Before There Was Food, There Were Cigars

Geoffrey Zakarian is a cigar enthusiast

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Broken Palate is partnering with Kittch, the first live-streaming community for the food-obsessed officially debuting later this month. We're kicking things off with a handful of conversations from the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, in which chefs and restaurateurs talk about what’s up next and what they’re excited about right now. Check out our channel on Kittch for more.


For Geoffrey Zakarian, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival was a family affair. The celebrity chef, best known for Food Network shows like Chopped and the Kitchen, hosted a fashion show with his wife, Margaret, and a book signing with his daughters, Madeline and Anna (The Zakarians also have a son, George).

The chef visited South Beach on the heels of the announcement of a new show he is hosting on Food Network. The show follows a competition format with a twist: Zakarian, himself, is offering $250,000 of his own money to invest in the winning would-be restaurateur. The show, titled Big Restaurant Bet, airs on Food Network and Discovery+ starting April 5 and follows eight chefs competing for Zakarian’s seed money to make their restaurant dream come true.


The show follows a competition format with a twist: Zakarian, himself, is offering $250,000 of his own money to invest in the winning would-be restaurateur.


Broken Palate caught up with Zakarian at the W South Beach, where he was relaxing with a cigar. The conversation turned to cigars: the history, the culture, and the ritual of them. It turns out that the dapper chef gets his love of cigars from his father. “He was a musician, he worked two jobs, and after a gig, he would have a cigar. I always saw him, sort of like, come down and relax. I picked up the same habit at 16. “

Zakarian says that cigars have a wonderful cultural and social aspect to them “It’s part of my DNA as hospitality. Anything where you sit and chat — that’s me. That’s what I like.”

He says his passion for cigars even predates his love for food. “The cigar is something I developed a taste for long before I was ever interested in food.”