Interview: Chef Robert Siegmann of Miami's Icebox Cafe

If it’s not fresh, it’s not on the menu
58-year-old Robert Siegmann, is the owner and principal chef at Miami Beach restaurant, Icebox Cafe. His philosophy of “If it’s not fresh, it’s not on the menu,” was and continues to be unique to the area and has made Icebox Cafe a true Miami Beach hot spot. He takes pride in his menu, which shows his affection for farm to table offerings.
The Daily Meal: How did you get into cooking?
Robert Siegmann: I grew up in Mexico City and from a young age, spent time in the kitchen, helping out with the daily chores and over the years, l realized how much happiness and satisfaction I gained from the creativity of the kitchen environment. This excitement led me to my first cooking gig at the age of 13 when I catered a surprise dinner party for 130 guests!
Do you have a specialty dish?
Each item on the menu at Icebox Cafe has a specialty twist whether it be a preparation style or ingredient based on the season. Right now, I am loving the Curried Chicken with Roasted Vegetables. While it has become an Icebox Cafe staple, it is only recently that I “revisited it” and was blown away by the depth and intensity of the curry. Super flavorful and satisfying. .
Do you prefer a particular style of cooking?
I love all kinds of foods but tend to gravitate to those cuisines which include a lot of fresh vegetables, I.E. Thai.
What kind of atmosphere do you create in the kitchen?
The kitchen is for creativity and positive energy. As chefs and as a culinary team, we have the ability to take our diners around the world without leaving Miami. We work to bring energy out of the kitchen and into the restaurant, which is supported by our open-kitchen design.
What do you look for when you hire other chefs to assist you in the kitchen?
Mostly good attitude, good communicator, and creative
Have I missed anything that you feel is important that you would like to add?
I would like to add that I have been the culinary lead and menu curator since we opened our doors on Miami Beach almost 20 years ago. I love being in the kitchen and working with the team to bring our dishes to life on a daily basis. I’d also like to mention that, outside of our famous desserts, Icebox Café’s menu is inspired by worldly flavors and ingredients. I have worked to create an eclectic menu with dishes that take influence from the Mediterranean, Asia, the Middle East and North America.
What is your favorite spice? Why?
Any spice with heat, ie. cayenne, chili
What keeps you in cooking?
It’s my creative outlet. Some people paint, others write music. I cook and when I don’t cook I’m still thinking of food.