Geoffrey Zakarian’s New Right-Hand-Man Began Working In Restaurants With One Goal: A New Pair Of Sneakers
If you’ve seen Geoffrey Zakarian on TV, then you probably think of him as a tough-guy celebrity chef.
According to one of his right-hand-men, that perception is spot on.
That’s what we learned from a recent Q&A with Jorge Negron, the new executive chef of Zakarian’s restaurant in Hollywood. Negron, a 28-year-old who was born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico, will head the kitchen of Point Royal at The Diplomat Beach Resort.
Negron spoke about his famous boss and the pair of sneakers that inspired him to take his first restaurant job.
Could you talk about your first food memories?
The first great food I remember is the pinchos that my dad and grandfather used to make. Till this day, I haven’t tasted one better than theirs.
Was there a specific relative who really got you into food?
When I was a kid I remember my dad, also a chef, talking about his accomplishments and the joy he felt cooking. When I turned 12 years old, I asked him to get me a summer job with him. I wasn’t looking to get in the hospitality business—I just wanted some sneakers.
He spoke to the owner and got me a job as a steward. Within a week, one of the cooks left and I was asked to help on the hot line. On my first official shift in the kitchen, I knew the thrill that my dad talked about so much, and who I wanted to be in the future.
What was your first restaurant job like, and what did you learn from it?
My first restaurant job was one of the hardest, if not the hardest. The cooks had to wash the dishes, mop floors and bartend, if needed. It was a fast-paced restaurant, which helped me with a strong start in my career. I loved the fast pace, and one thing that that kept me in the industry was the camaraderie.
South Florida doesn’t have a lot of Puerto Rican restaurants, and that’s a shame. Think the dishes from back home might end up on your menu?
It is not really the concept of Point Royal. However, that flair will always be present somehow.
Geoffrey Zakarian seems tough on TV. What’s it like working for him?
He is tough, and that’s why I like working with him. He pushes us to meet a very high level of culinary and service excellence. You can only get better if you are challenged, and G.Z. and his team push us every day to be better.
Do you have a secret South Florida restaurant tip? Some hole-in-the-wall everyone should try?
Pasito Azteca at the Mexican Flea Market in the Redland Market Village.
What’s the one thing on your menu that everyone needs to try?
The smoked Berkshire pork chop. This one was actually inspired by pork with sour orange mojo from Puerto Rico.
Point Royal, 3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood; 954.602.8750; pointroyal-fl.com
Photo courtesy of Point Royal
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