Not too long ago, we told you about the wonderful experience we had at Drunken Dragon during their newly launched brunch service. We loved everything about the ingenious menu that stayed true to its Korean influence. We continue to be smitten by everything about Drunken Dragon and it was only fair that we highlighted chef de cuisine, Xavier Torres, on this edition of Chef’s Corner.
Growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Torres found a love for food through family, when he began experimenting in the kitchen with his mom was a kid. As a young adult, Torres decided to move to Miami, and enroll in Johnson and Wales for a culinary education. Later, an internship presented itself in Ireland and Torres jumped at the chance to study abroad under Chef Paul McDonald at Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort, a leading five-star hotel.
Shortly thereafter, Torres continued to pursue his passion and embarked on his career working in the kitchen for Sushi Samba, Wish, and Nobu. The apprenticeship under his mentor Thomas Buckley from Nobu inspired Torres to to dive further into the culinary world and he continued his career opening Zuma and later opening The Dutch. Torres’ career highlight? Working for Martin Berasategui, the Basque chef and owner of the eponymous restaurant in Spain, which has been awarded three Michelin stars since 2001.
In 2014, the stars aligned and Torres was introduced to the partners behind a new Asian concept rolling out into the Miami market, Drunken Dragon by Homecookin Hospitality Group. Torres was appointed Executive Chef and given full creative control. Fast forward to today and Drunken Dragon is a beloved restaurant in Miami receiving multiple awards for its cuisine and design elements.
Can you tell us a bit about the new Drunken Dragon brunch menu?
Our brunch menu consists of a variety of dishes that will take your taste buds on a tour of Southeast Asia with unique flavor profiles that can’t be found anywhere else. Drunken Dragon also offers traditional brunch items such as Steak & Eggs (using Korean short ribs or lemongrass sausage,) French Toast, Belgian Waffles, and, of course, bottomless mimosas with seven different varieties to choose from.
What are the staple ingredients in your kitchen?
Gochujang, which is used in most Korean cooking. Gochujang is a savory, spicy, and pungent fermented ingredient made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. Other staples in my kitchen include fish sauce, which is fermented fish with salt water, and shrimp paste, which is made from fermented ground shrimp and mixed with salt.
Who is your biggest culinary influence?
My biggest culinary influence would be Chef Thomas Buckley from Nobu Miami Beach. He basically taught me everything I know, from how to make a simple tempura batter to running an entire kitchen.
What’s your take on the current Miami food scene?
I think Miami is turning out to be quite the culinary city. I remember when I got to Miami in 2004 and there were no gastropubs or real fine dining restaurants. Now, Miami is growing and people are understanding how to execute detailed restaurant concepts. I can use Drunken Dragon as an example; when we first opened in 2014 most of our costumers didn’t understand our concept, which is table side cooking, and now everyone feels a lot more comfortable with it. I think Miami has a lot of potential to continue to bring new restaurants concepts to its people.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I knew I wanted be a chef when as a kid. I started to cook for my brother after school, when we used to make Philly Cheesesteaks and Rice & Beans with Bistec Encebollado.
If you had to pick one food item to best describe yourself, what would it be?
The best item to describe myself would be a sandwich. I always say that everything tastes better when it’s between two slices of bread.
What’s’ the one condiment you can’t live without?
FISH SAUCE. I F**** LOVE FISH SAUCE. Fish sauce gives an umami taste to any dish. It’s used in most of my cooking at Drunken Dragon.
Drunken Dragon has found success in South Beach (where most restaurants have a short shelf life.) Can you tell us your secret to staying hot and relevant?
Everything we do at Drunken Dragon has been tested, studied, and tried several times before it’s introduced to our menu. Our goal is to deliver mouth-watering food that will have everyone saying, “we really need to come back for this,” as they’re leaving our restaurant. We really believe that maintaining consistency is key for our restaurant’s success. Every single dish that goes out to our dining room is taste tested by the chefs.
Where do you see Drunken Dragon a year from now?
I see Drunken Dragon growing and expanding in the local culinary scene as well as adding new locations in top cities across the U.S.
What is your favorite thing about living in Miami?
I love Miami. First, the weather is great and I think Miami is an epicenter where all cultures meet.