Geoffrey Zakarian Talks Point Royal, ‘Chopped’ And What It Takes To Become A Master Chef
It’s officially stone crab season in Florida, and for Fort Lauderdale locals that should mean one thing: making a reservation at Point Royal, Geoffrey Zakarian’s seafood restaurant at the Diplomat Beach Resort.
A waterfront dining destination, Point Royal is an indoor-outdoor restaurant featuring a raw bar, cocktails with local flavor and Zakarian’s signature hospitality.
Zakarian currently hosts Food Network's “Cooks vs. Cons," is a lead judge on “Chopped” and battles on “Iron Chef America” and “The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs.”
We sat down with Zakarian over stone crabs and rosé at Point Royal to discuss his career, what he likes to cook at home and more.
What was your inspiration behind Point Royal?
We were lucky enough to be asked to recreate something special here when they opened it. They told me, 'What we want to do is a bunch of restaurants here. What would you do here?' And I said, 'Coastal, seafood, Florida.' Like a stone crab joint.
Why did you choose South Florida for the location?
This is a great market: Fort Lauderdale, Miami. People don’t understand that Fort Lauderdale is like Miami. It’s the same market; 20 minutes away. We have this incredible source of customness. It’s not just Miami, not just Fort Lauderdale, but both. Fort Lauderdale is a bit underserved, restaurant-wise. I think for us, we were like, 'Let’s do something really great, really fun.' And it’s South Florida. It’s coastal, but it’s also a fun restaurant.
So you wanted Point Royal to be more social?
Absolutely. I’m all about fun. If the restaurant isn’t fun, I don’t want to be there. That’s how I feel. I don’t want to have a four-hour meal with 27 courses. To me that’s not food, that’s a high art and it’s OK once in a while, but it’s maybe once a year. I mean, there’s no fun in that.
What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?
We cook everything. Everything we do at home is family-style cooking and we cook breakfast every morning. We have a huge breakfast. We love breakfast because it’s an important meal. I usually cook a 6 a.m. breakfast every day.
What’s your favorite item on Point Royal’s menu?
I’m eating them. (Points at stone crabs).
What’s your go-to drink?
Lately, I have been drinking a lot of Vesper. Vesper is the original drink of “Casino Royale.” It’s vodka, gin, Lillet, with a twist.
Who has most influenced you and your cooking?
I’m a lucky guy. I have been influenced by a lot of people. I’ve gotten to work next to the greatest chefs in the world. When I was working at restaurants—well I’m still working—but when I was working at restaurants as a chef, any time off work I had, I’d go to work with someone else and learn a new style of cooking. I’d go to France and work at a lot of really great restaurants for free. Best thing I ever did because I sucked the brain of the person who’s genius.
In six weeks, seven weeks, eight weeks, whatever it is, you get their genius. Because they want to give you their genius. I can’t put a dollar figure on what that costs; how wonderful that was. I was there for nothing, but I actually got so much from that person that it made me, and that’s what we need to remind people because it’s all about learning from the masters. This craft is learning through the masters. The guy cracking claws right behind you (a chef working behind the raw bar), he had his master, I had my master. We’ve passed on the masters of the basic foundation of what you do in this business. It is very simple, but it requires work. Like a mason, a craftsmen, a woodworker. We are craftsmen.
Are there any young chefs you’ve worked with that you think are going to be the next big thing?
Yes, yes and yes.
Can you name one of them?
No, because there are so many. And you know, you plateau, then you get better. You plateau, you get better. So they’re all plateauing and getting better. At some point in time, some just stay the same. You don’t know when they’re going to stay the same or plateau. But there are so many great chefs. All the great chefs I know work under really great, really talented chefs as mentors. They’ve been mentored. If you’re not mentored, you’re nobody, in my opinion.
What’s your most memorable experience on “Chopped?”
Eating whale sperm. I’m not kidding. It was awful.
What’s something every single person who cooks should know?
It takes time. Nothing happens without work. And it is work. The great thing about cooking is you’re in the kitchen with your husband or your wife, or your girlfriend or your boyfriend, or your lover or your children, and you’re working together to make something to eat. It’s the sexiest thing ever. Like everybody’s putting food that I made tonight in their mouths. That’s kind of cool. It’s also because they have to live, but there’s a relationship with cooking. So you do it together. This food doesn't just happen. There’s work. But the work is not work; it’s beautiful. It’s time spent with your family or your lover.
Point Royal, 3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood; 954.602.8750; pointroyal-fl.com
Photos courtesy of Point Royal
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