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Behind the Line: Fish on the Wish list
Ferraro brings global inspiration to South Beach fine dining
March 05, 2011
Dine at Wish, the 160-seat fine-dining restaurant at the Hotel of South Beach, and you’ll notice a culinary theme of American food with a global influence. Perhaps you’d notice it in the cod, served Asian style with a garlic and ginger crust, vermicelli noodles, Chinese cabbage and a soy broth, or in the seared diver scallops with sautéed Brussels sprouts and crispy pancetta.
“I would say my dishes are definitely influenced by Provence-style food,” says Marco Ferraro, 31, executive chef. “Ingredients are fresh, vibrant and simply prepared, with clean flavors to highlight the product on the plate.”
Ferraro has a resume that’s the envy of many a young chef. Born in Calabria, Italy, he moved to New York as a child and by the time he was a teenager was working in his father’s Manhattan pizzeria. Later, he worked the hot line in Italian restaurants in Brooklyn. “I really enjoyed it and realized it was something I wanted to pursue,” he says.
Later, Ferraro studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York and after graduating left for France. There, he worked in Mougins, near Cannes, at Le Muscadin Restaurant, and as sous-chef at Le Mantel, a new restaurant in Cannes.
“In France, I learned how to work in a small kitchen doing high volume, and stay really organized and clean,” he says.
But by 2002, home was calling, and with it came a name he could not refuse: Jean-Georges Vongerichten. That year Ferraro returned to the United States to work for the renowned chef at the Trump International Hotel in New York. He was sous chef by the time he left in 2005, and assisting in menu development at Vongerichten’s other new restaurants at that time: Spice Market, 66 and the Steak House in Las Vegas.
“It was an amazing opportunity,” he says.
In January 2009, Ferraro was recruited as executive chef to work at Wish in Miami Beach. The first thing he did upon arrival was redevelop the menu, increasing the seafood content by 60 percent. “Because of the warm weather, we tend to sell more seafood than meat,” he says. “When I first arrived at Wish the menu had an Asian-driven influence. I wanted it to have a more global influence, to represent my cuisine and my dishes.”
Today the dishes at Wish bear touches from France, the Mediterranean and Japan, with up to eight species of seafood featured on the menu at any one time. One of those dishes is local steamed snapper, which has a French Mediterranean influence. It arrives on a bed of sautéed yellow squash, alongside artichokes cooked French-style in a broth of white wine. “I like to keep the various flavors separate, so you get different bites of various ingredients. Keeping flavors clean is a technique I picked up in France,” he says.
Another way he creates clean flavors on the plate is by using acid and pickling in his dishes. The diver scallops, a top seller on the menu, incorporates this technique. “We serve it with sautéed Brussels sprouts, crispy pancetta and calabaza purée,” Ferraro says. “The creaminess of the calabaza complements the scallops. We top the dish with pickled strips of calabaza and maple syrup foam, and the dish just works. As you’re eating you get spurts of different flavors. The dish was a home run from the time we first put it on the menu.”
Ferraro’s goal is that Wish will become one of the select historic fine-dining restaurants that visitors frequent when in Miami. To help make that happen, this year the restaurant began offering creative prix fixe menus, with lower price point items available. A three-course prix fixe menu at $45 per person has been popular.
“Not everyone is familiar with tasting menus,” he says. “Being in a high tourist area like South Beach, having the prix fixe menu helps us sell our tasting menus, too.”
Contributing Editor Lauren Kramer lives in British Columbia