Interview With Chef and TV Star To-Be Andrea Curto-Randazzo, Part One
|So is she the Top Chef or not?|
We sat down with Curto-Randazzo just before the 1,000-plus-seater Water Club opened (two weeks after she returned from filming Top Chef) to get the insider scoop. Looking cool and totally collected in jeans and a black T-shirt printed with a skull and bacon crossbones, she shared with us just how tough she and her family can be.
New Times: How do you describe Water Club?
Andrea Curto-Randazzo: It's ridiculously huge -- about 27,000 square feet. There's a huge pool, outside bar, boats can pull up here. Then there's the main dining room, wine room with about 2,000 wines -- huge screens outdoors...
Will it be like its predecessor at the site, Shooters?
I remember this as the old Shooters. It was always busy. This location was much more food-oriented than Fort Lauderdale, which was about drinking and partying. Fine dining is only a price point. You deserve the best food at that price.
So do you get the sense that the locals are looking forward to what Water Club is all about?
People who live around here are anxiously awaiting it. They say they used to come here all the time. I'm looking to take business away from Houston's.
What do you expect will be the menu highlights? Will fans of Talula be able to tell you two are in the kitchen?
We've got the best burger in town. And we have our lobster bisque. It isn't progressive, but a good lobster bisque is hard to find. We'll also have a lot of local fish [and] steaks on the high-end and low-end. Many entrees are less than $20.
Some dishes you'll see Frank and me in, like the crispy fried oysters with blackened corn salsa. This seems the perfect place to have it. And I insisted on microbrews.
And how will Talula stay afloat?
Talula is always my baby. We've held up for a really long time. A lot of my staff has been there from the beginning. They're awesome and they're loyal. And my sous chef has been there for, like, five years. Frank has been running around like a freak in my absence, between the catering company and here and Talula. But that's what he's good at.
How is it that you two work so well together?
We balance each other out. He's the numbers and business guy. And he's an awesome chef.
So why did you jump from fine dining with Talula to a monster space with a pool?
Something that happened with Talula that was frustrating when everything went in the shitter with the economy was that we became a "Happy Birthday!" restaurant -- an occasional thing. This is an everyday place. It will please everybody.
How can you logistically handle this place and Talula AND a catering company?
I don't know yet. We're just kinda "make it work" people. We can wear many hats. Frank is at the catering company more. He's grown that company since we bought it. We wanted to conquer this now.
What happened with Chef Chris Sepe who we reported was taking over Water Club's kitchen a while back?
I don't even know what happened with the other chef, honestly. I don't even know the guy.
[Editor's note: Managing partner John Neilson explained that permitting issues caused numerous delays and, over time, the owners changed direction with regards to their priorities. Understandably the staff they originally hired couldn't wait for the delayed opening and he began to search for a new chef. Neilson recalled meeting Curto-Randazzo at Talula in 2007 and convinced her to become part of Water Club just a few months ago.]
On Monday, we'll cover her experience on Top Chef, thoughts on the Beastie Boys versus Travolta, and why she's got beef with green peppers and foam.