From tossing pizzas at age 15 at a Little Caesar's in suburban Chicago to creating the "perfect" omelette for Henry Kissinger's visits to New York's La Cote Basque, chef Kerry Simon has earned an international reputation as one of the country's most innovative and respected chefs Now, in his newest venture, as executive chef of Kenneth Jaworski's restaurant, Mercury, opening July 1996 in Miami Beach, Simon takes his quarter century's worth of culinary expertise and training to its highest level yet, unleashing his true passion for high-style, yet basic, "modern American" cuisine.
A graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Simon has worked "the line" alongside some of the country's most outstanding toques, modern-day masters of the culinary arts such as Andre Soltner of Lutece, Jean-Jacques Rachou of La Cote Basque, and Jean Georges Vongerichten of Vong and Jo Jo., Like Vongerichten, Simon's cooking relies on the simplicity of lightly steamed and sauteed foods, replacing the traditional basics of French cooking such as butter, cream, flour and essentially, heavy, thick sauces, with vegetable juices, vinaigrettes, flavored oils, and broths. Says Simon, "By using a handful of simple sauces and broths, the diner is able to experience food's natural,intense flavors, and as a result, the dishes themselves, end up lighter, fresher." Devised from the best locally-raised produce, Simon balances a menu of rich, seasoned foods with a selection of light, yet highly inventive, dishes. Typical of his approach are his slow-cooked 12-minute salmon with roasted root vegetables and wild mushrooms, and his pistachio-crusted grouper with tarragon carrot broth and julienne of snow peas -- dishes that encourage the senses to explore and even meditate upon the flavors presented.