Talking with Executive Chef David Medure of Restaurant Medure
1. Can you introduce yourself?
I grew up in the small town of New Castle, just outside of Pittsburgh. When I was 8 years old my dad opened a small restaurant that eventually was turned into a catering business. Before my father opened a restaurant he worked in a steel mill and he made fresh Italian sausage out of our basement. There was always meat being ground in our basement and we'd have meat drying and curing. My dad's brother also had a restaurant. A few of our uncles had butcher shops, so we were always around food. I worked with my parents washing dishes and busing tables and eventually doing deliveries. I never had a desire to be a chef or anything like that. I actually preferred to stay out of the business after growing up in it - it wasn't great fun.
I went to a 4 year school but never had a desire for any single subject. I came to Florida where Matt was and spent a summer with him when I was in my junior year. I ended up getting a job at the Ritz-Carlton working with Matt and just decided I wasn't going back home. I've always loved being around food. It was such a nice change going from how I grew up in it with the catering, doing all the heavy lifting, washing dishes and all the physical work I had to do as a young kid, then going into the Ritz-Carlton, which is an unbelievably sophisticated hotel, and working with my brother who is an amazing chef. It was a whole different view on cooking. It rekindled my passion for food. I started to enjoy all of these new techniques and everything about the Grill Room at the Ritz-Carlton. It was so amazing. I was learning so much - really, that's where I learned how to cook.
2. Did you go to culinary school?
No I didn't. I just worked with my brother Matt and Ken Gilbert, who was at the time Matt’s sous chef. Matthew and Ken invested a lot of time training me and pushing me to be great. We worked together there for about 2 1/2 years before we opened our restaurant, Matthew's.
3. Would you describe yourself as having a particular style of cooking?
I would say my style is on the lighter side - simplistic, with really fresh ingredients. I love all different kinds of cuisine. I probably lean towards more Mediterranean than anything else but I do love a lot of the Asian and Southern American flavors.
4. How do you come up with your recipes?
I don't get formal recipes. I get inspiration and ideas. When I first started cooking I was learning the recipes my brother and the other cooks were creating. You end up learning more of a technique than a recipe. You end up learning about what goes with what - how to balance sweet, sour, salty and savory components. You learn about what herbs go with what cuisines, whether you're cooking French or Asian. You learn about the differences between a French tartare and an Asian tartare. Once you learn those tendencies you can take what you've learned and put it into a new dish. For the most part you'll know what a dish will taste like even before you create it. You can get inspired in a lot of ways - it may be through something you see on TV, in a magazine or from what you eat at another restaurant. The littlest thing can spark you to take a little bit of what you just saw and put it into your own style and your own dish. That's how it usually happens.
5. What's your role now? Are you primarily focused on Restaurant Medure?
The majority of my time is on Restaurant Medure and the majority of that time is focused on the kitchen. I do have to run the business too, but we have a lot of great people in place. I have a great General Manager, a great wine buyer, a great Chef de Cuisine and a lot of key people in places that allows me to float. Whatever needs the most attention is what I can focus on. If the kitchen needs the most attention I'll jump in the kitchen and just stay there.
We also have the M Shack and Matthew; Steve Schaefer and I will spend a lot of time on that. It's often just over the phone. We spend a lot of our time collaborating on the current M Shack, the new M Shack and possible future concepts. We both wear lots of different hats. Some mornings we're taking reservations and doing bookkeeping and at the same time trying to filet a fish and check in products. It really depends on who's off that day and how we're staffed.
6. What's the overall vision for Restaurant Medure? Has it changed over time?
When we opened 13 years ago we took exactly what we were doing at Matthew's and we brought it to Restaurant Medure. It was predominantly multi-course, smaller portions, but with a slightly larger menu than what we had at Matthew's.
