After a build-out that took almost a year, former 50 Ocean executive chef Blake Malatesta opened MIA Kitchen & Bar with partner Joey LoGrasso. PBI caught up with Malatesta to discuss the challenges and rewards of his newest project. Delray Beach (561-499-2200)
PBI: How would you describe the concept behind MIA Kitchen & Bar?
Malatesta: I call it local food with a global flair, or Florida modern cuisine. I really want to show my guests what Florida has to offer. We’re known for citrus, of course, but we’re also one of the largest cattle producers in the United States. We have the longest growing season in the country, and you see that in the diversity of our agriculture.
PBI: Lots of people are doing farm-to-table. How are you different?
Malatesta: I spent part of my childhood on a farm, so I know what to look for. In the year before we opened, I built up a network of more than 30 purveyors from Key West all the way up to Cottondale on the Alabama border. Ninety percent of the ingredients we use come from those farms.
PBI: Which dishes exemplify that?
Malatesta: We have an appetizer called Barnacles and Driftwood, which combines crispy oysters and roasted bone marrow in a chili-mango relish. We also feature a dish called All About the Shrooms: mushrooms from Oyster Island and Kissimmee presented as a warm, composed salad with hearts of palm and charred onion petals in a ginger vinaigrette.
PBI: Did you go to cooking school?
Malatesta: I did an apprenticeship in Lyon, France, at the Institut Paul Bocuse, but most of my experience was hands-on. I bought a one-way ticket to Europe and traveled around for years with my wife, working in hotel and restaurant kitchens. It gave me broad exposure to draw on.
PBI: Why did you choose West Delray?
Malatesta: We saw a lot of potential here. We wanted to bring the downtown vibe to the suburbs, to create a destination restaurant in a growing area. People in West Delray have always had to drive somewhere else to find an interesting restaurant, and now they have one in their backyard.