When it comes to esoteric, effortlessly cool hobbies, Top Chef season 13 champion Jeremy Ford puts the rest of us to shame. The native Floridian and recent Michelin star-winning chef of Stubborn Seed is also a spearfisherman.
But while spearfishing definitely looks and sounds preternaturally cool, to hear Ford tell it, it’s actually pretty easy.
“I’m not a great fisherman — pretty terrible, actually,” Ford tells InsideHook. “So when I realized I couldn’t catch anything with a pole, I thought I would take my chances, dive into the water and use my hands (and a speargun) to catch some fish.” But after acquiring said speargun (Ford likes Riffe), this hobby’s barrier to entry is apparently pretty low.
“Anyone can spearfish!” says Ford. “You really just need to get the equipment — a speargun and a snorkel mask — and have a good set of lungs. The rest is all up to you, how well you can hold your breath underwater and how good your aim is.”
At Stubborn Seed, Ford is known for his meticulous yet unpretentious cuisine, with techniques gleaned from his time training under Chef Dean Max and helming the kitchen as executive chef for the opening of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s the Matador Room at the Edition Miami Beach. At home, however, he opts for simple approaches, with a focus on grilling all year long.
“Miami is the city of endless summer, so I’m lucky to have warm weather most of the year to grill,” he says, “but I especially love the bounty of fresh vegetables that come with the hot summer months. Summer squash, ripe heirloom tomatoes, corn on the cob…all those taste so good when cooked on the grill.”
And of course, he’s also grilling a lot of fresh fish.
“Living in Miami, surrounded by the ocean, you really grow fond of eating fresh fish,” he says. “I’ll take any chance I get to grill something we just caught.”
To grill like this pro, start things off by making sure that the coals are nice and hot. “A lot of people make the mistake of not heating the grill appropriately before you get cooking,” he explains. Your patience will be rewarded with fish that releases far more easily from the surface of the grill.
Next, turn your attention to the fish itself: with its delicate flesh and flavor, it’s best treated with care. Ford recommends oiling the protein rather than oiling the grill to ensure a clean, fresh-tasting final product.
“When you oil the grill directly,” he says, “sometimes that oil can burn and leave a bad taste on your food. If you brush oil directly on the fish then you avoid any strange burnt-oil taste.”
Most importantly, remember that when grilling fish, less is more.
“Fresh fish is best kept simple,” he says. “Grill it with some light olive oil, good sea salt and pepper, maybe throw in a couple of sliced lemon wedges and that’s all you really need to bring out the best flavor of the fish.”
And if that doesn’t impress your guests…well, that’s what the speargun is for.
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