We have so many great, repeat customers who give us good advice and feedback. Over the years we took the feedback and changed to fewer courses and speedier type cooking. We've also gone a little more global with the menu, expanding beyond just French and Mediterranean cuisines. Anytime I learn something new I can put it onto the menu. If I learn a great curry sauce then the curry will be incorporated into our menu. It can be anything too. As time went on I learned a lot from the cooks I worked with and just through trial and error. The menu also became bigger and more global. Where we stand now, the menu is larger than it has ever been. We have about 48 items, which is a lot.
With a bigger menu we can do more. We can have a light dish, a heavier, bolder dish, Italian dishes and Middle Eastern dishes. That's what the restaurant has evolved into. Within the last 3 years the lounge has become a whole separate entity on its own. We've added live music for higher energy entertainment. We have happy hours with specials. The lounge has become our casual Restaurant Medure side. You can come right in off the golf course or just drop in if you're driving by. You don't need reservations. You can have a small bite from our $5 menu or have multiple courses.
I really like the direction we've been heading.
7. Is the lounge like a second restaurant or is it meant as a place to go before or after having dinner at the main restaurant?
It's a separate entity. Some people may start there with an appetizer and finish up in the restaurant or vice versus, but it's meant to stand alone. It has its own identity. We share the same dinner menu but it has its own small plate bar menu.
8. If someone was going to Restaurant Medure for the first time, what would you recommend they start with?
The dishes that would describe what we do best are things like the Tuna Tartare, our Beef Carpaccio, the Grouper Franchaise or any of our duck dishes. The soufflé is our signature dessert dish. These are the dishes that stand out and make us a little unique.
We do a really good job utilizing the duck - it may be a foie gras, a paté, the duck breast or an 18-hour slow cooked duck leg. The duck is so versatile and we buy a very high quality duck to begin with. Our techniques in using every part of the duck are very solid. If you're coming for the first time our servers will recommend the duck dishes because they'll stand out.
9. Do you have personal favorites that are hidden gems and don't get as much attention?
Not really. Our guests are really incredible. They'll try anything we put on the menu. Our servers are very knowledgeable and will recommend dishes with a lot of confidence. That's a big part of getting people to try new things. I think we've earned the trust of our guests over the years. They'll at least try new things. If they don't like it they'll give us constructive criticism. There's nothing really on the menu that we wish would sell more because it's so good and not as appreciated as it should be. People try everything. We have the best clientele you can imagine.
10. You've won a number of prestigious awards. Wine Spectator gave you an award for your wine list. You have a 4-diamond award from AAA. You've also got a Golden Spoon Award. How do you get all these awards?
We started receiving the 4-diamond award back in 2008 and have had it ever since. You don't apply for it. They just come by and check out the restaurant. We didn't even know they were here. One day we received a letter and a plaque saying we'd won the 4-diamond award. The 4-diamond award is very respected and means a lot to the staff. It's kind of funny because we received the award at a time when the economy was really in bad shape and things were slowing down and we were thinking about closing down Medure's. The awards are nice and they're important but the guests are the most important.
For the Golden Spoon we received the "Top 25 New Restaurants in Florida" award. I really respect what Florida Trend is doing and to receive their Top 25 award is pretty special.
The Wine Spectator is really nice award and a great reflection on Joette Callaway, our sommelier. She puts all her time into the wine list and the award shows all the hard work she does.
11. What's next for Restaurant Medure?
A lot of it is to keep doing what we're doing. But Medure is a unique restaurant in the fact that we can serve anything we want at any price point. It can be very cheap or very expensive. It can be put together with refined techniques or it can be as rustic as it comes. We're unique in being able to present any kind of cuisine or style. In saying that it leaves our options open. My vision is to watch and help mentor some of these young people that have been working here for a while. I want to see where these guys can take things. They've already introduced different techniques. How well they do in leading us to new styles of food, new techniques or new service techniques will determine how we evolve.
12. How do you see your role evolving with the growth of M Hospitality?
Eventually I'm going to have to transition more to the business side, working hand in hand with Matt to grow the company as a whole. I love being in the kitchen and that's what I do best but the vision is to work with Matt to impact all the businesses. My heart is with Restaurant Medure and no matter what I do with the overall company I'll always have a pretty good role here at Restaurant Medure.