Quick Six With...Chef Phil Bryant, Who Brings Southern Food to South Florida

Photo Courtesy of Chef Phil Bryant.

Photo Courtesy of Chef Phil Bryant.

The word "local" has many meanings for Miami restaurant The Local Craft Food & Drink — or simply 'The Local,' as its locals (fittingly) call it. There's one more local element to this welcoming, snug hotspot that serves up comfort food, unique craft beer on rotation, carefully curated small-batch wine selections, and warm spirits. This brand has a commitment to locally sourced food and takes pride in providing guests seasonal, responsibly sourced, quality ingredients. Those dishes can be found updated every day on a charming chalkboard, just as charming as its pub-like atmosphere.

And who is the man behind it all? Meet Phil Bryant, The Local's executive chef and owner. Self-proclaimed to have "an old Southern soul and an appreciation for all things food," Bryant grew up in Stafford, raised in a household where you didn't find a bottle of ketchup on a supermarket shelf, but instead, by canning, pickling, and making it yourself. From the age of 15, he began working in foodservice and fell in love with the restaurant industry. Whether in kitchens across Virginia to kitchens in California, he put the final garnishes on his culinary career and took his Southern food know-how's to South Florida. 

Where exactly does his experience come from? Prior to his Miami move, he soaked up the Southern food scene in Richmond, where he kick-started his professional career. In 2005, he moved to Los Angeles and worked under Norman Van Aken, a James Beard Award-winning chef, where Bryant toiled at every station until he was promoted to sous chef. 

Bryant has revolutionized the Miami food scene. From being the executive chef for Norman's 180 in the Colonnade Hotel, to becoming chef de cuisine at South Beach's Yardbird Southern Table and Bar, to becoming executive chef at 50 Eggs' third concept, Swine Southern Table and Bar, it's clear to see The Local is far from Bryant's first rodeo in the restaurant world.

At The Local, his menu reflects his heritage — scratch cooking, making his own butter and American cheese, is his way of life. Want to learn more about Phil Bryant? Here's what he had to say when we asked him six, quick questions.   

The Quick Six

Foodable: What’s the first meal (that you can recall) that changed your life?

Phil Bryant: In my early twenties, as a sous chef in Virginia, I went to visit my brother, Chef Michael Bryant, in Los Angeles who was a sous chef at Norman's on Sunset by Chef Norman Van Aken. I was invited to dinner by my brother and had one of the most amazing meals of my life. It was the first time I had really seen fine-dining service for myself and that made a huge impact on me. Pair that with a flawless 10-course meal, and I knew I had to find out how to work at this level. It really set me on my first real path in this industry.

Foodable: One ingredient you could not live without?

PB: Salt. Salt is integral in bringing out natural flavors in anything and everything. However, no one should be forced to live without butter.

Foodable: What’s your guiltiest culinary pleasure?

PB: Mayonnaise. I know, I'm the biggest redneck cliché. I will literally find any reason to put mayonnaise on something I am eating. But in my house, it is always Duke's.

Foodable: Best time management tip?

PB: Sit down and write out a list of everything you have to do before you lift a finger. I even do that on my day off.

Foodable: What do you think is the biggest misconception about your role?

PB: Friends and family tend to freak out if they have to cook for me and my girlfriend, Veronica Valdivia. You know, "Oh no, the chefs are coming! It has to be perfect!" People don't realize how much we enjoy a home-cooked, honest meal, made with love. It's the best gift you can give me: a meal I don't have to cook myself.

Foodable: Favorite kitchen hack?

PB: Vinegar. Vinegar is what can make a dish complex. It can balance flavors and heighten ingredients. Acidity is one of the most underutilized tools in our culinary arsenal.