In what part of town do you live?
How long have you lived in the area?
In South Miami – about four months. Prior to that, Los Angeles for four years. Prior to that, Coral Gables for 20 years.
Would you share a little about what keeps you busy during the week?
Trying to stay afloat. That would probably lead into my new position at Fairchild, but before we go into that – during the week, I try to balance work, food, and exercise.
You have a very cool position. Would you tell us about how it came about and what role you have?
Fairchild had great success last year with the Night Garden, which was a light show that occurred for six weeks during the holiday season. It was so successful that the board at Fairchild realized they did not know how to leverage the 82 acres of beautiful land they have. They sought me out, and we created the position of Chief Experience Officer. I’ve been tasked with the job of re-imagining, re-branding, creating new activities and experiences at the garden that will attract a more diverse crowd and engage the community a little differently. And, to have people think of the garden as a place to go and spend the day as opposed to go specifically for an event.
What gets you excited about the garden?
It’s a blank canvas. It has 82 years of history. It’s stunning. The people that work there are passionate about what they do. And, when you talk to one of the 700 volunteers, you feel the connection to the garden.
Have you found a favorite place in the garden?
I have four. One is in the middle of the rain forest. One is under a beautiful piece of art that is a stone archway. The other is sitting right outside my office and listening to the family of cardinals. And, the other is in the parking lot. I begin and end my day there. Whether it’s the beginning or the end, it’s just a wonderful transformation that occurs.
What makes a good ‘Experience’?
It touches as many emotions as possible. Sad, happy, confused, satiated, hungry. I could go on. I think, that the fewer they tap into, the less the experience.
In your past, you’ve used the culinary world as a platform to create experience. Is that what you’re planning to continue at Fairchild?
It’s one of my initiatives. Fairchild is going to launch a culinary division next year. We’re in the process of remodeling and building an industrial kitchen, called the Fairchild Kitchen and Food Lab. It’s going to be a teaching kitchen for both kids and adults. It’s on the tram path so you can hop off and look at the activity happening there. Viking appliances just came on board to sponsor the division. In two weeks, at Ramble, we’re giving people a ‘taste’ (pun intended) of what the division will be like. It’s called ‘Fresh from Fairchild’ and we’re packaging some fruit that we grow on our farm, and a couple of other things that are going to be exciting that will give you a really good idea of what we have in store next year.
How is the Ramble going to be different this year than in past?
You’re going to see re-energized vendors. We’re changing entertainment. We’re going to areas of the garden that we have not gone before. Overall, it’s going to feel a little bit different. But – what’s super important with Ramble is to celebrate the tradition…and I don’t want to screw with something that is 79 years old.
What new things or events are you introducing?
We are having a dinosaur exhibit next year – May to July – every day and every night. It’s going to be fantastic. ‘Roar and Explore’ is the working title. It’s going to provide different experiences depending on the time of day (or night). We’re going to have paleo cuisine incorporated into it. We’re going to have sights and sounds…and pits where people can dig and find old skeleton remains. And we’re going to leverage parts of our garden, like our cycad collection, that’s the most prolific in the world. Cycads grew in prehistoric time.
We are going to activate one Sunday of the month for jazz, volleyball and rosé. We want to make it a place where people want to come and don’t want to leave.
We’re also introducing the Shed at Fairchild, which is going to be an outdoor cafe-ish place, that is a storage shed right now. It’s at the North entrance to the garden, and we’re going to open it up and make it available for people that are walking and riding their bikes. You don’t need to pay admission. You just come, park your bike, sit down and have a cappuccino and a chicken and mango salad …. ‘You’ll be like, let’s meet at the Shed.’
I love that you don’t have to pay to get in. Will there be other things during the year that you don’t have to pay for entrance?
Yes. They’re being developed as we speak and even before the Shed opens, there’s going to be several spontaneous events that’ll happen with little notice.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
That I have the support to let my imagination go and create anything that I think people will want to come and enjoy. My job is to take risks.
Each week, we ask the question – ‘What’s Miami’s best kept secret?’ Very often, people answer ‘Fairchild’ and then say, ‘you know everybody knows about it, they just don’t remember it’s there.’
I have equally as big a smile as a little thump in my heart. We’re really committing a lot to having people know about the garden. And, we’ve just engaged a very reputable agency to help the community at large know what we’re doing.
What did you find at our stand that you enjoyed?
Everything I just described. The people that were working with you were incredible. There was a gentleman on your left, and all he wanted was for me to try something so that we could talk about it and understand what went into it and how it grows. I was captivated and the product was amazing.
And, I will tell you, I should have bought more of the turmeric concentrate because I mixed it with coconut milk, and it was amazing. I recommend the coconut milk (over almond milk) because I think it highlights the turmeric.
What would make our market better?
I think more growers. And, I think it should be more than one day a week. It would be nice to have a farmer’s market with close relationships with more chefs and restaurateurs around town. I think once that happens, we’ll probably have a greater farmer/grower community.
Where are you liking to go out for food? Any restaurant suggestions?
That’s tricky. I have a lot of friends in the industry. I like going to dives as much as I do fine dining.
Right around here, Keg South is pretty up there…it’s between the wings and the burgers. I think their wings are fried and then tossed with their hot sauce and thrown on the grill. Sometimes – the dirtier the dive, the better the food.
I recently found this place Lung Yai Thai tapas. It’s on eighth street. When you sit down, you order and then you can’t order anything else, they will not allow you. So, it’s a conundrum to order too much or not order enough. It’s one of my favorite places right now.
What is a worthy splurge for you?
Really crispy steak fries that have a crunchy outside and a creamy like mashed potato inside
A favorite rainy-day activity?
Listening to thunder and lightning.
What community or philanthropic groups are important to you that you might like to promote or share?
I support the LGBTQ community as best I can. I support any animal community. With our dogs, we often volunteer at hospitals and nursing homes to bring a little bit of a smile and compassion. Actually, our dogs do most of it. It’s wonderful to see the reaction that elderly or infirmed people have to a dog that’s wagging its tail and licking your hand.
Is there a question you would like to ask us?
What are you most passionate about when you’re at the Pinecrest market?
(A+W) It is the connections we make. It’s bringing the farm to the community and sharing what we make with things we grow. We’ve been there eight years and every Sunday is just as fun.
Is there a question you would like to ask the community?
Why are you not embracing the culture of Miami more? How can we support those that may not be earning a strong living, but with our support can? We must work a little harder to bring more of a sense of community to Miami.