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It wasn’t always a life goal for Ilkay Suuctugu to be a chef, but once she stepped foot in the kitchen, there was no going back. Born and raised in Turkey, Suuctugu studied Culinary Science and Hospitality Management before moving to America to work as a Prep Cook for the Marriott Hutchinson Island Beach Resort, Golf & Marina. She barely knew English then, but by 2010, after a lot of hard work and talent in the kitchen, she had worked her way up to Banquet Chef, where she was executing large-scale events at that same property.

Fast-forward to 2019, when Suuctugu’s skill and determination led to her appointment as Sous Chef at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, as well as Sous Chef of Tropicale at The Miami Beach EDITION, and later, Executive Sous Chef of all The Miami Beach EDITION’s food and beverage outlets. In between, she assisted with the opening of The Bodrum EDITION (Turkey) and The Times Square EDITION (NYC), was named Global Chef of the Year 2018 for all Marriott International properties and was even selected to present as part of an Executive Tasting Panel for Marriott Chairman Bill Marriott and CEO Arne Sorenson.

Today, Suuctugu reigns as Executive Chef of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Matador Room. And while we still have her here in the Magic City, we sat down with the rising star—because a star is exactly what she is—to find out more about her life in the kitchen. Here’s what she had to say:

DO: “What inspired you to become a chef? Do you remember the moment you decided to make it a career?”
IS: “Becoming a chef was not my plan. However, when I landed in a kitchen, I felt at home and found my comfort zone. With each day that passed, my passion for cooking grew. It was then that I decided to pursue a career in the culinary world.”

“Coming from Turkey, what was the biggest challenge you faced in becoming a chef in the United States?”
“Being from a different background, the language barrier was the biggest challenge. Also, as a new cook, I had to learn different techniques and cooking methods I didn’t know before.”

“Do you have a favorite dish on the menu at Matador Room? If so, what is it?”
“My favorite dish on the menu is the Crispy Octopus with a toasted seed yogurt dressing. It reminds me of home!”

“What’s the one kitchen tool you can’t live without, and why?”
“My Chef’s Knife is one of my most precious kitchen tools, as each recipe requires a specific cut in order to be executed properly.”

“What is your absolute favorite thing about helming the kitchen at Matador Room?”
“It means so much to me to be able to inspire and motivate my team and share my knowledge with them. My hope is that, by working together, they all become better chefs.”

“What advice do you have for other female chefs trying to get where you are today?”
“I say this to any female chef: You should speak up and have your voice heard! Don’t be shy or compare yourself to others. Let people see who you truly are and what you are capable of. Although kitchens are mostly run by men, we as women shouldn’t be scared to show our skills, accomplish our goals, and be successful, too.”

By Jennifer Agress, a contributing writer

miami beach edition

We just LOVE the Miami Beach EDITION {2901 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach; 786.257.4500}. On any given day of the week, this five-star beachfront hotel (a project by none other than famed hotelier Ian Schrager) is bustling with beautiful people lounging by the pool or sipping cocktails at the secluded outdoor Tropicale bar. But we must say that one of the main draws to this swanky hotel is its restaurants, Market at EDITION and Matador Room, both under the watchful eye of chef extraordinaire Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Market at Edition

Market at EDITION, the more casual of the two (with equally impressive and quality fare), is a take on a gourmet marketplace, where you can just as easily order something grab-and-go as you can sit down for a leisurely three-course meal. The chic open space is essentially a series of food stations, which includes a raw bar, a charcuterie station, a sushi bar, and a gourmet pastry station featuring freshly baked cakes of all flavors.

market at edition

Be sure to start off with a cheese and charcuterie spread, where you can mix and match selections of specialty cheeses such as Burrata and Manchego, meats such as Spicy Coppa and Chorizo, and fish like Pickled Herring and Smoked Sturgeon.


Other menu highlights include the Hamachi Crudo with crushed olives, lemon, and dill; the flavorful Mushroom Garlic-Parsley Oil Organic Farm Egg Pizza; the Florida Snapper with bok choy and ginger dressing; and the fan-favorite Cheeseburger with Russian dressing and yuzu pickles.

market at edition

And the best news: Every Monday, guests enjoy 20=percent off dinner tabs from 6-11pm—a Miami Beach steal that pretty much can’t be beat.

Oh, and don’t miss out on Market’s Miami Spice menu, which is available for lunch and dinner daily through the end of September.

By Sherri Balefsky | Miami Editor

Matador Bar

Matador Bar

It’s no surprise that the Miami Beach EDITION has emerged as one of the hottest spots in Miami. Since its debut last fall, this Ian Schrager-branded property has attracted the jet-set crowd who are drawn to the hotel for its modern design, unique amenities (including an onsite nightclub, ice skating rink, and bowling alley), beachfront location, and gourmet restaurants. More than the flavor of the month (or the 2015 season), the EDITION’s staying power is based on the strong partnerships Schrager has been cultivating since his Studio 54 days.

Case in point: The Miami Beach EDITION’s food and beverage program is overseen by culinary tour de force Jean-Georges Vongerichten, one of the most innovative and respected chefs in the world. Let’s put it this way: You won’t be seeing him hawking spices on The Food Network anytime soon. When Jean-Georges and Schrager first announced their collaboration at The Miami Beach EDITION several years ago, Miami foodies were abuzz with excitement. The result? Two impressive eateries: Matador Room {2901 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach; 786.257.4600}, an upscale Latin-inspired restaurant, and Market, a gourmet marketplace eatery that transitions from breakfast to lunch to dinner seamlessly.


