Culinary Power Players

Michael Chow

Known for his MrChow empire, Michael Chow has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years. His restaurants specialize in highly sophisticated Beijing cuisine and have flourished in the world’s hottest cities, including London, Beverly Hills, New York, and Las Vegas. His creative visions go beyond the culinary world to include the worlds of design and architecture (and seemingly some psychic abilities, noted by his keen eye for predicting trends). In August 2009, he and his beautiful wife Eva brought their special brand of haute Chinese cuisine to the W South Beach, further elevating the notion that Miami’s dining scene is worthy of national praise.

Haute Living: Where are you from?
Michael Chow: I was born in Shanghai.

HL: When did you first become interested in a career in the restaurant industry? What about it sparked your interest?
MC: I opened MrChow in London in 1968. I wanted to open a restaurant to show the West how sophisticated Chinese cuisine is, and show how misunderstood Chinese food is amongst the general Western public, who grew up thinking that Chinese food was only what they could order from small, local Chinese restaurants. China is a big country with many regional, social, and occasional levels of food. Our intention was—and still is—to bridge the gap between East and West.

HL: What type of crowd do your restaurants and cuisine appeal to?
MC: Our restaurants have always attracted an extremely creative and open-minded crowd. On any given night, you will find a collection of artists, actors, musicians, and other public figures dining in a MrChow restaurant. The vibe is extremely high-end and sexy, and it attracts people who like to feel like they are a part of the action.

HL: The restaurant industry is always changing. How do you continually attract the attention of elite diners in Miami?
MC: We don’t have any specific clients in mind. People love those who love them. We are very fortunate to say that we enjoy certain creative, artistic, and beautiful client followings in different cities. They appreciate our efforts, whether that is bringing the best star chefs from China or designing and investing to create a restaurant space that lasts decades. We are always working hard to recreate ourselves and yet still maintain consistency.

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?
MC: I agree that the culinary scene in Miami is growing tremendously. MrChow offers guests authentic Beijing cuisine, and we have introduced several new dishes at the Miami location that blend in perfectly with the classic menu items. Anyone looking for a genuine culinary experience will certainly find that at MrChow.

HL: Who is behind the designs of your establishments?
MC: We do our own designs. I attended the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, where I studied and fell in love with architecture. I am extremely involved with every aspect of my restaurants’ design, and my wife, Eva, is a tremendous influence on me. Eva and I work very closely on every aspect of design.

HL: Other than your own, what is your favorite place to dine in Miami?
MC: We really enjoy Casa Tua.

HL: Describe your dream restaurant.
MC: MrChow Miami.

HL: What are some of the strangest requests/special orders that you recall?
MC: When we had to serve 80 people individually, course by course.

HL: Where was the last place in Miami that you went for fine dining?
MC: Before we left Miami last week, we had a great breakfast at the Setai.

HL: When not in your kitchen, where would we find you on a Friday night?
MC: Friday evenings you can find me at a local cinema.

HL: Tell us something about you that no one knows.
MC: I am like a book. Everyone knows me but may not understand me completely.

HL: You never leave home without…
MC: A picture of my daughter and my mini tape measure.

HL: Describe Miami in three words:
MC: Hot, interesting, and sexy.

HL: What’s your favorite pastime?
MC: I enjoy watching films and visiting museums.

HL: What are your predictions for Miami’s restaurant scene and culinary trends in 2010?
MC: I am very hopeful and optimistic about Miami in every way, including the outlook for the restaurant scene.

HL: What is the most elaborate meal that you have prepared for a guest in one of your restaurants?
MC: We recently hosted the Cartier Art Basel dinner. That was a very beautiful elegant dinner.