Chef Jean Paul Lourdes has quite a unique pedigree. Not only has he cooked in four restaurants with three Michelin stars, but he has a degree in biochemistry from University of Paris XI with which he spent five years creating fragrance in France’s esteemed perfume industry. It is with this diverse background that he helms the Marion, a chic new European-style grand café in Brickell, and the adjoining El Tucán, a Cuban-style supper club that is just what Miami has been missing. The two are owned by Michael Ridard and Mathieu Massa of Mr. Hospitality, which also owns Bâoli restaurants around the world. The name Marion is the group’s ode to Massa’s sister, a stylish French woman who serendipitously brought the two partners together many years ago.
HL: So let’s get this out of the way. Your name makes you sound like a French chef, but you are from New Zealand.
JPL: Yes. My mother was from Madagascar, so there is French heritage, but I’m not French and I don’t try to be. The owners, however, are French,
and their sensibility comes through in the interiors.
HL: Marion seems to be an ode to all great culinary things.
JPL: It is. We have cocktails by Bar Lab, European-style rawseafood platters from the raw bar, charcuterie from Spain, France and Italy, an in-house baker, a pastry chef and some rotisserie chicken, which is su- perb.
HL: We’ve heard people raving about the chicken.
JPL: We use a very high-quality bird, and then we
inject it with a brine, as opposed to just soaking it in
a brine. And then we have this wonderful rotisserie, so it’s about as exciting as you can get with chicken.
HL: Do you approach cuisine in a different way having a chemistry background?
JPL: It’s definitely helped me with complexity. Perfumes have many ingredients and different layers. That’s how I create and structure dishes. There’s always a foundation, another flavor and then one component that brings the two together.
HL: Marion looks very fashionable. It has beautiful gardens, great design inside and even pretty bathrooms. You are also a fan of fashion; how do you bring that to the table?
JPL: Presentation is very important in regards to a dish. People eat with their eyes before they eat with any other sensory of their bodies, so it’s important that the food looks good. After that, of course, the other senses come into play, but attention to aesthetics helps me construct shapes, colors, dimensions and things like that.
HL: What are you doing with El Tucán?
JPL: It’s a totally different menu with a Latin-American flair. My only experience living and working in South America was a short stint in Brazil, so much of it is based on my research and interpretation of those flavors. I’m not trying to replicate authentic dishes, and I don’t want people to compare it with what their grandmothers made. These will be original dishes with Latin flavor profiles and ingredients.
HL: What is the most important thing that you learned working in Michelin-rated kitchens?
JPL: How to structure a kitchen in terms of setting it up. The structure creates the consistency that allows restaurants to not only receive — but keep their Michelin stars. That’s probably been the most important thing I’ve taken away.
Photography by Eduardo Ford
1111 SW 1st Ave., Miami, Fla. 33130 (786) 717-7512 marionmiami.com