In what part of town do you live?
How long have you lived in the area?
I’ve lived in Florida most of my life. I was raised in the Redland, on our farm, and then moved up to Palmetto Bay for high school. Now, I live in the house across the yard from where I grew up.
Would you share a little bit about how you spend your week?
I spend a few days on the farm harvesting fruit, a day in our commercial kitchen making everything for the market, and then recently, since the market was canceled, we spend the weekends at our new drive through store.
What is a day on the farm like? What do you do?
I usually start on our home farm, which is 15 acres, to walk around and get going. There is a little bit of everything there. We have multiple farms, so I go to different properties depending on what’s in season. By the end of the day, my truck bed is full of fruit. It’s a lot of foraging, harvesting, hauling, and processing. Processing is essentially removing the seeds and pulping it, making it smoothie ready so that I can use it throughout the whole season.
What has changed on the farm from when you were a kid until now?
We used to have a lot more lychees and longans because the weather was cooler. We also used to have a great citrus collection with tangelo, pummelo, and kumquats. Now we have crops like turmeric, roselle, and fruits like guava, papaya, passion fruit, and one called pitomba, that’s like a tiny peach. We’ve always had fruits like jackfruit, mamey, sapodilla, avocados, canistel, and starfruit. For others, these might be exotic fruits, but they are like grapes and apples to me. We’ve always been the fruit people, so you’re likely to go home with a box of fruit when you visit our home.
What do you enjoy most when you’re on the farm?
It is physical, mental, and spiritual. I like being outside. I like the hunt- finding that tree ripe jackfruit. I’ve gotten really good at it now. I don’t even have to touch it, I can usually tell by the color of the skin.
Do you have a favorite fruit?
If I had to choose one – sweetheart lychees. They have a tiny seed so there’s a lot of flesh and we freeze them whole and eat them like popsicles all year.
What is a day in your commercial kitchen like?
It is amazing to work there. We have all sorts of equipment that makes it more efficient. It’s gone from it taking more than 24 hours to produce our Turmeric Concentrate to less than four hours. We have a cookie machine now that makes our new turmeric chocolate chip cookies. Serendipitously, the machine came with a heart shaped die. It’s a full working bakery that allows us to develop products as fast as we can envision them.
How did you get into cooking and would you share a little bit about your cooking education?
I have always loved cooking. I grew up in a family of four siblings and we lived on a farm, so we cooked everything fresh out of the garden. Chefs would come to our farm looking for exotic ingredients and we cooked every night. Going out to dinner was never as good as cooking at home. I was so passionate about cooking, that I ended up going to cooking school at Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island and studied Culinary Nutrition. Now, I can apply those skills by making products out of what we grow.
What new things on the farm are you thinking about using in your recipes?
There are so many ingredients to choose from. My dream is a restaurant in the middle of the farm where you actually pick your meal and cook it. We have chickens now. That’s a big project that my brother has undertaken and the organic eggs are phenomenal. There’s a bit of a controversy in my family – do we eat the chickens? I’m currently working on a turmeric hummus and I think green jackfruit is next. Green jackfruit can resemble the texture of meat when cooked and seasoned properly but it’s hard to process because of all the sap.
When you are developing a new smoothie flavor, what are you trying to achieve?
I’m trying to achieve the ideal flavor of the fruit. For the Papa Jack smoothie, I mix multiple jack fruits from different trees because every jack fruit has a different taste- some like pineapple, some like banana or melon. It is the blend of multiple jack fruits that keeps the taste consistent. Adding a bit of passion and papaya enhances the flavor. It’s figuring out what works based on what’s in season.
What do you enjoy most about doing the market – or now, the drive through store?
It’s so fun. It’s the culmination of all the work that we’ve done that week. I feel grateful that we have the farms and the opportunity to share things we make with the community. Sharing fruit is what I have been doing since I was a kid.
What’s it like at the end of the day, after a market?
We talk about the market, about the people we saw and the stories they shared. That’s what started this newsletter. We would sit with my grandma Lois on her patio, which is where we live now, and talk about our market stories. She said you have to write these down! You have to introduce these people to each other!
How many markets have you done?
Over 500 markets. And, it’s still special every time.
Outside of the market and farms, what do you enjoy doing?
I love being with our ten-year-old, Mateo, and our dog, Ripple, and spending time with my family. Lately, it’s been wonderful to be so involved with Mateo’s education. I feel like I’m doing fifth grade again. Having him home and being together on the farm is really awesome. He is so helpful and he’s learning to drive on the farm, following me as I’m picking jack fruits.
When you do go out to eat, what restaurants do you enjoy?
When we get to go out again, I look forward to Lan Pan Asian. I love Kazu and Johnson and I hope that we can have avocados again for them. They’ve been using our produce for several years. Around the corner from our house is Hole in the Wall. They have a great blackened dolphin sandwich with a really decent portion of mahi. And, great French fries – ask for them extra crispy.
Where do you go for a special occasion?
My gift for a special occasion is usually cooking a delicious dinner for our family to enjoy together.
What’s Miami’s best kept secret?
Frice’s Ice Cream. No one has been able to capture the essence of our fruits in ice cream the way they do. Everything that they’ve made from Mamey, Canistel, Jackfruit, to Golden Milk with our Turmeric has been amazing. It’s such a treat to have them at the market and now at our store too!
What’s a worthy splurge for you?
Clothes. Not that I am a shopper. I’m either on the farm or in the kitchen and neither of those things really require much of a wardrobe. So, buying clothing for myself is a splurge.
What do you like to do when it’s raining outside?
Pick fruit. And just keep pulping.
Where’s the most romantic spot in Miami?
On our farm at dusk.
What advice or a challenge would you like to pose to the community?
Not a challenge but a thank you. Thank you for supporting us for so many years. Thank you for coming to the market and our new store. Thank you for growing with us and enjoying what we make. You make everything worth it.
How can people be in touch with you?