Culinary Power Players

Shareef Malnik

The Forge is more than a restaurant; it’s a landmark that played a significant role in the revival of Miami Beach. So it’s no wonder that when owner Shareef Malnik closed its doors for renovations in early 2009, the city’s elite were left with a gap in their schedules and hunger pains in their stomachs. The reopening can’t come soon enough. As news trickles out that the Forge is gearing up to unveil its new décor, those in the know are working themselves up into a frenzy in anticipation. While he is mum on the details, Shareef has an eye for design, a love for luxury, and an inherent knowledge about what it takes to make a restaurant last. He grew up in the Forge; His father, Al Malnik, opened the restaurant in 1968, and Shareef joined the team when he was just 13. He took over the operations in the 1990s, after he returned to his hometown from extensive world travels (during which time he married a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family). Today, Shareef is the epitome of Miami Beach royalty, the Forge is his kingdom, undergoing a renaissance.

Haute Living: How long have you been in Miami? What neighborhood?
Shareef Malnik: Miami Beach. I attended Miami Beach Senior High School, University of Miami Business School, and UM School of Law. I live in South Beach on Ocean Drive.

HL: Which restaurants do you currently operate?
SM: I am just finishing renovating The Forge in Miami Beach and in the process of designing The Forge in Dubai.

HL: When did you first become interested in a career in the restaurant/culinary industry? What about it sparked your interest?
SM: Having traveled with my family, I have been influenced by restaurants around the world. My father opened his first restaurant when I was 10 years old and it fascinated me.

HL: Who taught you the tricks of the trade in this industry? What are some of the lessons that have stuck with you?
SM: I have been working in restaurants since I was 13 years old. I started peeling potatoes and have worked on every station. I feel that while I have been a student in the hospitality industry all my life, one never stops learning. There is a new challenge and reward every day.

HL: What type of crowd do your restaurants and cuisine appeal to?
SM The Forge is intentionally designed to appeal to a diverse crowd. It’s all about quality and a great time. It’s about community and people feeling like they are at home; not in their dining room, but in their living room with friends.

HL: The restaurant industry is always changing. How do you continually attract the attention of elite diners in Miami?
SM: I consider every diner elite and special. We attract everyone, from those with discerning tastes in food and wine to the culinary novice. A key element of my restaurant is accessibility. We have crafted a place that offers a variety of experiences for everyone.

HL: Who is behind the designs of your establishments?
SM: Designer Francois Frossard.

HL: Other than your own, what is your favorite place to dine in Miami? And around the world?
SM: I have great memories of dining experiences, from street food taquerías in Mexico City to the courtyard at Plaza Athénée in Paris.

HL: Describe your dream restaurant.
SM: I am attempting to built it as we speak.

HL: What are some of the strangest requests/special orders that you recall?
SM: There is no request I consider strange and they are all special.

HL: What has been the impact of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on the local culinary scene?
SM: It put Miami on the culinary map.

HL: Where was the last place in Miami that you went for fine dining?
SM: Palme d’Or at the Biltmore—an exquisite journey though French cuisine.

HL: When not in your kitchen, where would we find you on a Friday night?
SM: Floating around in my dining room.

HL: You never leave home without…
SM: My iPhone.

HL: Describe Miami in three words:

HL: What’s your favorite pastime?
SM: Adventure sports, design, and dining.

HL: What are your predictions for Miami’s restaurant scene in 2010?
SM: Aside from our local talent, Miami is finally beginning to attract talent from around the world. Miami now has many great restaurants rather than just numerous restaurants.

HL: Miami is quickly becoming recognized as a culinary force to be taken seriously. Why should an Haute Living reader choose to dine at your restaurant?
SM: We offer a multi-layered restaurant experience with great attention to detail. When you come, we hope you will agree.