In the Resy Questionnaire, we play a game of 20 questions with the industry folks behind some of our favorite restaurants. What’s your most memorable restaurant experience? Your favorite food movie? What restaurant would you want to time-travel for?
In Miami’s very first edition of the Resy Questionnaire, we speak to Alex Meyer, one half of the chef-owner duo behind Boia De (a self-described “funky Italian” restaurant) and Walrus Rodeo (a destination for live-fire cookery), two Buena Vista darlings that have quickly risen to critical acclaim.
The Resy Questionnaire
1. Favorite thing you’ve ever cooked?
‘Ever’ is a very difficult stipulation. I remember things in my career that were different and fun, like cleaning and cooking pig heads with Jon [Shook] and Vinny [Dotolo] at Animal. I remember learning how to clean monkfish liver with Kazuo Yoshida at 1 or 8 in Brooklyn. He’s now at Juku in Manhattan, lowkey serving the best omakase in New York City.
But my favorite thing to cook is probably The NoMad chicken, with foie gras and black truffles stuffed under the skin. Ishmael Jiménez was our cook there. Five days a week, he would stuff and truss 100 chickens. He taught me how to do it, and I’ll never forget it. Every Thanksgiving now, I stuff, truss, and roast a turkey the same way we did the chickens at The NoMad. The combination of flavors and textures is unbeatable: incredibly savory, umami, and heartwarming.
2. Kitchen tool or equipment you couldn’t live without?
My 6” tweezers are my ride or die. I like to use my hands a lot when cooking, so I use a lot of gloves. During a busy service, tweezers come into play on more dishes than any other tool. We don’t make precious, tweezer-heavy food, but as a tool, they save a lot of time instead of reaching for gloves.
3. What pantry items would you bring on a desert island?
Just for pleasure and not sustenance: butter, hon dashi, chardonnay vinegar, white soy sauce, and Old Bay — for all the seafood I would need to catch to stay alive.
4. What’s your favorite place to get a Cuban sandwich in Miami?
Sanguich de Miami, for sure. The Cuban has been kind of relegated to a simple, fast-casual staple that sits in a cooler and gets pressed when someone orders it. Sanguich has given the sandwich the chef’s touch and care it deserves. The freshness and flavor come through. I recently spied they’re opening a location just down the block from us, and I couldn’t be more excited.
5. Favorite cookbook?
Ma Gastronomie, by Fernand Point is probably my most treasured book. It’s a pressing from the early 70s and a gift from my grandmother. Point is a legendary figure in French cuisine, and his cookbook is definitely not for the faint of heart. None of the recipes have quantities, and the methods are generally just “cook the fish as you would, with proper technique.”
6. Your drink of choice?
Anything with green chartreuse.
7. Favorite food movie?
This one’s easy: the Japanese film “Tampopo” is far and away the best food movie of all time. It’s about ramen, but not really. It’s a series of vignettes acting as commentary on culture through food, scattered within a story about a single mom trying to make her ramen shop the best in Tokyo. It features a young Ken Watanabe and is wildly hilarious and heartfelt, with great depictions of food.
8. Your ideal dinner party guest, dead or alive?
We met Massimo Bottura at his place in Modena. He was such a delightful person that we’d love to have over. Because he’s so positive, I don’t think we’d even be nervous cooking for him.
9. What restaurant industry person do you admire the most?
My wife, Luci Giangrandi. Compared to her, I feel like I do nothing to push our restaurant forward and make it as good as it is. She has an unimaginable amount of energy and positivity with the team. And when she needs to speak some hard truths to employees, they feel it and know she’s not wrong.
10. What’s the greatest restaurant experience of your life so far?
I went to Asador Etxebarri with my mom and brother 11 years ago, shortly after my dad passed away. Even just the drive up through the hills of Basque Country was epic. At the time, the restaurant was still gaining traction on all the lists. It was still a Pellegrino Top 50, but the hospitality and lack of pretension were so genuine. And of course, the food was incredible.
11. Your greatest professional achievement?
I would obviously have to go with earning a Michelin Star as an all-time moment. It was a joyous validation of all the work and sacrifice that Luci and I have put in to get here.
12. What single dish best describes your personality?
Cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, carmelized onions, and special sauce. The perfect blend of salty, sweet, and savory; and mix of protein, fruits, vegetables, and bread.
13. If you could go back in time, which restaurant would you dine at?
Torrisi circa 2012 was a very special restaurant. Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi were doing top-quality food at a really affordable price point. We miss that version of them dearly but are happy to see all their success.
Le Cirque under Daniel Boulud in the late 80s also looked like a wild experience I wish I was around for.
14. Your favorite meal from childhood?
Animal-style In-N-Out double-double with fries and a coke. Double cheeseburger from The Apple Pan with an IBC root beer (seems I like burgers a lot).
15. Your wish for the restaurant industry?
That customers would stop complaining so much and see the real value in what they are getting. The industry is great, but menu prices are lightyears away from what they should be to accurately show the work and dedication it takes to get [food] to your plate, from the farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, to the prep cooks and chefs who have spent a lifetime honing their craft. It’s just food, but it takes a lot to make it.
16. What do you wish you did better? What do you do well?
I wish I was better at relaxing. We get so used to working so much in this industry, we don’t know how to just enjoy time away. This is especially true when you own the place. On a day off, if I have nothing to do, I generally just drive to the restaurants to check in and hang out. I live in Miami, and I haven’t been to the beach in eight months.
I think one thing we do well at Boia De is creating an environment where the staff can be proud of the work we put forward, but also have a good time doing it. Luci and I have both worked at some amazing restaurants, but unfortunately, some were run by chefs who managed with fear rather than positivity. We have always made it a priority to keep the mood light in the restaurant, while also maintaining a high standard of professionalism and work ethic.
17. If you could eat through a city for a day, where would you go?
Toss up between Montreal, Mexico City, and Tokyo. But if I had to choose, Tokyo.
18. The one thing you can’t resist splurging on when you go out?
19. What do you value most in restaurants?
Comfort and service. I’ve always said, good food should be a given. Good service is what makes a restaurant great. I’ll go back to a restaurant with adequate food and good service instead of a place with exceptional food and bad service.
20. It’s your last meal on earth, what are you eating?
Would it be redundant if I said a cheeseburger again?
Boia De is open for dinner nightly from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Walrus Rodeo is open for dinner nightly from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday (and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).