You'll be able to pull up to Ford's forthcoming hotspot by boat.

Top Chef Winner Jeremy Ford
Credit: © Javier Ramirez

Stubborn Seed was never intended to be chef Jeremy Ford’s first solo restaurant. It was actually supposed to be his second. Originally, the Top Chef winner planned for a massive 200-seat rustic seafood concept in Coconut Grove to mark his foray into restaurant ownership. “Thank god that didn’t happen,” he says, laughing.

“Looking back, Stubborn Seed was the perfect restaurant to start with,” Ford continues. “I’ve evolved in the last couple of years. When you leave a multimillion-dollar hotel company, it’s basically the Wild Wild West on your own. I had a perception of what my duties were as a chef five years ago, and now all of that has completely changed. I’m more well-rounded to run a business than just play with food. I think every chef needs to go through this transition.”

Ford, who opened Stubborn Seed in late 2017 to critical acclaim, feels ready to dive back into what would have been his first restaurant, Afishonado, a 7,000-square-foot spot on the Miami waterfront. Through a partnership with Miami-based Grove Bay Hospitality, the group who helped Ford open Stubborn Seed, Afishonado will drop anchor before year’s end or early 2020.

“As excited as I am, I feel like I’m getting ready for war,” he says. “Stubborn was a challenge, but it is a lot smaller. I know how busy a restaurant like Afishonado can be. It’s really huge. But after everything I’ve learned in the last couple of years, I’m ready for it.”

Located inside Regatta Harbour, a $33 million dollar, 9.5-acre complex along Coconut Grove’s historic Dinner Key, the space will include a cozy dining room, an indoor-outdoor bar, and an open kitchen with a chef’s table, where Ford will serve intimate groups of five as they watch his team at work.

“The chef’s table will literally be inside the kitchen,” he says. “I’ve seen it done once before and I’ve always wanted to recreate it. It’ll be a really immersive experience where small groups will sit catty-corner at a small table and be in the thick of what we do. That’s probably one of the coolest parts of this place.”

Though the menu is still in development, Ford says there will be a medley of seafood options alongside wood-fired pizzas and hand-made pastas. He’ll refresh dishes every season, and some fish will be brought in by boat. As for dessert, Ford’s executive pastry chef at Stubborn Seed, Dallas Wynne, will lead the team.

Credit: Courtesy of Grove Bay Hospitality

“Afishonado allows me to cook a different style of food,” he says. “It’s food I’m passionate about eating, and the restaurant will take on a more simplistic approach to dining compared to Stubborn. You’re going to see a lot of whole-roasted fish and killer sauces. It’s also a chance to have a restaurant with a great view and great food. All too often you go to a place just for the location, but we’re focused on both here.”

Once open, Ford envisions the restaurant as a place where families will spend an entire day. With numerous docks on the property, he even plans for customers to pull up to the restaurant via boat.

“This will be the kind of place where people may be out on the water sailing and then they’ll come by for lunch or dinner,” he says. “I want people to sit here and enjoy the day, not be in and out in an hour.”

Inside the complex, nearby to Afishonado, historic airplane hangars, used in the early 1900s as the first continental naval air station, will be preserved and renovated to create 40,000-square-feet of space, which may become the home of yet another food hall or market. There will be other restaurants on-site as well, including a meat-focused concept next-door to Ford’s.

In the meantime, Ford is preparing to open Krun-Chi inside Time Out Market Miami, where he’ll serve fast-casual Korean comfort food. “Think of it as a Southern boy cooking up Korean food,” he says. His concept and more than a dozen others are expected to open sometime in early spring.

“I don’t want to grow too fast,” he says. “I’m only 33. I’m learning a whole new world right now with opening a fast-casual spot. It’s another thing I’ve never done. There’s a lot of learning, changing, and evolving happening between these three restaurants. That’s enough for me. I still want to have a life at the end of the day.”