Grammy award-winning singer Pharrell may have been fired from three different McDonald’s as a teen, but that didn’t stop him from opening what has become one of the hottest restaurants in Miami.
The singer hosted a soul food brunch Saturday (Feb. 22) along with his dad Pharaoh, a self-taught chef, known for his sweet and spicy Nono Sauce, as part of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Growing up, family meals were the heart of the Williams home, a place to “hear what’s exciting at your parent’s job.”
“Cooking is a reflection of your parents, the energy, the love. Food is a connector and it’s a meeting place,” Pharrell told The Associated Press during an interview before the brunch. Back home, Pharaoh Williams was always in the kitchen and so were his grandmothers. Favorite dishes included his dad’s chicken and pork and fried catfish with a special sauce that Pharrell says was more savory than spicy.
“His seasoning was what was always so distinctive with my dad’s cooking and both my grandmothers cooked like that,” he said. At Saturday’s sold-out $150 per ticket brunch at the upscale Swan restaurant in Miami’s design district, they served platters of cornmeal-crusted catfish with chow chow, juicy BBQ chicken and ribs, cheddar grits and French toast with candied oranges and amaretto whipped cream.
Back in the kitchen, a team of chefs hustled to carry out Pharaoh Williams’ menu, pulling mini sweet potato biscuits out of the oven and crusting copious plates of catfish. Fellow Grammy winner DJ Khaled, and former Breaking Bad co-stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul were among the guests savoring the food on a tropical jungle style patio.
Happy to leave behind his fast food days, Pharrell opened Swan restaurant and its swanky upstairs Moroccan-themed Bar Bevy in 2018 with South Beach nightlife guru and LIV club owner David Grutman. The restaurant has been a hotbed for celebrities, especially during the Super Bowl and recent Art Basel weeks, where everyone from Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West to Leonardo DiCaprio and Bono have indulged.
Grutman and Pharrell partnered with Top Chef Europe champion executive chef Jean Imbert for their restaurant, while Pharrell works on the side with a line of food products for his father. But the “Happy” singer is clear about his role in the restaurant business — he happily stays out of the kitchen.
“I didn’t cook then. I don’t cook now,” he laughed, adding “I love food.” He has a deep appreciation for the culinary arts, comparing it to “the same way I work in music. You’re adding different sounds and things together,” he said.
“Ingredients are like instruments. It’s how you use them and it’s who’s using them. That’s what makes one song different from the next, one style different from the next.”