John Critchley

John Critchley

Some of the best seafood in the world comes from Fishing Area 31, which includes the waters surrounding Florida. So, when the owners of Epic Hotel in Miami decided to open a seafood restaurant, it only seemed natural that they would name the place Area 31. And it was only natural that they would hire a chef with the skills to showcase Area 31's bounty. John Critchley was their man.

He grew up in a small fishing town on the south shore of Boston, so Critchley knows good seafood from bad. And his culinary background assures that this guy knows how to cook it beautifully. His first big break came at Ford's Colony Dining Room in Williamsburg, VA, where he crossed paths with the legendary Jean-Louis Palladin. He later moved on to work with Marcel Desaulniers at the Trellis Restaurant across town.

But the biggest influence in Critchley's career came when he returned to Boston to work with reknowned chef Ken Oringer, first at Clio and later at Uni Sashimi Bar. “It was a no boundaries way of cooking,” he says of working with Oringer.

The two traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia, even cooking at the Gourmet Food Festival in Bangkok with superstar chefs such as Francois Payard, Michael Ginor and Todd English. When they returned, they opened Toro, a Boston tapas bar, which Critchley ran for two years while responsible for its Spanish, small-plate menu. Now in Miami, Critchley is calling the shots and Area 31 is doing swimmingly well.