23. Jason Starkman: Keeping Us Epicurious
New Times' Best of Miami 2014 issue arrives June 19. To celebrate, Short Order is paying tribute to Miami's culinary all-stars. These people forged our city's food scene into what it is today -- a thriving amalgam of tastes and cultures. Through their insight and talent, they've given the city a unique flavor and paved the way for bright new chefs and restaurateurs to follow their lead and take the Miami food scene into the future.
Keeping up tradition while expanding is not easy. Jason Starkman has walked that fine line with family, sliced meat, and strong instincts by his side. As the owner and operator of Miami institutions Epicure Gourmet Market and Jerry's Deli, he has a knack for details, a taste for quality, and an eye on expansion.
His father, Ike Starkman, and Jerry Seidman founded the famed Jerry's Deli in Los Angeles. Jason grew to work as a cashier, meat slicer, waiter, and manager at the Studio City landmark. Their know-how and family dynamic served them well when the Starkmans purchased Epicure Gourmet Market in Miami Beach in 1998 from the Thal family, which had owned and operated it for more than 50 years. The Starkmans kept up the tradition of high-quality food, a hands-on approach, and a very distinct counter experience.
Eventually, Jerry's Famous Deli arrived in South Beach. And in 2008, the family opened the second Epicure Gourmet Market and Café in Sunny Isles Beach in the former location of the famed Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House, which had been there for more than 40 years. According to Daniel Serfer of Blue Collar, the counter at this Epicure has the best tuna salad and egg salad. Undoubtedly there is magic at this location and in the tiny diced egg salad that is more than a step above average picnic fare.
In late 2013, Starkman opened Epicure's third location, this one away from the beach, in Coral Gables. The brightly lit market with 24,000 square feet aims to create an intuitive shopping experience. Starkman chose to connect all the cases together. The setup allows customers to go down the line, like a tasty lineup, from bakery to butcher -- with stops in the all-important deli section.
He remembers being 4 years old and seeing bagels and lox delivered to the house on Sundays by a guy named Jerry. Yes, that Jerry. When he was 7, Starkman loved to go to Jerry's Deli to count the money and taste the food.
In His Own Words
"I really believe I have the greatest job. I taste the best food in the world, work with the best chefs, and bring in food from all over the globe. I taste a lot. It's a dream job. Imagine being able to sample food every day of your life and your main responsibility is to have the best food in the world. It never gets boring. I've been blessed."
Let your voice be heard by voting in our Readers' Poll. Visit readerschoice.miaminewtimes.com by June 4. Then check out the 27th-annual Best of Miami issue, available online and in print Thursday, June 19, to see if your favorites won.
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