Welcome to our new Dish Miami series, where we get up close and hilariously personal with Miami’s chefs, delving into the flavors, stories, and passions that shape the city’s culinary landscape.
For our inaugural interview, we sat down with Peter Vauthy, a culinary leader known for his iconic Miami steakhouse, RED South Beach. Since 2008, RED South Beach has been synonymous with exceptional dining experiences, blending passion into every dish and extending dedication to every guest.
Chef Peter Vauthy, at the helm of this gastronomic haven, has redefined the steakhouse experience for over a decade, showcasing a notable commitment to excellence in all things food, staff, and diners. But beyond his accolades and delectable cuts of Certified Angus Beef Prime, Vauthy’s journey is a tapestry of unexpected turns—from a serendipitous entry into the culinary world to getting wildly drunk with legend Anthony Bourdain (but that’s a story for another time).
As we unravel our 20 questions with Chef Peter, expect tales of ambition, meditation, humorous moments at Red, and glimpses of the joy that propels him to create sensational dishes for the Miami community. Dig in.
- If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To be able to slow down time.
- What is your favorite guilty pleasure food?
My favorite guilty pleasure food has got to be just a messy, juicy, delicious cheeseburger. Finding that anywhere is a tough thing to do.
- Where do you go in Miami for the best cheeseburger?
The best cheeseburger, to go in and eat inside the restaurant, has got to be Cheeseburger Baby.
- Where do you go for the best cafecito?
We call it “the window.” It’s this little cigar shop [SoBe Prime Tobacco] that’s on the beach. It’s next to Nick’s Pizza on 1st Street. If I need that fix, that’s where I go. The cafecito there, when I need that jolt in my life, is the spot.
- Are you a dog person or a cat person?
Both, but I don’t own cats at the moment. I was a loyal cat owner, when I had my house, and before I moved to Miami. Now, I am a dog person, but I do love them both. I currently have two dogs.
- What’s one item on your bucket list?
I’ve had the honor and privilege of getting to travel a lot. I think my big bucket list item would be to visit French Polynesia.
- What’s your most irrational fear?
A ticket machine that keeps printing tickets that won’t stop. [Do] you want to know what keeps a chef up at night? That’s it! When you have a nightly dream, it’s the machine just not stopping. With what’s happened over the course of the last five years, you’d think I’d have another fear. But this is it. It’s a chef thing. That’s the nightmare of nightmares.
- What was your first ever job?
I was a cook at Ponderosa Steakhouse at 15 years old. The fact that I came back around to the food industry after that experience is a miracle upon miracles. That job showed me an end of the food business that I’ve never seen since.
- What’s your number one pet peeve?
That things don’t work outside of my restaurant the way they work inside of it.
- Who inspires you?
Before he retired, it was my father. Now who inspires me is the people I work with. The people around me inspire me every day with their dedication and their work ethic. It’s my business partner and the fact that he juggles his day job (which is what we call it even though he’s a big-time corporate attorney) and the restaurant. It’s my chef de cuisine who has had challenge after challenge and still proceeds to come in here and do the job at a high level. That’s my inspiration on a day-by-day basis.
- Where do you take out-of-towners for sightseeing?
Well, let’s preface this by saying I can’t stand out of towners [who] come here and think I’m on vacation too and want to be entertained. As my friend says, “I work where you vacation.” If I have the time to wine and dine people, I’ll take them to Smith and Wollensky for drinks and the view and Alabama Jacks if we’re heading to the Keys. It’s one of those things that’s survived Miami’s growth, and I hope it never leaves. We lost a lot of things as Miami’s grown up.
If it’s a friend from college, I’ll take them to the Deuce, just because you need to go to the Deuce every once in a while to have that Miami bacteria on you. The fact that they shot a Miami Vice episode in there gives me a thrill beyond belief. I’m a huge Miami Vice fan. When I was a kid, Miami Vice was on Friday nights, and my parents were always out [on] Friday nights, so I stayed up and watched it even though it was an inappropriate show for a kid to be watching. I had a thing for Miami from a long time ago.
