Meet the man who oversees the house-made pastas and pizzas of your dreams: Tim Piazza. Piazza presides over the new Fi’lia as Chef de Cuisine, which opened at SLS Brickell in October, led by farm-to-table dining extraordinaire Michael Schwartz. We spoke to Piazza here about good food, how the Marine Corps prepped him for the kitchen, and more.
What are you most looking forward to with Fi’lia?
I’m looking forward to helping develop young cooks and making good food. The Miami food scene is just starting to ramp up, and I think it is important for the chefs in this industry to bring up people properly and create a great culture within.
How is the Fi’lia concept different from other restaurants you’ve worked in?
It isn’t far off from what I have done in the past. Fi’lia is a good representation of how I like to cook: using Italian flavors and showcasing great product and technique.
What is it like working with Michael Schwartz?
Chef Michael is a great guy! Ever since I moved to Miami last year he has taken the time to help develop me as a chef. We both share the same mindset on how to approach food and I think that has helped us create a strong relationship together.
What do you love about Italian cooking?
For me, Italian food is not spaghetti and meatballs, even though I would eat it any day. It’s the way that Italians approach food, simple and honest. They don’t go and source crazy ingredients from around the world; they use what is available to them. They may have a fisherman friend that caught some sardines that morning, or a pig butchered at the local market. And another farmer that grows olives and makes olive oil and they make it work. But they make it work in a way where you can taste the pride and passion put into each dish. To me, that is what makes it so amazing—the love!
What made you first fall in love with cooking?
Cooking started at a young age, being around family that always spent time in the kitchen. My grandfather had a huge garden in this backyard and would grow all types of vegetables. I would sit in the dirt with my brother and eat tomatoes off the vine and dunk raw rhubarb stalks in sugar and eat them. My mother would cook for us every night, and it amazed me that she could turn the things that she did into the food that we ate. The question in my head—“how is this done?”—made me want to learn about the culinary world. For me, cooking is not just a job; it is my passion and a hobby, and I love waking up every day and creating a new dish or mentoring someone and watching them grow.
You spent four years in the Marine Corps. How did that experience shape your discipline in the kitchen?
The Marine Corps was the most eye-opening experience of my life. I will never forget the people that I met and the things that I did for this country. The military has taught me that little things always count: staying clean and organized even through the most stressful times, always keeping your eye on the big picture and the result. My experiences and training in the Marines have helped me center myself and focus my time and energy on what needs to get done. In boot camp, they used a phrase: “pain is weakness leaving the body.” I remember that when I’m working 18 hours and want to stop or cooking for and all I want is to sit and breath. But I was taught never to give up and to keep pushing until the job is done.
What were meals like on duty?
Haha, what’s a meal? You mean the five minutes I have to shove some food down my face?! There are some days I’m just so into work I forget to eat, and I have to force myself to stop and eat. You would think that since we cook all day, we would eat too, not the case. Plus I’m always tasting every dish I can, and that alone is filling. Even at home I eat standing up, and my wife will make me sit at the table like a real person.
You recently had a daughter, do you cook all her baby meals?
She is just starting to eat whole foods like avocado and carrots. I haven’t made her anything yet, but let’s hope she isn’t a picky eater.
What’s one dish you can’t live without?
If I had to pick one, it would be pizza. I love making it and eating it. It’s just good.
Make a reservation here, and see you at Fi’lia soon!