It may seem strange in 2016 to celebrate the groundbreaking achievement of a woman in her chosen field, but the appointment of the very first female executive chef at the landmark restaurant The Forge merits a place in Miami Beach history. That chef, Julia Doyne, shares her philosophy of life and work with South Beach Magazine. She notes, “If someone at work gives you a hard time about being different, whether it’s concerning race, religion, gender, or other reason, put yourself to work. Work harder than you thought you could. Be better than them at the job. Rise above. Use the negativity as motivation to get better; to be the best.” Her positive attitude compels her work ethic, drives her diverse culinary team and fuels the development of new menu items at the city’s most enduring restaurant.
Raised in Cleveland, Doyne credits her earliest inspirations in the kitchen to her mother, who taught her how to bake chocolate chip cookies when she was just five years old. That shared sense of creativity and the warmth of family gatherings inspires Chef Julia to make meals memorable. It may take a woman’s touch to soften the edges of an old school eatery like The Forge, and that essential spark dates back to the chef’s Ohio home. “What I remember most – more than the dishes themselves – was the feeling of sitting down together as a family, and the excitement of trying something new, or enjoying the comfort of an old favorite,” Doyne recalls. “I try to make sure I create approachable food that just tastes great! I want our guests, whether with family, friends, or business acquaintances to come together while they’re eating the food created here. I want them to talk about how good it is, share their dishes, and bond over a memorable experience.”
Miami Beach memories abound at the renowned property. A working blacksmith’s forge in the 1920’s, the business provided ornate iron gates for Miami’s earliest snowbirds; wealthy northeastern homeowners who retreated to their Florida mansions to escape the winter chill. By the 1930s, the building was transformed into a restaurant and casino where celebrities rubbed elbows with Miami Beach’s most influential residents. Owner Alvin Malnik ultimately crafted an opulent showplace, filled with ornate stained glass panels, art and antiques. Transitioning from father to son in the 90s, The Forge maintained a level of exclusivity and glamour with lush private dining rooms, a popular nightclub and a swank cocktail lounge. Recognized by top culinary publications as an award-winning steakhouse, the Wine Spectator also honored The Forge’s eight-room wine cellar where over 300,000 vintages are stored. Al’s son Shareef Malnik shuttered the venue for nearly a year to craft a bold new interior design and add a fully automated wine bar where oenophiles can sample a selection from the celebrated collection. Maintaining a number of popular items from the original menu, the kitchen has also evolved from traditional steakhouse fare to upscale farm-to-table cuisine.
Chef Doyne joined The Forge culinary team along with former Executive Chef Christopher Lee. She was first hired by Lee as a line cook for the acclaimed New York restaurant Aureole, working her way to sous chef and ultimately chef de cuisine. While her earliest training in New York was with celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson, her experience working alongside Chef Lee led to her move to South Florida where she served as The Forge’s chef de cuisine before taking on the leadership role in 2015. Inspired by Florida’s abundant produce, by her extensive travels and by her diverse culinary team, Chef Doyne continues to update The Forge menu. She is currently crafting a number of creative combinations for the Miami Spice dinner series which will preview this month and roll out formally in August. As the restaurant’s first female chef, Doyne forges a bright future for this classic Miami Beach landmark.
Please share your impressions living and working as a chef in Miami.
For a chef, Miami is a city without boundaries. The food scene is growing rapidly; people are ready for more, they’re interested in trying new things, and there are unlimited resources for different products. And living in Miami has serious benefits – the culture, the weather, and the unlimited outdoor activities make it a really great place to live.
What is your favorite thing about being a chef in Miami right now?
Miami is young in the food world. People are exploring new things, tasting new things, and asking interesting questions about food. It keeps my job exciting because I need to keep up with the times.
Was there an AH-HA moment that inspired you to become a chef?
There were several AH-HA moments in my career but I think the defining moment was the first time I worked the line on a busy night. It was crazy. We barely kept up. But as a team, we came together and made the night successful for us, and memorable for our guests. The rush and the teamwork is really what drew me in.
If you hadn’t decided to become a chef, what would you be doing?
I always considered being a math teacher. Or some sort of outdoor adventure tour guide/team builder.
Being named the very first female Executive Chef at the Forge is awesome. Any advice for up and coming women in your profession?
This goes for anyone: If someone at work gives you a hard time about being different, whether it’s concerning race, religion, gender, or other reason, put yourself to work. Work harder than you thought you could. Be better than them at the job. Rise above. Use the negativity as motivation to get better; to be the best. A true chef is blind to differences and will value and reward hard work.
When you’re not at work, where do you like to dine in South Florida?
I really enjoy the small restaurants opening up in the Miami Shores area, as well as Coconut Grove.
What do you think the Miami food scene needs most and what would you like to see go away?
The Miami food scene just needs to keep going down its current path. It’s growing rapidly.
The Forge has a loyal local following but the menu keeps evolving. Tell us about your creative approach to menu development.
I really like to stay in line with the foods in season. I also get inspired by following different chefs on social media, reading magazines, and books. If it looks good and interesting, I want to try it for myself, then put my own twist on it.
When you are cooking at home (for yourself or your friends & family), what’s your go-to dish?
Chicken or steak and A LOT of vegetables. Anything that looks fresh at the market goes into a salad. And I always have pickled vegetables on hand to add a kick to things.
What are the dishes you remember most from your childhood or as a young chef, and how do those flavors influence your cooking today?
My mom is a wonderful cook. She made everything from old European derived classics to new dishes she’d read about in Gourmet Magazine or would watch on a cooking show. What I remember most – more than the dishes themselves – was the feeling of sitting down together as a family, and the excitement of trying something new, or enjoying the comfort of an old favorite. I try to make sure I create approachable food that just tastes great! I want our guests, whether with family, friends, or business acquaintances to come together while they’re eating the food created here. I want them to talk about how good it is, share their dishes, and bond over a memorable experience.
Tell us how your menu is influenced by the produce available in Florida, by your travels, by your current team at the restaurant.
I love using tropical fruits and locally grown produce in different ways, both savory and sweet. When I travel, I always try to eat like a local – that’s where you get the REAL experience. When I get back to Miami, I play with food until I can figure out how to harness the same feelings I was having when traveling and eating. My current team at the restaurant has origins from all over the world. Everyone tastes together and has vastly different inputs, which I take very seriously. I’m lucky to have each and every one of them.
What’s one thing you want diners to know about the menu at your restaurant – perhaps your favorite dish, an unexpected entree or the inspiration behind one of the dishes you decided to include on the menu?
Heirloom Tomato Salad with ramp pesto, burrata, and basil churros is my personal go to on the menu. It’s the perfect balance of sweet, crunchy, creamy, and tart.
The Forge, 432 West 41 Street, Miami Beach 305.538.8533