- Call or text?
Text for sure. If you’re calling me, it better be something serious.
- What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen happen in one of your restaurants?
You wouldn’t believe some of the things that happen in restaurants. Something that’s funny and kind of PG-rated that happened at RED is that a very, very wealthy gentleman, whose name I will not give you because you would know him right off the bat, came in one night with some ladies. He was showing off for them, and at the end of the night, he accused us of stealing his credit cards and a huge wad of cash from him. We had to show him on the cameras that he had been robbed by three hookers.
- What is your favorite ingredient if you had to choose only one?
The ingredient that speaks to me the most is a fresh, organic, heirloom tomato. Right now, since tomatoes are coming out of Florida, you can get some of the best local, organic heirloom tomatoes you’re ever going to have, starting now until the middle of March.
- You posted some videos on Instagram during your meditation. Do you still meditate, and what’s your practice like?
I do meditate. I have to remind myself each and every day how privileged I am to live in a beautiful area and to be in the position I’m in. Usually, my meditation is in the afternoon, weather permitting. I’ll go home, change, take my bike, ride down to the water, find a nice spot, and sit there and take in the sun and the ocean’s energy and kind of get my head straight.
The things that happen to me on a daily basis are always crazy. The other day, the guys working in the restaurant next to me cut the power here at 10 a.m. We had no power until service. So, my meditation practice is going down to the water, finding a quiet spot, and soaking it all in. I try to get myself to a place where my brain is clear of the clutter and I can get up and go back to work in a proper head space.
- What’s your favorite cut of steak and why?
That’s a very easy one. My favorite is a ribeye. Ribeyes have the most flavor. There’s no point in having a steak at the level that we serve here–or anywhere–and not getting this. “Fat equals flavor” is one of those chef things that people say. I want a nice, marbled, delicious cut. And that’s just me; a lot of people don’t like the fattiness of a ribeye, but if I’m going to have a steak, I want the ultimate steak-eating experience, and for me, that’s a ribeye.
- RED is one of America’s top 10 steakhouses. What’s the one thing you attribute most to your success in the industry?
I think it’s the passion that I bring to the table and that rubs off on the people around me. Because of my passion, they want to work with me, and I want to work with them. One of my bartenders has been with me for 15 years. My chef de cuisine has been with me for seven years. Another sous chef started off as a dishwasher and worked his way up, and he’s been with me for 12 years. I have people on staff who have been with me for a long time. That’s the thing. It’s a family here. If one of us is hurting, we’re all hurting, and if one of us is doing well, we’re all doing well. We cherish that. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my staff here. I can be the greatest chef on the planet, but I realized a long time ago that if the people around you don’t respect you and know you’ll go to the mat for them, you’re done. So, success here is based on the fact that the people here know I love the food here, and they love it back.
- If you were a character in a movie, what would your theme song be?
My work theme would have to be the theme song from The Sopranos. Restaurants are like family, and I feel like we’re in a mob situation sometimes. Outside of work, it would be Eyes of the World by The Grateful Dead, which is a very uplifting, beautiful song. Even though I don’t do a lot of work, when I do, it’s kind of the other side of me when I’m not being a tyrant in the kitchen.
- What’s your favorite city in America?
Well, I’m getting Miami into my blood, having been here as long as I have, but it’s got to be New York City, what New York offers, the different little enclaves of food and people, and things like that. It’s probably also why I love Miami so much because Miami has the same things, too. So, I love the fact that you can go to New York, be in different areas, and have different experiences inside the five boroughs. That’s something that’s super, super special.
- What’s one thing that can always make your day better?
That’s easy, my dogs. They can always make my day better, and they’re the best thing to go home to. I live by myself, so when I walk in the door and see those two little monsters there, they always make me happy.