Tomorrow I’m posting a brief write-up on Short Order, the Miami New Times food blog, about the yummy steamed roast pork buns at Sakaya Kitchen. This fast-casual restaurant (you order at the counter, seat yourself, and then grab your food when they call you) is a newcomer to the Midtown area , but has quickly developed a following for its flavor-packed, no frills Asian menu. I spoke with the chef/owner, Richard Hales, to learn a little bit of his background and was pleasantly surprised with what I found out. Here’s an excerpt of our email conversation.
In 1997 I did a total change of career and left business school. At the time I owned a small bakery delivery business in Tampa and on the day of the closing packed a bag and moved to New York City. Shortly after I started the culinary program at the French Culinary Institute. My first cooking position was at a Myriad Group restaurant called City Wine & Cigar with Patricia Williams. It was short lived and I quickly applied with Jean-Georges Vongerichten and he just as quick shut the door in my face. He looked at my resume, handed it back, said I have no experience and walked away. I followed him around the restaurant telling him how good I was and how he had to give me a shot even though I had no f’n clue what I was doing. He ended up putting me at Vong which I stayed for two years and ended up as Sous Chef. After Vong I wanted a classical old school position so I started as the rotisseur at La Grenouille for about a year. While living in New York City I traveled quite a bit to Asia, backpacking, eating and doing little stints for free here and there learning technique. I ended up in Hong Kong at the end of one trip helping a friend at Vong. One thing lead to another and I was asked to be the Asian Chef of the new Mandarin oriental, Miami in 2001. The Asian Chef position was going nowhere so I moved about six months into it to be the Assistant Manager of Azul with Michelle. Our Sommelier left abruptly and I took over the day to day duties of the wine program and ended up with the job. Spent four years as the Sommelier of Mandarin Oriental, Miami and in 2006 was promoted to Wine Director of the Mandarin Oriental, New York. I left New York City for Miami at the end of 2008, took a year off and started Sakaya Kitchen about six weeks ago. Sakaya Kitchen is a mixture of the techniques I learned and the food I love to eat. I never put anything down on paper, I just opened and started cooking again.