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

Categories: Chef Interviews
Courtesy Kris Wessel
What did you learn on your trip?
I'm dealing with some meat distributors that are having a hard time getting Florida venison, wild boar or quail. It's mainly because there are only one or two USDA processing companies in the state. So, if you're a small quail farmer or have a wild boar preserve, for the most part it's tough for these small farms to get their product to the processing plants.

What's the answer to that?

In the past, there hasn't been that much of a want or need for local game or alternative proteins. Just putting more venison or quail on any menu benefits the small farmer. If more chefs put local meat on the menu, that generates more demand and that will trickle down to the small farmers.

You're from Florida, but lived in New Orleans for a time and have family there.
I'm from both Florida and New Orleans. From the time I was 8 to 18, I lived in New Orleans. Before that, I lived in Miami and after the age of 18 I moved back to Florida. I went to school in Tallahassee and I've been here for 20 years.

wessel children 30's.jpg
Courtesy Kris Wessel
So you left New Orleans just as you became a young man?  I would think that's when the city gets interesting.
But you've got to remember I'm 6'5". There's a saying in New Orleans that if you can reach the top of the bar, you can drink. When I was 15, I was over six feet tall, so in high school we didn't hang out in street corners, we hung out in bars.

As a kid, I worked in the big touristy restaurants and went to local bars after to party. It was great growing up in New Orleans, believe me. I took off for the hotel and restaurant program at Florida State, finished at FIU, and I've been here in Miami ever since.

Florida Cookery is all about your Florida roots. How deep do they go?
My dad grew up here in Miami Beach with nine brothers and sisters in the '40s, '50s and '60s. Dad got tired of the over development of the hotels on Miami Beach, so he want to Loyola and didn't come back, but his brothers and sisters all stayed in Miami.

Wessel fruits.jpg
Courtesy Kris Wessel
When did your family first come to Miami?
My dad's family came here in the '20s and my grandparents had ten kids, who all grew up on Miami Beach. My grandmother was a great cook, and she used the local products that were down here.

Your grandmother is the influence for Florida Cookery
Florida Cookery was my grandmother's cookbook. It was actually a pamphlet-style Junior League-type cookbook from the '40s. I have one of the only copies. Her recipes use locally-sourced ingredients. So there's mango pie and coconut punch. I think back over the years at all the Thanksgivings and family get-togethers and that's what we were eating.

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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