaurant (Mandarin Oriental) under then chef, Clay Conley. Working his way up through the ranks Balick earned a position as Chef de Partie, then Sous Chef, where he oversaw a staff of 15, created daily specials and sophisticated tasting menus. For six years, Andrew honed his culinary skills with Conley.
Having made his mark at Azul the owner of the Cadet hotel courted Balick to head Pied a Terre the hotel’s signature restaurant; it was here that Balick designed daring, and exploratory Mediterranean influenced menus. It was with these menus that people started talking about Balick’s cowboy-culinary talent.
Just about a year ago, in August of 2011, The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach lured Andrew to be the next celebrated chef at its oceanfront DiLido Beach Club, and put his own signature stamp on its Mediterranean cuisine with an inventive menu. This week we find out a bit more about the man with the impressive Miami culinary resume; the man behind the famed oceanfront kitchen DiLido Beach Club, Chef de Cuisine, Andrew Balick.
South Florida Food and Wine: Where do you get your culinary inspiration?
Andrew Balick: My inspiration is drawn from many places. Local products, seasonal ingredients, but most importantly from transporting myself into the dining room as a guest and imagining what I would want to encounter as a diner in the establishment. When writing a menu sometimes I can come up with ideas faster than I can write them down, other times I’ve got nothing. But I am continuously thinking about food and how I can improve upon a concept or particular dish.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your favorite item on the menu at DiLido Beach Club?
Andrew Balick: My favorite dish is the Calamari a la Plancha. Simple ingredients coming together with different textures and flavors that make every bite interesting and delicious.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is a typical day for you as Chef de Cuisine at DiLido Beach Club?
Andrew Balick: As a chef I do not think there is a “typical day” scenario. However, I always start by greeting the kitchen staff, and front of the house. I think it is important to set a good tone for the day. I always check inventory so I can get my orders placed for the following day. I am lucky to have a great kitchen staff that takes a lot pride in what they do, It makes my job easier. I usually expo the line keeping my eyes on all plates that leave the kitchen to make sure they are perfect. Wearing The Ritz-Carlton logo on your jacket comes with a lot of responsibility. We are always trying to go above and beyond. Simply meeting my guest’s expectations is not enough. I want to exceed them, time and time again. That is my everydaymission as a chef.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one go-to ingredient and why?
Andrew Balick: Fresh squeezed lemon juice. It brings out the best in every dish, especially a seafood-centric menu.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the most challenging thing about your position as Chef de Cuisine [at DiLido Beach Club]?
Andrew Balick: The weather. It’s the one aspect of our business we cannot control. Being a beachfront restaurant in Miami Beach, it can completely affect attendance and revenue. Sunny skies means another opportunity to wow guests!
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your last day on earth, what would your final meal be?
Andrew Balick: A simple Barbeque with my entire family.
South Florida Food and Wine: Who is the one person you would love to cook with and why?
Andrew Balick: Nobu Matsuhisa, His flavors are on point. I admire the simplicity and sophistication of his food. Most of all I would like to pick his brain about how he is able to run so many businesses while maintaining consistency and quality.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one most proud professional moment at DiLido Beach Club?
Andrew Balick: It’s the day that I launched my menu. A lot of effort and careful consideration went into planning the menu and choosing a new direction for the cuisine served.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one guilty pleasure food?
Andrew Balick: Chicken Wings and Blue Cheese
South Florida Food and Wine: What was the last restaurant you ate at? other than your own and what did you order?
Andrew Balick: Makoto, there wasn’t much we didn’t order, but the eggplant and shrimp from the robata grill were most memorable for me.
South Florida Food and Wine: Who would you most like to cook for? And why?
Andrew Balick: One day when I have my own restaurant I want to hold dinners for children and expose them to the powers of what food and hospitality can be. I know most of them won’t get it, but if I can inspire just a few then that is all that matters.
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your day off, what do you do for fun?
Andrew Balick: During football season Sundays are fully accounted for. Otherwise I’m at the gym, beach, fishing, trying new restaurants, or catching up on some much needed sleep.
Love the South Florida food scene? Check out our newly published book (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95), Food Lovers’ Guide to Miami & Fort Lauderdale