Market’s interior

Matador Room is an elegant homage to a more glamorous, bygone era, when dining was less about taking pictures of your food and more focused on savoring the entire experience.

In both cuisine and concept, Jean-Georges has honored the heritage of the original property— the former Seville Hotel—as well as Miami as a whole. His Matador Room is an elegant homage to a more glamorous, bygone era, when dining was less about taking pictures of your food and more focused on savoring the entire experience. The fare is a sophisticated sampling of regions spanning from South America to Latin America, the Caribbean, and, of course, Miami.

Matador Room’s highly shareable, tableside menu features classic Jean-Georges dishes, such as his umami-spiked Black Truffle and Fontina Cheese Pizza, and the much Tweeted-about Sweet Pea Guacamole (even President Obama weighed in on the Great Pea Guacamole controversy earlier this summer). Plus, the kitchen deftly utilizes a wide range of locally sourced fish, vegetables, and fruit, showcased in dishes like the Raw Shaved Florida Red Snapper with green chile dressing, crunchy rice, and herbs; Crispy Florida Black Grouper Tacos with aïoli and cabbage-chili pickle; and Swank Farm Root Vegetables with brown rice and salsa verde.

Avocado and Jalapeno Pizza

Avocado and Jalapeño Pizza

This spring, Jean-Georges visited Miami from his home base in New York City, experimenting with Executive Chef Jeremy Ford to create lighter, more refreshing fare like Roasted Heirloom Carrots with spiced yogurt and hazelnut nasturtium crumble; Soft Shell Crab with sugar snap rémoulade; and Sausage, Lemon, Ricotta, and Kale Pizza. “Jean-Georges is truly a legend,” Ford notes. “His presence at the restaurant was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. He was very hands-on in the kitchen, always striving for excellence.”

The food is undoubtedly the star at Matador Room, rivaled only by the restaurant’s sumptuous ambience. The bar area, the first point of reference for diners, is adorned with a multitude of bull fighting scenes by famed French photographer, Lucien Clergue. This leads into the uniquely oval-shaped main dining room, which is cozy, stylish, and romantic. The timeless vintage chandelier is the centerpiece of the room, another piece of history from the original hotel.

Just a few steps outside, the Matador Terrace is awash in tropical greenery, from sky- high bougainvillea to hanging staghorn plants, for the ultimate alfresco dining experience. This is where you’ll perch during lunch on Saturday and Sunday brunch, relaxing with fare like Coconut Pancakes with grapefruit and lavender maple syrup or Poached Eggs with mushrooms, Parmesan, and herbs—as well as bottomless Bellinis, of course.


Speaking of libations, ask the sommelier for custom wine pairings, or choose from a selection of Spanish-influenced, handcrafted cocktails, including the tequila-based Mexican Bull. The bar also offers light bites such as Jamón Ibérico de Bellota and Peekytoe Crab and Corn Fritters with smoked chili tartar sauce. To end your meal on a sweet note, ask about the Mint and Basil Panna Cotta with raspberry sorbet and Florida peaches, or the Tres Leches Cake with glazed carambola.


For a more casual, flexible dining experience, Market at The Miami Beach EDITION is the spot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. Also under Jean-Georges’ purview, this open-plan eatery entices with charcuterie, patisserie, grill, and raw bar stations. Market transitions from day to night with everything from Egg White Omelets and Buttermilk Pancakes to New York Strip Steak and Angel Hair Pasta with asparagus pesto. A coffee bar ensures that guests are always fueled with a wide range of beverages, from cappuccinos to herbal teas. There’s also a gourmet “Grab and Go” section for food and drink on the run.

“Jean-Georges is truly a legend.” – Executive Chef Jeremy Ford


The cake counter at Market

Most importantly, each of the “pods”—the standalone food stations within Market—is dedicated to a particular specialty. For example, the raw bar displays a veritable treasure chest of seafood spanning East and West Coast oysters, littleneck clams, lobster, Florida jumbo shrimp, local red snapper ceviche, and stone crabs (when in season). Order at your counter of choice, or from Market’s extensive menu in the dining room. Either way, you’ll see the freshest of ingredients being prepared right in front of you. And because the concept is communal and interactive, you’ll be bonding with your fellow diners about signature items like the to-die-for Kale Salad or the impossibly moist Carrot Cake.


Dessert is also treasured at Market, with its own devoted pastry pod featuring house-baked cupcakes, croissants, muffins, seasonal fruit pies, salted chocolate chip cookies, dark chocolate brownies, and guava cream cheese doughnuts, to name a few. There’s also homemade ice cream and soft serve with custom toppings like crystallized lavender. Are you drooling yet?

Clearly, you’ll never go hungry at The Miami Beach EDITION. Whether you are dressed to the nines for date night in the swanky main dining space at Matador Room, or sharing a quick cheese and charcuterie platter at Market, there is something delicious for everyone, at every price range—thanks to the genius of Ian Schrager and Jean-Georges. Bon appétit!

By Jacquelynn Powers Maurice | Contributor