Insider's Scoop on the Chef Collective at Pao with Benjamin Murray and Giorgio Rapicavoli
What’s better than a special dinner by one of Miami’s best chefs? Naturally, a collab with two of Miami’s best chefs!
On Thursday, July 26, Pao by Paul Qui‘s Chef de Cuisine, Benjamin Murray will welcome famed local Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli, beloved for his fun and funky twists on comfort food, to this month’s Chef Collective at Faena Miami Beach. Rapicavoli has a rap sheet that will impress: he’s the owner of Eating House, the popular and critically-acclaimed restaurant in Coral Gables, a two-time winner of Chopped, listed in Forbes’s “30 Under 30” for food, a James Beard Rising Star semifinalist and voted Miami’s Hottest Chef by Eater. Sure to bring his creative verve and uncanny ability to improvise, there’s one thing diners can expect from Rapicavoli: the deliciously unexpected.
In anticipation of this epic kitchen collaboration we sat down with both chefs to chat about their summer menus, favorite foods, and what to expect at the Chef Collective dinner.
Here’s what they had to say:
First we started with Chef Benjamin -
You've had some awesome names do collabs in your kitchen at Pao, what are some of your favorite highlights from previous dinners?
The pork feast that we had when Michael Beltran from Ariete was amazing and the Puerto Rican inspired dinner that we had with Jose Mendin from Habitat was delicious. I also loved our collab with Chef Michael Pirolo from Macchialina, it was a perfect marriage of Italian and Asian food. Our most recent collab was with Chef Diego Oka from La Mar where we brought the menu to life with vibrant colors and delicious flavors.
Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?
I’ve known since I was in middle school! I recently connected with a girl I went to middle school with who has been following my career since we’ve known each other. She told me that she remembers the day I told my teacher I wanted to be a chef. She was so happy to see that I’ve been able to do what I’ve wanted for so long and I honestly couldn’t think of doing anything else, it continues to fascinate me.
What's your inspiration when deciding on a menu?
My inspiration is based on what ingredients are in season and if you start with great ingredients, it’s easier to make a delicious dish. My team and their cultural backgrounds, the amazing art at the hotel and my personal memories of food also inspire me to be creative.
Next up Chef Giorgio:
You went from being known for comfort food dishes like Captain Crunch Pancakes (which are still amazing) to robust veggie dishes that that are just about as filling as a meaty main course -- what sparked this evolution?
Getting the chance to be a creative in the kitchen and make things that are unexpected. It’s cool to do something different. Obviously a steak is going to be good, but to make pumpkin be as good as a ribeye — that’s a fun challenge.
Currently you've got two very different concepts in Eating House and Glass & Vine -- do you have another concept in mind for the near future?
Nothing concrete, but there’s always plenty of ideas and stuff that I want to do. If I could I would open up ten different restaurants right now. I have them all set, and when the time is right they will happen.
What's your favorite item on your Eating House menu currently?
So it’s an ingredient in a dish. It’s a puree that’s being served with duck. It’s sunchoke that’s being charred on the grill very intensely and marinated in vinegar, olive oil, and garlic. Then we puree it into this really intense burnt acidic puree of sunchoke with just enough natural sweetness. It’s great and probably my favorite thing we’re doing right now.
Both chefs weigh in on summer ingredients and guilty pleasures:
You both tend enjoy highlighting seasonal ingredients -- what's your favorite summer ingredient and why?
Chef Benjamin: Summer melons are my favorite because they are sweet, colorful, and versatile. You can use it in gazpacho, or pair it with a salty ingredient like ham; for our upcoming chef collective, we are creating watermelon “bulgogi” by treating the watermelon like a steak.
Chef Giorgio: Apricots. Apricots are my favorite. Even just to eat. I think they’re so cool texturally and flavor wise. Then there’s the pit or apricot kernel that’s so flavorful, so definitely apricots.
What's your guilty pleasure meal?
Chef Benjamin: Buffalo wings with chunky blue cheese dressing.
Chef Giorgio: Cheeto puffs and Nutella!
Do you have any spoilers for your upcoming Chef Collective collab's menu on July 26th?
Chef Benjamin: Expect a lot of bold flavors. Since it is a Vegetarian menu we are going work on treating vegetables like proteins and each dish will be a surprise.
Chef Giorgio: We’re gonna do some things that have been known from Eating House and some things that are totally new. I think it’s going to be very experimental. I think Ben and I haven’t done 95% of what we’re serving that day. He’s very talented and I’m sure that it’s going to be sick.
As an added bonus, we were able to get Chef Benjamin to spill the details on a few dishes that can be expected at this week's dinner:
Fun Fact: the menu will be vegetarian, but you’ll have the option to add meat if you’d like!
Kinilawin, Jackfruit, Heart of Palm, Coconut Milk & Vinegar
This is my take on a traditional Filipino ceviche. Kinilawin is a traditional ceviche style dish, made with coconut. Jackfruit is also a traditional Filipino ingredient simmered in coconut milk so I am combining it into this dish that balances coconut and the intense flavor of the jackfruit. The jackfruit is meaty and tropical, so you won’t miss fish as protein, and the heart of palm, red onion, and olive oil will complement the dish to add some richness and crunch.
Smoked Cantaloupe Nigiri, Sudachi Ponzu, Ginger Oil
This is Chef Giorgio’s take on a Salmon Nigiri, with the flavor that is reminiscent of smoked salmon. He is going to treat the cantaloupe so it reminds the guest of the texture of fish, and smoking it as well. It will be brushed with Sudachi ponzu (sudachi is a Japanese citrus similar to lime), and ginger oil.
Dinuguan, Maitake Mushroom, Potato, “Beet Blood”
This is a dish Chef Giorgio and I are collaborating on together. Dinuguan is a traditional Filipino stew that is made with pork, offal (organs), and a sauce made with pork blood and coconut vinegar. It is traditionally a rich, meaty stew that is balanced with the acidity of the coconut vinegar. We are taking that idea and creating a rich stew of beautiful hearty vegetables, in a rich sauce of slowly cooked vegetables, beet juice, and coconut vinegar so it's reminiscent of the traditional stew.
Tickets are $95 per person, plus tax and service charges. Seating’s are available from 7:00 – 8:00 pm and space is very limited. For tickets, please visit HERE or call 786.655.5600 to book.
3201 Collins Avenue
Miami, FL 33140