Box Park: Matt Hinckley Is a Rising Star Chef
You won't taste the gator. It's cooked in a thick, fiery gumbo with okra, shrimp, and boar, so you're fooled by its familiar aroma, which is blended with sassafras and smoke. The greenish liquid, fortified with spices and herbs, veils the exotic flavors of reptile and wild boar.
billwisserphoto.com Waiter! There's alligator in my gumbo.
Sure, you can ignore the menu and pretend you're eating chicken and pork. Never mind that the rest of your meal is so unusual -- staggering servings of goose prosciutto, antelope salami, and pan-seared Asian snakehead fish. Soon you'll realize this place actually welcomes the timid. At Box Park, even you can learn to love invasive pests.
Matt Hinckley began prepping his pantry last year for this restaurant's big debut. The chef worked for Michael Schwartz until landing his current gig under former Nobu executive Santiago Rodriguez. Now Hinckley cooks at the Hoxton, a Hamptons-style beach house; and Box Park, a Brickell fine-dining establishment that opened in July. Venture into his new kitchen, and you'll notice the kombuchas, vinegars, and beers that have been fermenting and aging for months.
There's nothing cutting-edge about his approach, which emphasizes local produce, whole animal butchery, and ancient preservation techniques. What's fresh is the setting, fringed by sheer curtains and neatly arranged ivory chairs. And while you're eating age-old foods, the down- town crowd keeps it modern. On a recent Friday night, a woman Instagrammed a photo of her cocktail, a guy perused his iPhone for wine scores, and Hinckley tweeted the hashtag #EatTheInvaders when he wasn't working the line. The dining room is quiet and dim, but it includes an open kitchen, lit up like a ballpark, that shows off a crew of young, busy chefs.