Wolfgang Birk, Executive Chef, Area 31
Wolfgang Birk joined Area 31, a Kimpton restaurant, as executive chef in August 2013. A nationally accredited culinary expert with strong ties to the south Florida community, Birk brings his European training, vast international knowledge of sustainability, finesse with local ingredients and passion for vibrant, healthy cuisine to the kitchen of Area 31.
Previous to Area 31, Chef Birk was the executive chef at Cooper Avenue in Miami Beach, but he truly made his mark on Miami with the opening of Casa Casuarina, the former Versace Mansion in 2005. Chef Birk’s international culinary expertise includes such establishments as the two Michelin starred Rino Casati in Cologne, Germany; the four star, four diamond Condado Plaza in Puerto Rico; Stefano Battistini’s widely acclaimed Colors in New York; along with the five star Carenage Bay Beach & Golf Club Resort in the Grenadine Islands.
Birk attended the Culinary Institute for Hotels and Restaurants in Pescara, Italy, graduating with honors in 1989. He went on to the Culinary Institute for Hotels and Restaurants in Cologne, Germany and earned a coveted position at Rino Casati, with a two star Michelin rating and Pane e Vine, holding a one star Michelin rating.
What are the staple ingredients in your kitchen?
Pork, vinegars, good EVOO, maldon salt.
What is your all time favorite dish to eat? To cook?
Love to eat and prepare salads with lots of everything in there (fruits, seared protein, mustard, lemon, a mix of greens, avocado, local boiled egg, cucumber and so on), as well as a piece of fish seared and fresh vegetables.
Who is your biggest culinary influence?
Jean George Vongerichten. His food is clean, simple, straight forward but very modern in plating and very interesting flavor profiles. And working with Stefano Battistini in NYC, who opened my approach on daily work with staff and ingredients.
What are your favorite and least favorite food trends right now?
Favorite: Just came back from Europe and fermentation is a big new trend.
Least favorite: Fusion cuisine and foams.
What is your first memory of food?
Good mashed potato with chicken jus at home.
What is your guilty food indulgence?
Swiss chocolate, cheeses, cured meats.
Other than your own, what’s your favorite restaurant in Miami right now?
NAOE from Kevin Cory
Describe the Area 31 experience in 3 words…
Visual, Nourishing, Hospitable.
What does “Chef Driven, Ocean Inspired” mean?
I am able to design and create my menus, get my team involved and not focus too much on standardized menus or product placements. Area 31 is all about seafood so as we create our menus we are inspired by the sea, our fish mongers and sustainability.
What is your favorite thing about living in Miami?
The influence of Latin America and the Caribbean provides unique ingredients.