A Conversation with STK Miami’s Chef Ralph Pagano

Originally from New York, Chef Pagano has delighted foodies everywhere with his mouth-wateringly modern spins on classic favorites. His attention to detail, effervescent personality, delicate touch and keen sense of taste keep his flavorful dishes simple, fresh and delicious at his current residence, STK Miami. Chef Pagano has appeared with Gordon Ramsay on Hell’s Kitchen and battling Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America and now appears on his own show Pressure Cook, a travel and cooking show during which he is dropped off somewhere in the world and he has to use his culinary wit and unique charm to get high and low paying jobs and earn enough money to buy his plane ticket home.

Chef Pagano’s balance of flavor comes from a distinct ethnic background and world travel.  He uses a cache of international spices, mixed with Italian style and stirred with classic French techniques to create what he calls “Vacation Cuisine.” This year, Chef Pagano joined the Miami location of The ONE Group’s acclaimed steakhouse STK. Located at the Gansevoort Hotel Miami Beach, the restaurant captures the energy and brilliance of Miami with lively music, stunning décor and a celebrated menu that has captured the attention of locals, visitors, celebrities and foodies alike.

Prior to his residence at The ONE Group’s STK Miami, Chef Pagano has graced some of the top kitchens in New York City with his talents. After working at such legendary restaurants as The Sign of The Dove, One if by land Two if by Sea, The Hudson River Club and The River Café, Chef Pagano has created a style all of his own. He gained noteworthy accolades with his Executive Chef roles at NYC’s West Broadway Restaurant, Bobby Van’s Steakhouse and as chef and owner of The World Pie restaurant group.

Chef Pagano continues to teach his mantra, Love Life Always, with his acclaimed cuisine and unique approach to cooking.  His book “If My Shoes Could Talk” was released in spring 2011.Recently we sat down with Pagano to discuss food, life, advice, amongst other things.

John Simon Daily: What can we expect from STK OUT and STK Midtown?

Chef Ralph Pagano: Chef at STK Midtown you can expect the same incredible mix of prime steaks, available in small, medium and large sizes,  a diverse menu of starters, sexy dining room and the grooviest playlist ever to be done in a stkhouse!

JSD: What have you done to perfect the menu at STK Miami since joining the One group?

RP: I have worked with the owner/creators to really zero in on the quality of ingredients. I am proud to say our steaks are prime, our Tuna number one and all the tomatoes are NICE.. and when the tomatoes are nice.. everything is nice… that’s why I named my boat “nice tomatoes”

JSD: Quick and simple meal (less than $20) that you enjoy making at home?

RP: My go to at home easy breezy meal… chicken cutlet, lemon, white wine.. sauté spinach.. done!

JSD: Favorite food from your childhood?

RP: For sure I dream about my childhood favorites of sunday sauce, + tabouli and lebnae (kefir cheese).  I am half Italian half Lebanese so my food memories are split between the two… either way.. I win!!

JSD: How would you describe working in your kitchen?

RP: My kitchen is a serious kitchen where fun happens!

JSD: Last thing you cooked at home?

RP: Sorry to be a broken record.. hummus and tabouli!

JSD: For fall, what recipe would you recommend for a good family meal?

RP: One pot dishes work great.. I love short rib in the fall.. add some butternut squash, either roasted or sautéed.. some fried onions for crunch!! all good baby

JSD:  Something in your fridge that would surprise people?

RP: In my fridge.. surprising… three jars of pepperocini peppers.. I snack on them.. low in calories.. big on flavor!

JSD: A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was a inspiration or a revelation?

RP: I dined at Le Circque, back when in was on 65th street.. with my father in 1988… the entire experience changed my direction in life.. before that meal I wanted to be a sports agent.. after that meal.. I knew what my future was to be… a chef/restaurateur…  I watched as the servers moved effortlessly around the room and Siro Maccioni run his floor… and the food was spectacular!   that was that!

JSD: Last restaurant you ate at?

RP: I last ate at …..  Mandolin ..  design district .. Miami…

JSD: The dish on your menu that will follow you wherever you go?

RP: I do a Crazy Sexy Tuna… that  stops traffic… it’s all my favorite things from a Japanese restaurant.. all on one plate.. tuna, chili oil, sesame, edamame, wasabi and unagi!

JSD: For a fine dining experience what should patrons look for in a restaurant?

RP: They should look for a proper phone system when you call to book, a smile and your name announced at the front door… a server who moves fluidly without looking hurried and your food to be delicious… your dessert should be standout

JSD: Guilty pleasure?

RP: Chocolate with just about anything… and the Real Housewives…

JSD: What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?

RP: Visiting Machu Pichu I want to cook in the city in the clouds…

JSD: If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

RP: Lincoln… Elvis…. and the queen of England.. could you imagine the stares…

JSD: Pros and Cons of the restaurant business?

RP: PROS.. great food.. great booze.. great people.. / CONS.. long hours.. working weekends.. crazy people.

JSD: What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the culinary industry?

RP: Stage for a week in a restaurant of good quality.  Look inside and see if Hospitality is what they really want… then .. read… learn.. practice.. eat and eat some more!

JSD: What would be your last meal on earth and where would you have it?

RP: stone crabs, oysters, grilled shrimp drenched in butter, hummus, tabouli, lebnae, fire grilled lamb chops..pita bread.. martinis, champagne and vodka…served to me and my wife.. with our family.. on the beach.. watching the sun set!  peace love and soul….

Check Chef Ralph Pagano in action…

If you stop by STK Miami, tell him John Simon Daily sent you 🙂