Miami: Q & A with Evan Percoco, Collins Avenue’s Haute New Chef

Evan PercocoTucked in the back of the adorably-boutique The Stiles Hotel, with tables effortlessly spilling out onto the cusp of 11th & Collins, the quaint and French-inspired Primrose is where culinary creativity meets timeless South Beach chic. An art deco haunt at its core, Primrose is draped in muted gold fabrics and natural wood accents — broken only by subtle, elegant antiques and whimsical pops of bright pink, yellow and turquoise. With the food as inviting as its décor, the Primrose kitchen is helmed by none other than Chef Evan Percoco, who brings his talents to South Beach from A-list locales like Loews Hotels’ L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington D.C., Hard Rock Hotel Orlando and Boston’s BOKX 109 American Prime. Creating a menu of inventive dishes like Sugar Cane Pork Butt and Tea-Brined Chicken Breast & Confit — all of which come paired with select wines, craft beers and handcrafted cocktails — Chef Percoco has revolutionized haute dining on “always-in-vogue” Collins Avenue.

Before he gets any more popular, we stole a moment to chat with Chef Evan about his secret to South Beach success, what makes Primrose so special, and of course, what he loves most about being a chef in the Magic City. Find out what he had to share with us below:

Why did you decide to take on the challenge of opening a new restaurant in South Beach? Opening in South Beach was more of a “Why not?” question for me. I love Florida and always felt more at home here than anywhere else. The authenticity of Miami and its international inspirations makes me feel like I’m living in a different country. I was very comfortable with South Beach being the next place for me to leave another culinary footprint.

Why is Primrose such a gem? Primrose is located in the heart of South Beach, but it doesn’t beat to the same rhythm of the neighborhood. Primrose is a restaurant experience tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Collins Avenue, with the exception of the front porch seats for those that like a little action. I’ve always been fascinated by French cuisine because it’s touched so many regions. Through Primrose, I am able to explore “French colony cuisine” like French-American, French Creole, French-Indonesian and others. I use French techniques and blend it with various cultures and geographic locations; in a way, it’s reflective of the culture of South Beach. Locals and tourists alike come from so many diverse backgrounds.

Describe the most creative dish you have ever come up with. That would have to be the “Decon 3” at Bokx 109 American Prime in Boston. The North American Meat Institute created a numeric guide for all box cuts of beef, my favorite being the  “109” or Prime Rib. In this dish, there are three different muscles deconstruct: ribeye heart, short rib and ribeye cap. Each muscle is cooked using a different technique — braised, wood grilled and seared. Together it’s a red meat masterpiece.

What is your favorite dish on the Primrose menu? “Crispy Eggs and Primrose Bacon” and the “Red Snapper.” A spin on a classic traditional French Salad, the Crispy Eggs and Primrose Bacon features a crispy egg and house-cured bacon paired with a salad of frisée greens, pickled shallots, potatoes, Roquefort and a lentil sherry emulsion. The Red Snapper, a French Indonesian inspired dish, is seared and served with Vandouvan Curry, topped with green beans, knob onion and carrots, and paired with coconut toasted sesame rice. They’re delicious.

Other than your restaurant, what is your favorite place to eat in Miami? I have yet to pick “the one,” but I’m getting there. I’m a fan of small local restaurants with a creative approach to the way they serve food. If I had to pick off the top of my head, I would pick Sriracha House in Miami Beach.

How do you define luxury? How does Primrose fit that mold? Luxury is defined by a state of comfort. To me, it’s not about owning the biggest house on the street or driving the shiniest car on the road. It’s about having everything you need — and enough room for everything you want. Primrose makes luxury accessible. The eclectic, art deco restaurant stays true to the essence of South Beach luxury, but it provides patrons with the comfort of a fine dining experience. The menu is also curated with creative plates that give the dining experience a sense of exclusivity. You won’t find this anywhere else!

Miami is a special place. What do you love most about being a chef here? Miami is a myriad of different cultures and people with different stories to tell. What I love the most about Miami, on a culinary note, is that it’s not a city for the finicky eater. Locals are always interested in trying new places, techniques and creative combinations. It’s interesting because what doesn’t sell in one market, most definitely sells in Miami. The city is also very health-conscious, which is nice since I like to incorporate a lot of healthy, farm-to-table elements into my cooking. And, of course, since family comes first, I love that Miami foodies enjoy “shared plates” or “family-style” platters that allow people to eat and socialize.

When did you know you were meant to be a chef? When I was 16, my first job was at a local restaurant in the south shore of Long Island. I was a dishwasher and a busboy, but there was no denying the love I had for the kitchen. Cooking was love at first sight. I truly admired the role of the Chef at the restaurant and exceeded expectations with every major and minor task he gave me. Once I started, there was no stopping my journey toward becoming a Chef. I love what I do.

Primrose is located in The Stiles Hotel, at 1120 Collins Avenue.