Kris Wessel: Florida Cookery at the James Royal Palm Hotel Is Personal

Categories: Chef Interviews
Courtesy Kris Wessel
To Kris Wessel, Miami is very personal.
What does a chef do before opening a new restaurant in a luxury South Beach hotel?

If you guessed taking his daughters on an extended road trip, you might have gotten the same email we did from Kris Wessel. If you speak with Wessel for more than 30 seconds, you'll learn that everything he does -- from cooking to travel -- is all about family.

The owner of Red Light Little River is preparing to open Florida Cookery at the James Royal Palm Hotel in October. A press release states the restaurant will "represent the best of Florida food traditions executed by a native son." But what does that mean?

It means taking his grandmother's cookbook, Florida Cookery, out of the frame it's been displayed in, and using the recipes as a base for his new menu. It means visiting quail farms and cheese makers throughout the state of Florida to source local ingredients -- and taking his daughters, Natasha (14) and Anais (9) with him (with a stop at Aquatica in Orlando to play with dolphins). But mostly, it means his restaurant is going to be very personal. We spoke with Kris, who told us about what he did on his summer vacation, his new restaurant, and what it really means to be a true Floridian.

wessel family 50's.jpg
Courtesy Kris Wessel
Short Order: With all that's going on with the planning of your new restaurant, what made you take your daughters on a three week long road trip from Miami to New Orleans?
Kris Wessel: We had planned to go to New Orleans to visit my parents, so I decided to take my daughters on a culinary journey. We went fishing, visited goat farms, dairies. We had adventures. It was great.

We hear you went to Tales of the Cocktail. Not a place for kids, is it?
No I didn't take my daughters to Tales of the Cocktail. I took myself to Tales while my girls hung out with my sister and her children. I only did two of the nights there.

Where did you go on your family road trip?

I knew I was going to do the drive, so I thought I would hit as many farms as I could and take the girls with me for the ride. It's amazing that we don't even know how close we are to some great cheese makers and quail farms. They're only about three hours away from Miami, around Orlando.

Did your daughters enjoy the farm outings?

Believe me, they didn't want to leave the water park. Seriously, my oldest daughter is very much an artist and has an expanded mind for a young girl. My youngest is full of energy and would explore everything if given the chance.

There were some trip highlights. Going to Cedar Key and checking out the clamming was fun. We went fishing. My ex-wife is French and their dad's a chef, so food has always been a part of their culture.

Location Info

Red Light Little River - CLOSED

7700 Biscayne Blvd., Miami Shores, FL

Category: Restaurant

The James Royal Palm Hotel

1545 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL

Category: General

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Author: there's more to New Orleans than drinking, fyi.


Great article, great photos.   We are lucky to have him cooking in Miami.


@MiamiNewTimes @Short_Order thanks great article, my family will be proud!


@1chef1river thank you for sharing those great pictures. Feel like I know your family.


@Short_Order @1chef1river Love those old photos- they're great! A true Floridian family.


@1chef1river @eatermiami with opening a new restaurant you probably dont have too much beach time.


@eatermiami @Short_Order yeah I wish I had my Uncle Jim's tan!

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