In a three-week span, Mauro Colagreco debuted Florie’s in Florida and earned a three Michelin star ranking at his Menton restaurant, Mirazur.
The new year looks bright for Mauro Colagreco. This January, the Argentine-born, French-based chef debuted his first U.S. restaurant, Florie’s, in Palm Beach, Florida, and earned a three Michelin star ranking at his Menton restaurant, Mirazur, which is located minutes from the Italian border on the French Riviera. The seaside spot, which is also listed as no. 3 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, is known for daring, Mediterranean-influenced preparations of seasonal produce and seafood, comparable to what Colagreco is now serving 5,000 miles away inside the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach.
“There is a similar spirit here, so it felt like a natural place to open,” he says. “I took many trips to Palm Beach over the past few years to get to know the area since it’s crucial for me to be emotionally connected to all of my restaurants. Here, it feels like home.”
Despite Colagreco’s success – which includes an empire of more than ten restaurants in Argentina, France, and China – he often reflects back to his early days as an economics student at La Plata University. At the time, he had never stepped foot inside a kitchen, let alone imagine one day he’d become one of the most recognized chefs in the world.
“You could say it was like a sixth sense,” the 42-year-old says. “Although I found economic studies very interesting, it just didn’t feel quite right. It all came clear to me one summer, when a friend of mine needed some help in his restaurant. The only kitchen I ever spent time in was my mother’s. You could say it was a revelation – I had found my path and the rest was history.”
With Florie’s, Colagreco set out to create a restaurant that represents his multicultural background, while also showcasing his love for Mediterranean cuisine and dedication to gardening. That’s why a majority of the menu focuses on global fire-cooking techniques, specifically preparing items à la broche – a spit-roasting method – or with a stone hearth oven.
“I have learned many of these techniques from traveling,” he says. “At Florie’s, we use a stone hearth oven and a rotisserie, similar to what I use at Mirazur. We also use a yakitori grill, tandoor oven, and spit-roasting. Fire is the heartbeat of the restaurant.”
On the menu, a plate of Aubergine and Mozzarella is cooked inside the hearth oven, while the yakitori grill flavors the Wagyu Beef with grilled red peppers, and the King Prawns marinated in garlic with a spicy avocado sauce. The Truffled Chicken, Beef Rib for Two, and Roasted Lobster are prepared à la broche, and the Pork Ribs and Lamb Shoulder are roasted inside the tandoor. Pizzas and pastas are cooked inside the hearth oven as well, including the Black Truffle with porcini mushrooms, and the Oxtail Calzone with chili, egg, and coriander.
“Florida is known for its citrus and seafood, so you see lots of Meyer lemon, oranges, and grapefruit at Florie’s, as well as local fish like wild Florida pompano,” he says. “I consider myself a chef without borders, so there are many dishes that also represent memories of my travels.”
Then there’s Colagreco’s passion for nature, something he picked up as a child roaming his grandmother’s vegetable garden, which explains why almost every dish incorporates at least one herb, flower, or ingredient from an on-site chef’s garden.
“It’s simple and natural to start any meal preparation with a walk through a vegetable garden,” he says. “Picking perfectly ripe vegetables and fruits is something that never left me, and I am so happy to have the chance to offer the best and freshest produce day in and day out. With a name like Florie's, herbs and flowers will continue to be incorporated into our plates as we go on.”
The bar at Florie’s features garden-driven cocktails with a focus on Florida produce, ranging from the vodka-based Field of Flowers with lemon, mint, lavender, and prosecco, to the Worth the Wait, blended with orange, cinnamon, and Bacardi.
But ask Colagreco what his absolute favorite item is, and his answer won’t be what you expect. He quickly says the “Sharing Bread,” served to each table as a welcome dish. He’s also a fan of the club sandwich, which swaps bacon and turkey for a mix of smoked salmon, avocado, horseradish, sweet potato, and lemon confit.
“The sharing bread is served at Mirazur, too,” he says. “It’s very personal to me since it’s my grandmother's recipe of fresh-baked bread with lemon-ginger olive oil. Otherwise, the lobster cooked à la broche is special since you normally don't see it cooked this way. I prefer to let the ingredients shine on the plate without overwhelming them with too much preparation.”
Florie’s. 2800 S Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach. 561-533-3750.