Southern hospitality and West Coast cool at Art & Craft

Laurence McMillon has worked in the food industry all of his life.  His family owns several restaurants in Washington D.C., and right out of college he opened his first restaurant in Atlanta. He went on to work in San Diego and New York City but now calls Miami home. Currently the general manager of food and beverages at the Adrienne Arsht Center, he oversees all food and beverages as well concessions and catering at the center’s restaurant Brava!. Alongside two other core team members, McMillon hopes to bring his years of experience will help him launch a new that’ll bring a little bit of art, a little bit of craft, and a whole lot of flavor to Miami. 

Art & CraftWhy do you want to open this restaurant in the A+E District?

I love and live in the area. I live 3 blocks away from the Adrienne Arsht Center, so it’s the community I already live and work in. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to open my own restaurant here for a while — I was looking in Wynwood a while ago. I want to be a part of a community that’s going to grow around me. There’s going to to be a community that emerges here. They’ve been putting on great events at Canvas, and it just seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of something — to watch a neighborhood grow around you. I feel the same thing that happened in Brooklyn is going to happen here.

What makes you qualified?

I have a lifetime of food and beverage experience. I opened my first restaurant when I was 18 years old, and my family owns several restaurants in Washington D.C. When I went to Atlanta for college — I went to Georgia State University — I got the opportunity to open a small bar, and then I opened two more. In addition, I’ve also worked at the Yankee Stadium and Barclays Center in New York. I’ve worked at PetCo Park in San Diego. I’ve done both very large things as well as mom and pop things, so I’ve got a bunch of different experiences.

What inspires you?

The culmination of my travels and the places I’ve worked all over — Atlanta, Brooklyn, San Diego. With this restaurant, I’d bring the cool, laid-back vibe of San Diego, the Southern flair and hospitality of Atlanta, and the artistic community of Brooklyn.

Tell me a little about your restaurant idea and your team.

Overall, we have an artistic vision of food, craft cocktails, and craft beer. The last component of our concept is a cocktail, wine, and beer list, all curated by Evan Hawkins, who will be a partner in Art & Craft. Evan and I met more than 10 years ago while working at Opera nightclub in Atlanta. He was the bartender. Our other partner, Joey, was a sous chef at the nightclub that we worked at, as well. 

What are some of your biggest challenges your current position at the Arsht Center?

Staffing, maintaining guest satisfaction, keeping clients happy. There are really a lot of very high-profile guests that come into our restaurant. Some of our guests are people who have donated a lot … and they come here all the time, so we really deliver good service and keep them happy.  

How do you overcome challenges?

Hard work. That means 18-hour days — just roll-up your sleeves and jump into the trenches. There’s never anything too small or too big. If a dish has to be washed, I’ll wash it. It’s important to be hands-on and jack-of-all-trades.

What’s your favorite Miami restaurant?

Yardbird. Having gone to college in Atlanta, I have a need for Southern food and Yardbird is probably one of the best places to get that in Miami.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

Candied pork belly with cheddar polenta — it’s a dish from a gastropub called Holeman and Finch in Atlanta. When I took a bite, all the flavors just exploded in my mouth. Everything was very well put together. It’s a simple dish, but one you want to come back to over and over again.

And the worst?

Well, it probably shouldn’t have been a meal, but I’ve eaten a full meal in a movie theater. I’m talking those cheese and nachos and those hot dogs. Yeah, it probably shouldn’t have been a meal, but it was.

I’m hungry now. What should I eat for lunch?  

Come to Brava! at the Adrienne Arsht Center and have the Bacardi oak heart rum cured short rib. It has the traditional flavors of short rib with added the sweetness and spice of rum that just melts in your mouth.