John DeLucie Takes Miami
Figuratively speaking, John DeLucie has a lot on his plate. He’s been the executive chef at Graydon Carter’s famously exclusive first restaurant (the Waverly Inn); co-proprietor of his own hot resto (The Lion, which opened in the summer); memoirist (The Hunger) and, recently, TV star (he guested on Gossip Girl last month).
Amidst the swirl of activity that was this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach, DeLucie just added another line to his résumé: South Beach restaurateur. DeLucie’s newest restaurant, The Royal, is located in the Raleigh Hotel; the 70-year-old art-deco hotel is a perfect fit for the chef, who is renowned for his modern interpretations of classic American dishes. Upon opening last Wednesday, The Royal bustled with the energy we’ve come to expect from DeLucie’s properties—and kept the man himself so busy that the only time he could spare to chat with us was during a mid-morning workout the next day.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: How are things in Miami?
JOHN DELUCIE: Things are great—but if you hear me huffing and puffing, it’s because I’m on my treadmill.
SYMONDS: [LAUGHS] Wow, you’re a multitasker.
DELUCIE: Certainly not! [LAUGHS] You know, we opened up last night!
SYMONDS: Right, that was my next question—how did it go?
DELUCIE: Yesterday was our first official night, we hosted three or four parties for Art Basel, we had some very cool guests at dinner. We had our kitchen tested to the extreme on our first night, and I think that all in all, it was a positive night. You know what’s important to me? What’s important is that people came from Miami embrace this restaurant, because if they don’t, then it’s all for nothing. And last night, everyone was having a great time, people were talking about the décor and food, we had some really great service, so I’m very optimistic.
SYMONDS: Why did you decide to open in Miami Beach during Art Basel season? It seems like stuff is opening up down there just right and left right now.
DELUCIE: Well, I was with this friend, we talked about it for long time, and when we came together to figure out how to do it, there was Art Basel. [LAUGHS] So you either decide to try to make Art Basel, or wait ’til after. And everyone thought it wouldn’t work out, so we thought it was better to embrace Art Basel and open in time for it.
SYMONDS: So this is your first foray into having restaurants open in multiple cities at once, right?
DELUCIE: Yeah, absolutely!
SYMONDS: So how are you planning to split your time between Miami and New York? Are you going to be like a migratory bird?
DELUCIE: Yeah. [LAUGHS] I haven’t figured that out. This is all very new. When I’m not at The Lion, I am anxious, and now when I’m not in Miami, I’m anxious.
SYMONDS: So you’re just going to be anxious all the time.
DELUCIE: Anxiety management plan! [LAUGHS] But also, I figure… there’s a great chef in New York, there’s a great chef here. You know, when I go to The Lion, I can’t wait until I get out of there, and then when I go to Miami, I can’t wait until I get out of here. You know how it is.
SYMONDS: Do you have a place in Miami, or will you just stay at the Raleigh?
DELUCIE: For now, we’re at the Raleigh. I haven’t even thought about it. I’m going to have to get a place up here eventually, so forward me any little good places you have!
SYMONDS: Is it weird to get done with work and just go upstairs and be home?
DELUCIE: It is. You know, when you work, it’s really hard to get out of that zone, or the work mode. So a place off-property would probably be good for my sanity.
SYMONDS: Can you tell me about the menu? It seems like your New American-style food isn’t something there’s a lot of in Miami.
DELUCIE: We have what I sort of do, you know—we have the chicken—tasty, acceptable, delicious food. There’s nothing really challenging; it’s not designed to be a challenging, gastronomic kind of restaurant. It’s designed to be comfortable, fun, and you can have a great time, have great drinks. We have our mixologist from The Lion. We have a great drink menu, great food, hopefully good food, not too challenging, and a really fun, beautiful environment.
SYMONDS: So what were people ordering last night? What are you anticipating being your most popular dishes at the new place?
DELUCIE: We had a lot of fish. We sold a lot of fish last night. We had a local snapper cooked in rosemary and sea salt, and then we’re doing a grilled local grouper, which is done on a farro risotto.
SYMONDS: That all sounds good. I would imagine it must be somewhat different from opening a restaurant in New York, just because the ingredients that are available are different.
DELUCIE: Yeah, definitely. Very different ingredients. We use local fish wherever possible, a lot of stuff that’s ripe. That’s definitely important, for sure.
SYMONDS: You are an art fan, right?
DELUCIE: I am an art fan, yes. There is probably nothing I know less about than art, but I am definitely a fan. It’s cool to be surrounded by it. There are a lot of great people milling about, and they sort of look different and they act different in a really cool way, so I like it.
SYMONDS: Are there any shows you look forward to seeing at Art Basel, if you can get out of the kitchen?
DELUCIE: My buddy Sante D’Orazio has a show down here. I hope I can get out and see it.
SYMONDS: Can we talk about your role on Gossip Girl? Are you sick of thinking about that?
DELUCIE: I have my SAG card now. You never know where I might turn up.
SYMONDS: That’s funny! So the plot was that Blair Waldorf couldn’t get a reservation at The Lion, but Chuck Bass could, which begs the question: are there a lot of 19-year-olds in New York who have your direct line?
DELUCIE: There’s a lot of people that are my friends, from over twenty years [in the business]. As I travel though Miami and New York now, it gets a little bit more difficult to include everyone personally, but to answer your question: certainly, yes.
SYMONDS: I wouldn’t have guessed that.
DELUCIE: Chuck Bass, for one.
SYMONDS: Your Miami restaurant just opened yesterday, so no pressure here—but if you had to say, where do you think you would want your next location to be?
DELUCIE: Where would I want it to be? I don’t know. Maybe in London? London is a great city, an emerging food city. It would be great to be able to go to Europe every so often. But New York is home. New York is always enticing—so many neighborhoods, so many markets, and so much cool stuff in New York. I’m always looking around.
SYMONDS: There’s no denying that.
DELUCIE: The only thing that we always like to show is how excited we are to be down here [in Miami], and how important the local community is to us down here.
JOHN DELUCIE’S NEW RESTAURANT, THE ROYAL, IS LOCATED INSIDE THE RALEIGH HOTEL AT 1775 COLLINS AVENUE IN MIAMI BEACH.