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This month, restaurateur Stephen Starr took home a pair of James Beard awards—the Oscars of the culinary industry. Starr, who is perhaps best known for putting Philadelphia on the culinary map, has expanded his universe far beyond his hometown, bringing his unrivaled flair for food scenes to New York, Washington, D.C. and here at Bal Harbour Shops with the cult-favorite Japanese restaurant Makoto, helmed by Chef Makoto Okuwa, and the contemporary French Bistro, Le Zoo.

"People need different places and different scenes to keep things fresh," says Starr, who has appeared as a guest judge on Bravo's Top Chef and was featured on Sundance Channel's Tastemakers series. "It's all about offering an exciting variety of experiences. Everyone out there wants to be the first to try something new."

Though he currently oversees more than 30 restaurants in five states, it all started for Starr in 1995, when he opened Continental Restaurant & Martini Bar in Philadelphia. In 1998 he opened Buddakan, still one of the hottest tables in town, which has been exported to New York City and Atlantic City.

Morimoto followed in 2000, which he opened with Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto, which also has an outpost in New York’s Meatpacking District. Since food and environment are the pillars of a great restaurant, Starr tapped Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando to design Morimoto, while sought after interior designer Christian Liaigre designed New York’s Buddakan.

Many, many more restaurants later, and Starr continues to reign at the top of his field. Beyond the wait lists of adoring fans—which is perhaps the greatest accolade of all—he earned two of the James Beard Foundation’s top awards: Outstanding Restaurateur and Best New Restaurant for Le Coucou.

If you haven’t already enjoyed the Starr experience at Bal Harbour, book your table at Makoto and Le Zoo today!

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