Two Chefs' Jan Jorgensen Talks About the Misuse of the Word "Chef," Part 1

Categories: Chef Interviews
rsz_janjorgensen_opt.jpg
Jan 'The Man' Jorgensen
His resume is different than that of most of Miami's chefs. Jan Jorgensen has worked at top restaurants in Zurich, in Greenland, at the well-regarded Fakkelgaarden in his native Copenhagen, and under chef Jeremiah Tower at California's landmark Stars. Upon arriving in Miami during the early Nineties, Jorgensen operated JanJo's in Coconut Grove; in 1994 he opened Two Chefs in South Miami. Since that time, he has successfully surfed the turbulent waves of South Florida's fickle economy, fussy diners, and vacillating trends.

While Jorgensen shares the same elevated stage with Miami's most dedicated and talented veteran chefs, the spotlight rarely shines on him. As it turns out, he has a lot to say. In the first part of this wide-ranging two-part interview, we discuss pork belly, small plates, food trucks, the Food Network, and the meaning of being a chef -- among other things.

New Times: How has the industry changed since you began?

Jan Jorgensen: It has changed a lot. I think the old guys - and I consider myself an old guy, I'm 47 -- to us it's a profession. It's craftsmanship, not a ten-minute TV show and five minutes of fame. I'm not going to fault the Food Network, because I think it's a lot of fun to look at, but sometimes it might be giving the wrong message. There are only a handful of people who actually make it to TV and can make a good living with it.

Do you use students at Two Chefs?

I love students, especially if they're hungry. I start them out on cold salads and then build them up from there, to see what they're all about. They're inexpensive labor, and they don't come with twelve years of 'I've been doing it this way, and I've been doing that'. I do things by the book, so they don't know how to do things any way but the right way.

We've talked in the past about how local culinary programs aren't great.

I've had students come from the Cordon Bleu School, the ones who advertise on TV. You ask them what a béarnaise sauce is and they have no clue. They can't even hold a knife. One of them told me they basically sat for two years in a classroom and then a couple of months in a kitchen. How much money did the kid just spend? $40,000 dollars? I find that to be shameful.
And yet some of them consider themselves 'chefs'.

'Chef'' is a misused word, and I think the Food Network has a lot to do with that. There are too many chefs and not enough cooks. You'll be watching a Burger King commercial and there's a 'chef'. If that's a chef, then I'm a cook.

Purveyors will come in and show me beautiful, I mean beautiful filet mignons portioned into center cuts, eight ounces each. I look at them and say 'These are absolutely gorgeous, and $9 a pound is a competitive price...but where are the trimmings?' I need the trimmings to make money. That's what a chef does. You take the trimmings and you make a beef stroganoff. I think that's one of the reasons I'm still around, because I'm actually doing that.

I'm going to name a few things and see what you think, starting with food trucks.

I always thought it would be great to have a hot dog stand downtown. You have a truck, you just pull over to the side of the road on Brickell Avenue and open up your doors. What an excellent way of doing business. You go where the action is, and you don't have to worry about waiters, about dishes...

Pork belly.

I used to serve it, when it just came out. I find it to be too fatty, a little too sloppy. I like it better as a chicharron, or cracklings.

Small plates.

When I first came here (to the States), I went to a restaurant with all of these people, and everyone ordered their own entrees. When the food came they started eating off each other's plates. I nearly had a heart attack! I had ordered my entree and that's what I had intended to eat.

But I don't know that this (small plates) is a new concept. I mean the Chinese have been doing it forever, and tapas have been around, and the smorgasbord where I come from - you get a little herring, you get a little bit of this, a little bit of that...We keep on reinventing the wheel. It's just a new gimmick on how to get people to eat, but anything that can be shared, where you can take bites of different things, is great. Now, I'm not going to mention any restaurants, but by the time you've eaten four small bites you actually spend more money than if you were to buy an entrée and maybe an appetizer.

Tomorrow: Jan talks about Ferran Adriá, Michael Schwartz, Scandinavian cuisine, and the secret to a perfect soufflé.

Follow Short Order on Facebook and Twitter @Short_Order.

Location Info

Two Chefs

8287 S. Dixie Highway, South Miami, FL

Category: Restaurant


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
5 comments
albertr0326
albertr0326

I had the pleasure of working with this man for many years. To me the best learning experience. After 2 years of culinary school. I learn the meaning of coocking with Jan!!

Luvinfoodcritiquex
Luvinfoodcritiquex

I was there nw year's eve and I thought verything was crazy overpriced and was pretty dull. Luckily, I tagged along with great frinds and the company won out over the food. :(

Xxamber_102xx
Xxamber_102xx

Saw your post Perez & had to laugh because it took me a second to get the bald overweight comment. Then I saw the picture & LOL. I don't care so much accept hes probably some stuck up "Im from Zurich, so Im better than you" kind of guy. He sounds that way judging by what he said. I never read these posts so it was funny.

CPerez
CPerez

I think his Jorgensen’s commentary on CHEFS (yes I said Chefs) from Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts is not only presumptuous and rude but it was completely ignorant. How can he make that assumption based a few experiences with students? You can’t generalize and assume the school doesn’t produce real talent and may even enhance the natural talent that walks through its doors. Its like any program, there are students at both ends of the spectrum: maybe HE could only attract those on the LOW end. It’s like assuming all overweight balding men have to degrade others to boost up their own failing EGOS and self esteem. To assume that local schools are garbage is almost assuming that the LOCALS themselves are garbage! If you keep making idiotic assumptions like this, you may just end up with a hot dog stand on the side of the rode where you don’t have to worry about waiters, servers or hiring anymore people who dare call themselves CHEF.

Rob
Rob

I was at Janjo's opening night party and then worked there for a couple months later on.New Year's Eve dinner was a blast, we were cranking it out, boy! Remembering the Hare Krishna guys that would come by the front of the restaurant on the sidewalk all banging their drums and playing the hand cymbals. Everytime they would come by, we would all start dancing in the open kitchen! Jan used to rewrite the menu daily on the fly after seeing what came in that day and what we had in-house... He came up with some combinations that I would never think of, but they always worked...! Glad to see he's still going with Two Chef's after so many years. To have a restaurant for that long a period in Miami is almost a miracle, Miami diners are so fickle and unfortunately don't support local establishments like in other cities. Rock on, Jan...!

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...