Alter is arguably Miami’s most buzzed about restaurant, and for good reason: the perpetual hotspot, which is loved by critics and diners alike, has been awarded nearly every accolade under the sun — including a recent James Beard nomination for Best Restaurant: South. Resy sat down with the man behind it all, Brad Kilgore, to learn more about what drives his creativity, what’s next for the Wynwood staple, and what we can expect from his forthcoming new concepts.
Resy: How would you describe Alter to someone who’s never been?
Brad Kilgore: Alter is designed to Alter the way you think about fine dining — a casual setting, art-focused neighborhood, fun playlist — but the emphasis is on creative food at an approachable price point.
How does the food reflect your background and cooking style?
I take inspiration from flavors and techniques around the world. Just like Miami, [the restaurant] is a melting pot, therefore categorizing it as progressive American cuisine. I like to travel and try new things, incorporating inspiration from each place I travel to. I’ve worked under modern French chefs and, in most of the dishes, you will find a combination of European and Asian inspiration.
If you could cook alongside anyone — dead or alive — who would it be?
Auguste Escoffier; he literally conceptualized the base of nearly every French dish.
What is your first food memory?
Growing up, Thanksgiving was the first time I can remember being very excited for a great meal. As a chef, I remember the first thing I tried to make on my own when I was, like, nine years old was a batch of brownies. I mixed the salt and sugar measurements and made the world’s saltiest brownies — they were absolutely disgusting.
What’s the design inspiration for Alter?
Alter was made to reflect the warehouse it inhabits, which features an exposed kitchen, where the guests can watch the action in real time or even sit at the chef’s counter for the full culinary experience.
Likewise, the bar has its own vibe and menu.
BarAlter is like an oasis: it’s a tiki bar in the middle of the wild Wynwood neighborhood. [Bar Manager] Gustavo Martinez is at the helm, shaking up creative and delicious cocktails that complement menu items like the Iberico burger with chorizo aioli and spicy yuzu pickles or creamy-and-crispy mushroom rangoons.
And what about the neighborhood?
Wynwood is a neighborhood that harbors creative types– whether it be an artist painting every square inch of every wall in the neighborhood or its designer clothing stores, it’s a place for creative freedom, where people can express their talents.
How has Miami’s food scene evolved since you’ve been here?
I moved to Miami from Chicago eight years ago and the culinary scene has absolutely blown up! There are so many chefs who have separated from the hotel scene and are running the city’s culinary landscape with great independent concepts.
Where are you a regular?
What are five ingredients you can’t live without?
Vinegars, truffles, fish sauce, potatoes, foie gras.
As someone who travels frequently, what cities impart the most inspiration?
Paris and Lima. Paris is so inspirational, historically, but Lima has flavors and ingredients you can’t find anywhere else.
What was a pivotal moment in your career?
When we had a line out the door at Alter and I was cooking at the grill station, watching everyone wait and enjoy their meals, thinking, ‘Wow all these people that I don’t know can’t wait to eat my creations! This is pretty cool.’
Tell us about your upcoming Design District projects.
On the other side of the Design District, in Paradise Plaza, we are opening two amazing concepts later this year. The first, Kaido, is a creative Asian cocktail lounge and restaurant that will be opening early in the fall. I partnered with Nico de Soto, a world-class mixologist who hails from New York City and Paris, to headline the cocktail program at Kaido and its hidden sake and Japanese whisky bar, Ama.
Below that is Ember, an American bistro focused on wood-fired cooking. The concept combines my roots within Kansas City steakhouses and penchant for creative and casual bistro food. We will be grilling over charcoal and wood, slow-smoking and aging meats, and cooking with the elements of wood, fire, and smoke throughout the menu. This will be a restaurant for any occasion, open for lunch and dinner, coming in late 2018.
Finally, what else do you have in the works?
My wife Soraya Kilgore is an amazing pastry chef and she just opened Madlab Creamery in the Palm Court of Design District off 39th Street. There, she has six soft-serve selections with a range of three dozen toppings (think Japanese cheesecake, cotton candy, and edible glitter).