Behind The Plate: Chef Thomas Connell of The Fontainebleau
Joonbug Gets a First-hand Look at Executive Chef Thomas Connell and Inside Operations at the Historic Fontainebleau Hotel

      

Chef Thomas Connell
One can’t help but think of the famous Fontainebleau when Miami comes to mind. Originally opened in 1954, the Fontainebleau has been, for decades, the destination for tourists on vacation as well as the locals for a night out on the town. Now with its celebrated renovations, once again the Fontainebleau remains as Miami’s most notable icon. With its ever-popular clubs like LIV and Arkadia, the Fontainebleau has now become a playground for the young and hip as well as the older and wealthier of Miami. One can only imagine, as well, that this historic hotel would only choose the best to run the show. And choose the best they did! Six months ago, the noteworthy Chef Thomas Connell came into the Fontainebleau as their new Executive Chef and since then has overseen every culinary aspect of their massive hospitality operations. A huge and critical feat, no doubt, and Joonbug Miami got a chance to see just how Thomas Connell manages it all- including mixing fine dining with Miami’s hottest nightlife.

Congratulations on your new position at the Fontainebleau! How do you like it so far?:

“Thank you! I love it; I’m very honored to be a part of the Fontainebleau. Although I’ve only been in the hotel for six months, but I’ve been in Miami for 7 years so I understand the market. And the Fontainebleau is definitely the best on the beach! It’s the center of social and local events and its rebirth followed suit with the icon status it had in Miami.”

Tell us a bit about the Fontainebleau’s culinary operations. What does it all involve?:

“It has definitely been one of the biggest challenges in my career since it involves so much. What is sad to see is that our current economics has taken the artisanship away from the kitchen. Individual culinary crafts are going away. Where before hotels and restaurants each had their own chocolate makers, butchers, pastry chefs, etc.- that’s all going away but what’s great about the Fontainebleau is that it has kept all that alive. We have individuals who operate in their own trade and we make everything in-house. We control all products from beginning to end and we have the staff and the skills to do all that! We even have what we call the ‘Water World’ where we hold all of our live fish and shellfish that we will use in our dishes. Because of that, we have marine biologists on staff that care for the fish and maintain the proper levels of salt to maintain all the fish healthy- they keep an ‘ocean on land,’ if you will. We also have for instance, our own butchers and a dry age room for our own dry aged steaks that are served at Gotham Steak. Each aspect of the food at our hotel has its own professional making it happen.

All in all, there are about 30 chefs in operation, and between 230-235 culinary professionals at hand throughout the Fontainebleau! What’s great is that we really embrace the mentality of synergy, not just my experience but using the experience of all my staff. And thankfully, we have the facilities, back and talent to do it all.”

Is there anything new coming to the Fontainebleau?:

“Yes!  I’m working now on the final details for a Sunday brunch in Vida, our American brasserie. It’s going to be the first of its kind since we will be integrating all of the restaurants from the hotel into this one brunch. We’ll have a station for each restaurant- like pasta from Scarpetta, Dim Sum from Hakkasan, sushi from Blade, pastries from Solo, and so on. So this one brunch will bring in different parts of the hotel into one culinary event that guests can enjoy every Sunday. It’s going to be great!”

The Fontainebleau is definitely a hot spot for nightlife and clubbing. So how do you integrate fine dining into that party scene?:

“The Fontainebleau’s vibe is certainly very youthful now and our restaurants are following suit. Hakkasan has a lounge and DJ. We have various lounges and even our steakhouse, Gotham Steak, is now following suit with that as well. What we’re trying to portray with the Fontainebleau, is that it’s a one-stop shop for a night out in Miami, whether you’re a tourist or a local. We’re kind of like a ‘cruise ship on land’. You can come for dinner at one of our amazing restaurants, then stop for drinks at one of our bars or lounges, then hit one of our clubs- and all for just one parking fee. You park your car once and stay here the whole night. You can literally make a whole night out of it at the Fontainebleau.”

 

Joonbug congratulates you, Chef Connell, with the awesome job you’re doing so far at the Fontainebleau! Check back on Thursday for our part II of Chef Thomas Connell’s interview, where we get a look at his own personal likes and his story.

For more information about the Fontainebleau, check out: www.fontainebleau.com

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