Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Miami Chef Series: Juliana Gonzales- Barceloneta

Chef Juliana

 Young, Beautiful, Talented, Successful are some of the adjectives that describe what Miami puts on a pedestal. For my very first Chef Interview Series I chose someone who personifies all of these qualities. Meet Juliana, some might have seen her around the hugely popular Pubbelly on South Beach, her husband Sergio is one of the partners of the restaurant. With all of the success of Pubbelly, the group of friends have decided to expand with two new restaurants. A Sushi joint that is set to open in October and Chef Juliana's baby, Barceloneta a Spanish inspired restaurant catered to Catalonyan fare with a tapas twist. The Puerto Rican native sat down with me in her beautiful new restaurant to tell me all about her new restaurant and her impressive resume.
When I first walked in to Pubbelly to meet Juliana she immediatly radiated a beautiful pearly white smile, welcomed me with open arms and dragged me over to Barceloneta. As we walked in I felt as if I had won the culinary jackpot. How many times do you get to see a restaurant and the chef before it opens? I felt so lucky as she was showing me the cute little pots and pans they will be using for service and all of the behind the scenes looks that not too many people get to see. We then sit down to discuss what is really going on in her hectic life.

Entrance right around the corner from Pubbelly

May I just say as we sit down to talk it is almost as if we have known each other for years. These interviews take no more than 15 minutes but we spent about an hour just going back and forth about Spain, Spanish lifestyle and culture and just all the fun things in life. My first question is what brought her to Pubbelly, she told me that she had done her Johnson and Wales internship overseas in Spain working for a Michelin Star Restaurant La Broche, when they brought the restaurant to Miami they wanted to take her with them, which she did. There she met her friend Jose who would come in to eat, the friendship eventuallybrought him in to become the head chef of Pubbelly. The strong ties to Hispanic upbringing and Spanish training bonded them which was never forgotten. When asked what her favorite stlye of cooking for her it should have been to obvious, she responded with Spanish. She then explained that one of her mentors Chef Jordi formerly of Mosaico played a crucial part for her love of Catalonian cuisine. The Barcelonian native gave her the tools she needed to explore her love of this amazing culture whom she credits to this day for her success. When I came in to eat at Pubbelly a couple days ago, Chef Jordi was there and you could tell that he was very important to her, something I understand very much, my mentor means the world to me and there isnt a time that I dont want to appreciate and show gratitude for all that he has taught me. When I asked what the menu was going to look like she gave it to me short and simple. Fresh, clean flavors; nothing over complicated, food the way its supposed to be. Of course you wouldnt think the Pubbelly crew would ever make it that simple, Juliana will bring in a French flair to the dishes. There will be terrines, pates and influences of French all througout her menu, fitting due to France being so close to Spain to begin with. The blackboard will feature the "Mercat" menu with a daily selection of raw bar ingredients as well as beautiful seafood and meats cooked a la plancha. There will also be a bistro style menu of some of the more steadfast menu items that will sure to please all with a full bar boasting Spanish infuences. When asked her experience about being a girl in the industry she smiled and laughed. She loves being a girl in the kitchen, just like myself she enjoys being on the line with all guys and having a good time with them. "Most people never thought I was a Chef, they immediatly dismissed me as a FOH manager or something else but I am a Chef! I can cook and I can hang with the boys" She told me she never had a problem with the boys teasing her or anything if you can just stick it out and show them that you can hang and be tough then they respect you and that is what she got. When asked her favorite food memory she told me that walking into the kitchen in Spain for the first time she knew it was going to be something special. The dedication and talent in that kitchen left her wanting more. The passion of the cooks and all of the products gave her the drive and motivation to be in that world and to make it the best experience possible. Chef Juliana then went on to tell me Barceloneta will be opening as soon as the permits come in, from what she thinks its looking like mid to late September 2011 for Dinner and will eventually offer Brunch. After talking to this woman I know she has what it takes to make this restaurant amazing. I dont get to meet too many people who have as much drive, determination and passion as she does and if that is any indication of this restaurants success than it will prove to be a powerhouse in Miami for years to come.

Bar area at Barceloneta

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