Where do you live?
Upper East Side/ Belle Meade area
How long have you lived in the area?
Here only a year, before that in Coconut Grove for three years
Where are you originally from and what brought you to town?
I was born in Miami, but I grew up in Boca. I moved back to Miami six years ago after college in Orlando. I missed being close to family and obviously Miami’s ‘tropicalness’ and the fruit.
Please share about what you do for a livelihood or what keeps you busy during the week?
For work – I am doing a lot of consulting for new restaurants and personal chefing. I have previously worked as a chef and sous chef – in the hospitality field.
Where have you worked since you moved here?
When I first moved to Miami, I was a line cook at Michy’s for Michele Bernstein – That’s how I met Zak The Baker. She was one of the first chefs to use Zak’s bread. At that time, I wanted a second job so my chef at Michy’s introduced me to Zak. Zak said- I am opening this café, do you want to help me? So, I helped open the bakery and create the menu for the first year.
And then, the Broken Shaker was opening a new restaurant called 27. I left Zak’s to help open 27. I became the sous chef there for 2 years. After a short break, I took on a project called St. Roch Project in the Design District – which was one of the first local food halls to open. I helped open it from the ground up. Now, I am helping friends, doing some catering, and a little traveling.
Do you have a favorite food travel destination?
Definitely Peru! One of my best friends is Peruvian and introduced me to the cuisine. I’ve been twice. I just went two months ago. I love seafood and tropical fruit. Peru has a mix of my favorite foods. I love Ceviche – especially spicy ceviche – with raw fish, lime, and peppers. I could eat a bowl of ceviche, breakfast lunch and dinner. It’s refreshing, salty and spicy, and not filling
What trends do you notice in Miami’s food scene?
I think a lot of chefs are starting to utilize more vegetables- focusing on main dishes that don’t feature animal proteins. It’s good for the environment and it’s good that they are opening their eyes to different ways of composing a plate. At the same time, there is a burger battle going on. I see lots of chefs trying to recreate the classic burger. A few years ago, burgers were about adding short rib and truffles. Now, chefs are trying to make a simple burger focusing on the bun, meat, cheese and sauce.
Also, the bread community is Miami is growing. Now we have options like Zak The Baker, Sullivan Street, Madruga, True Loaf.
What is missing from the food scene?
I would like people to do more pickling and fermenting. That’s what I like to do.
What surprises you about Miami’s food scene?
In a good way – I think it’s pretty small. Everyone knows each other. We don’t have so many options like New York and California. We can support each other, it’s a great community.
What are the greatest challenges to Miami’s chefs?
Our climate is a challenge. It’s hard when you want to use great local ingredients in the summer and can’t find fresh local vegetables. It can be expensive if you are locked into finding certain ingredients. If you accept the challenge and use what we do have, like incorporating tropical fruits or preserving and pickling vegetables in winter, you can work around the seasons.
What are good questions to ask when we go out for dinner?
If you are eating seafood, ask where it is from. While chef’s have access to local fish, they don’t always use it. At 27, we worked with Trigger seafood – so we would get what ever fresh catches he had. It takes effort to get good seafood. Maybe if more people asked, chefs would try harder.
What chefs are doing something special that we need to know about?
Ghee. Chef Niven is a hometown hero. A bunch of my old cooks from 27 work for him. They treat them well and are like a big family. They are developing approachable Indian flavors to Miami while being true to their culture and background.
Do you have a food philosophy?
I am ingredient driven. I like to see what’s local and fresh and then decide what to make. I am also very drawn to the Mediterranean style of cooking which is very simple and fresh. Letting the ingredients speak. I also like middle eastern – with lots of spices and bold flavors.
Why do you cook?
It’s always been something that comes naturally to me. Nothing else felt so simple and without worry. My grandma was a caterer for over 30 years. I watched how she did weddings and bar mitzvahs. We got to talk about food and cooking for other people. I love that food brings people together.
How often do you come to the market?
Once a month. Now that I am more north, I go to the market at Legion Park – but they need more options.
Do you have a market ritual? If so, please describe.
What’s your favorite thing to buy at LNB Grovestand and why?
Definitely, the Turmeric Concentrate. It’s just so damn good. This morning I put it on my fruit salad or you can add it to soda water for a beverage. Sometimes, I’ll steam coconut milk and add it to make a latte. You can use it in so many ways. Turmeric is great as an anti-inflammatory and they don’t sell a product like it anywhere – in any grocery store. It’s so unique and worth all the time you put into it and whatever it costs. I think it’s fabulous.
What have you made with ingredients bought at LNB Grovestand?
In the past I have used Jackfruit to make a crudo. I like to use fruit in savory dishes – along the lines of using what’s available and being creative. I used your carambola recently for and event where I made a coconut chutney carambola salad and topped it with your curry leaves – which I quickly fried.
What’s your favorite thing to buy at other stands at the market?
Zak’s bread and Bee Heaven. Margie always has interesting things. The other day – she had the cotton candy fruit. You guys and Margie are the best peeps at the market. I wish the market had more local meat. I was in Minnesota last month and they had fresh buffalo and bison.
The best deal in Miami:
I look for quality. The Ghee tasting menu for $55 is great. On the menu it says three courses – but you get several dishes for each course. They have two locations now. It’s cool to go to both, they are a little different.
I wish Miami had:
As a chef, I wish we had more farmers and more people bringing things up from Homestead. If we had more people like you guys and Margie we would have more to choose from.
For special occasions, I go to:
27 is a unique place in Miami. When people are in town, it’s where we go. It’s a fun, cozy – not fancy, they have great cocktails. I am pretty simple – I really like Lucali for pizza on Sunset Harbor. I would be happy to go there for my birthday and just have a pizza. I also think what Jeremy Ford is doing at Stubborn Seedis beautifully plated and tasty and good for a special occasion.
A worthy splurge:
In the restaurant industry, a day off is a spurge. A lazy day at the beach feels like a splurge.
I like to hang out and cook with friends at home. I also love to go to yoga when it rains, especially if you can hear the rain. I’m getting closer to 30 and as I get older, the less I want to go out and the more I want good conversation and to stay home with my people.
Do you participate in any community or philanthropic events that you would like to share?
All Day Foundation, started by friend Caroline Strauss and the owners of Broken Shaker, does a lot in the hospitality industry leveraging their connections and raising awareness for children in need. They have lots of events at bars and places around town like a Friendsgiving event in November where you can try lots of foods from different restaurants.
Is there a question that you would like to ask the LNBs?
Do you want to get your product to more people? What limits do you find getting your products to more people outside the market?
(A+W) We launched a mid week local pick up for our Tonics. Order online and pick up at 144th and US1. We will be adding a Coral Gables pick up location soon.
If you would like readers to be able to contact you, how should they get in touch?