The life and career of Kerry Simon has indeed been fraught with controversy, contradiction, surprises and creativity-- accent on creativity. As with all great artists Kerry's career has involved seizing the moment and using it to ones best advantage.Couple this with a curious sense of adventure and you will have the basic ingredients that took Kerry Simon from aspiring rock musician to "Rock n' Roll Chef " to culinary master.

In his late teens an interest in performing with a rock n' roll outfit and the need for a new electric guitar pushed Kerry to a summer job at a Little Caesars pizza restaurant in Chicago.This "summer job " spawned a newfound interest in cooking and in a time where most of his peers were

experimenting with drugs, Kerry spent his "midnight hours " experimenting with recipes from the Julia Child cookbook. At 20 Kerry enrolled in the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. An apprenticeship at three star chef Jean Morels' L'hostellerie Bressane provided monetary support and many hands on lessons in the basics of French cuisine. Upon graduation Kerry packed those lessons along with the rudiments of his culinary intuition and moved to New York.

Although Kerry's arrival in New York was not met with fanfare, recognition came with invitations for long hours of hard work under such culinary luminaries as Jean-Jacques Rachou of La Cote Basque and Andre Soltner of Lutece. These assignments lead to a position as personal chef for John Addey at Canonbury House in London, England. Then Kerry returned to New York to work as personal chef for the family of money mogul Saul Steinburg.

Kerry's next move was to seek out the mentorship of another culinary master, Louis Outier. This landed him at the now defunct Lafayette restaurant in New York's Drake Hotel. At the Drake Kerry formed a synergistic, creative relationship and friendship with another rising culinary star, Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

In 1988 the Lafayette received a four star rating. Holding pastry chef and sous-chef positions, Kerry's contributions to the burgeoning " New American " cooking movement placed him among the young, culinary, elite and in 1989 the "spotlight" called in the guise of Ivana Trump. It only took one meeting between Kerry and Ivana for them to agree that Kerry should be executive chef at the Edwardian Room in New York's high profile Plaza Hotel.

Slowly, celebrities and food writers began to show up to sample Kerry's daring creations. But, it was Kerry's good friend, Paige Powell of Interview magazine and a bag of Dungeness crabs that would raise Kerry to the status of culinary star.Very simply, Ms. Powell and her friends wanted Kerry to prepare some Dungeness crabs. They also wanted to dine in the kitchen. Kerry obliged. The next day more friends of Ms. Powell's phoned to request kitchen dining privilages. Kerry, once again, met their wishes. Soon Kerry's kitchen was booked two months in advance -- the hottest spot to dine in New York City. By reinstating the age-old tradition of a chef's table in the Edwardian Room kitchen Kerry attracted celebrities such as David Bowie and Iman, Matt Dillon, Diane Keaton, Debbie Harry, INXS and David Lynch. Also, Kerry began a trend that reinstated chef's tables in kitchens throughout many fine restaurants in the United States.

Critical response to Kerry's special brand of culinary genius was more than positive, however, being the youngest executive chef in the history of the Plaza Hotel, Kerry did become the target of the ever watchful eye of gossip columnists in New York papers such as the Post and the Daily News. When asked to name his culinary creations Kerry set aside his normally humble demeanor and dubbed his work "wild food". And when Rolling Stone magazine named Kerry one of the top personalities of 1991 he became known as the "rock n' roll chef".

By 1992 Kerry had risen from recognized culinary talent to celebrity chef. His recipes were featured in magazines and newspapers such as Vogue and the New York Times. Food writers from as far away as Japan wrote raves for the Edwardian Room and Kerry's "wild food". Though some would have viewed their fame as the high point of their career, Kerry knew it was only the pinnacle of his tenure at the Plaza Hotel. So, when Ivana left the Plaza management team, Kerry chose to leave as well.

Hungry for adventure, Kerry traveled through Russia, Europe and the Far East settling in at Miami Beach's Raleigh Hotel: poolside. The Blue Star began Kerry's foray into what he named comfort food -- comfort food was simple American fare prepared with the intuition of a master chef. Mashed potatoes became wasabi mashed, meatloaf was prepared with the addition of veal and simple, yet, exquisitely seasoned barbeque sauce.

The Blue Star was an immediate and enduring success, as was Starfish, Kerry's next South Beach establishment. The menu at Starfish was an extension of the Blue Star menu featuring more products from the sea. Housed in a speakeasy once owned by Al Capone, Starfish's ambience combined local color with Kerry's ever widening celebrity following.

In December of 1994 Kerry created Max's in conjunction with restauranteur Dennis Max. Extensive research was done to ensure that the menu would be unique, yet, reflective of the comfort food movement that Kerry had originated. Kerry's intuition and hard work were rewarded when noted food writer Jon Mariani named Max's one of the best new restaurants in the United States. Kerry's final Miami success, Mercury, was developed with noted graphic designer-cum-restauranteur Kenneth Jaworski. Mercury's menu drew from every facet of Kerry's extensive career and matched the restaurant's polished, adventurous decor.

In the same sense that New York had won Kerry a seat among the culinary elite, Miami cemented his position in this arena. He was not only recognized as a master chef, he was seen as a driving force in the food movement.

In 1998, Kerry phoned long time friend Jean-Georges Vongerichten to discuss an opportunity that he (Kerry) was investigating. From this dialog it was decided that Kerry should join Jean-Georges' organization and would function as cuisine and design developer. This new challenge encompassed every phase of restaurant development.

Kerry has traveled the world developing and opening or overseeing restaurants in Las Vegas, New York, Hong Kong, London and Chicago. Recently, Kerry left his duties as executive chef/partner at Prime in Las Vegas and partner at Mercer Kitchen in New York to open 'Simon at the Hard Rock' in the Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas. He expects to open in November.

Currently, Kerry is developing ideas for a television production of his own, researching global opportunities and seeking any challenges the culinary world has to offer.

 

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