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Willa Ford

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FOOD The waterfront restaurant gets a pricey renovation and Chef Michael Gilligan The NEW Rusty Pelican Words by Marla E. Schwartz • Photo Credit: Michael Pisarri After a five-month, $9 million, head-to-toe renovation, Key Biscayne's The Rusty Pelican, reopened with executive chef Michael Gilligan at its helm. Because of Gilligan's eclectic career path, he was Specialty Restaurants Corporation's (SRC) —owners and operators of the waterfront establishment—prime choice. Gilligan's diverse culinary adventures began immediately after graduating from The College of Food and Arts in Birmingham, England. He worked as an apprentice chef at Michelin starred restaurants in France, England and more, until he came to America, where he worked in five-star/five-diamond hotels in New York City. He opened a few of his own restaurants, headed over to South Beach's Rumi, and then the W South Beach, before finding his current post. The Rusty Pelican's sign can be seen as you drive along the Rickenbacker Causeway. Nestled around a boating area, this iconic hotspot is at the end of the pier and boasts breathtaking views of downtown Miami's skyline. The menu is Gilligan's blend of modern American cuisine, offering small plates, delicious courses ideal for sharing, and the classic grill dishes, that the restaurant's reputation was founded on in 1972. As a recipient of a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, for its wine list, The Rusty Pelican showcases a glass cube wine cellar with 1,500 carefully culled vintages, a variety of microbrews, and creative signature cocktails ($10-$13) including, Biscayne Julep, Virginia Key Punch, Strawberry Mule, Agave Sunset, and Gold Ginger. In honor of this exceptional dining establishment's recent 40th anniversary, its renovation and hiring of its new executive chef, the culinary expert himself, Michael Gilligan, agreed to answer a few questions for Miami Living. Miami Living: How were you approached to become The Rusty Pelican's executive chef? Michael Gilligan: Well, part of that $9 million was for me! Only joking --actually SRC was working with the Brustman-Carrino PR Company, who had represented me in the past and they put us together. 74 MIAMI LIVING ML: Does the current menu honor regular, long-time patrons? MG: The menu is completely different, so the past regulars are in for a nice surprise. The good thing about being here is that EVERYONE in Miami knows The Rusty Pelican. ML: Do any British foods appear on the menu? MG: I have a GLT sandwich on the menu {Grouper, Lettuce, Tomato} for lunch and a GLT slider for dinner, which is beer-battered and served with a caper-lime remoulade. Fish and chips with tartar sauce really. ML: Did you create the menu alone or did other people pitch? MG: Most of the dishes are my own creations, but I worked on them with my sous chefs Jimmy Pastor & Natalia Garcia and we changed a few things with their input. They are very good. ML: You've had such an eclectic background; did you bring any of the Spanish, Indian, British, French or Asian influences from your past experiences into your current menu? MG: The menu is a mix of all of the above, apart from Indian, but I am working on a few things for the new menu. I like to see it as a sample of Gilligan's greatest hits! Most people ask me what my specialty is. I still don't know! ML: If diners order appetizers during the holidays – would you suggest the sublime Miami caprese salad and the baked crab cake or something else? MG: They're sure winners to start out with. I would also put the eel & foie gras in there and the ceviche and the pork belly skewers, oh and the croquetas… ML: Does the menu change a little bit to reflect the holiday season? MG: The menu has changed four times since we opened. The changes aren't drastic as there are some dishes we just can't get rid of —otherwise we would have a riot on Virginia Key.

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