Monday, April 6, 2009

Where Are South Florida's Best New Chefs?

New Times raises the question why there are no South Florida representatives among Food & Wine's Best New Chefs of 2009, and resorts to instead listing South Florida "Best Old Chefs". I ask, if you're coming up with a list of top South Florida chefs, new or old, shouldn't you maybe look more than 3 miles south of the Dade-Broward border? Is Allen Susser really the only active chef in Miami-Dade county that could conceivably make that list?* Mr. Schwartz? Ms. Bernstein? Bueller?

Actually, I asked a similar question several weeks ago when the James Beard Award semifinalists were announced and there were no South Florida nominees for "Rising Star Chef of the Year". Some potential suspects are kicked around in this Chowhound thread, but few of the names are really jumping out at me (and some aren't so new either).

When StarChefs did its South Florida edition of 2008 Rising Stars, it named Zach Bell of Cafe Boulud, Michael Bloise (then of Wish, now gone), Alberto Cabrera (formerly of Karu & Y and now M.I.A.), Clay Conley of Azul, Christopher Eagle of Cielo, Jeff McInnis of DiLido Beach Club (and Top Chef fame), David Mullen of Angle (no longer there - about a year ago I saw that he had become executive chef at Bourbon Steak, yet BS's website does not mention it), Kurtis Jantz of Neomi's / Paradigm (of which I'm a big fan, and for which chef de cuisine Chad Galiano also deserves much credit), and pastry chefs Joel Lahon of Nobu and Malka Espinel of Johnny V's.

That list is a decent start. Who else? Berenice de Araujo at Sra. Martinez? Arthur Artiles (a Van Aken disciple) at Brosia? Marc Vidal at Por Fin? Nate Martin at Andu? I've enjoyed eating at each of these places (I've never had a full dinner at Andu but I had some great hors d'oeuvres at a cocktail reception; I've eaten at Por Fin several times and would say it's good not great, though they did a fantastic spread of tapas for a recent wine tasting event). But the only one I'd really say was exceptional would be Sra. M, and then the question becomes how much credit is due to Michelle Bernstein and how much to de Araujo.

Who am I missing?

*Norman Van Aken doesn't really count in my book, since his only restaurant currently open is in Orlando, even though rumor is that he's working on a new place in Coral Gables.


  1. Add Mark Liberman from Forte Palm Beach to the list.

  2. oh, and David Mullen is no longer with Bourbon Steak. I just met their new chef, I believe his name is Gabe.

  3. I got to Forte a few months ago (when it was Forte de Asprinio) - thought it was pretty good though I didn't love the nightclub ambience.

    I thought Mullen had come and gone from Bourbon Steak. The website has a mysterious "Coming Soon" on the "Chef" link.

  4. Two to keep on the radar, Chef Jason Smith who recently left Table 8 to join Stephen Starr at Steak954.

    Chef de cuisine @ 3030 Ocean and curretly on Hell's Kitchen, Paula DaSilva.

    I would also consider Chef Toby Joseph who was doing good things over at Cero at the St Regis which is now a Ritz in Ft. Lauderdale. I believe he recently moved to the new Bova Prime on Las Olas.

  5. Good suggestions.

    Could there possibly be a lazier restaurant name than "Steak954"?

  6. Agree 100% BUT he seems to know what he is doing....

  7. Miami is not the only city to be left out, and at least their good company in misery...
    If Chicago can't have a top 10 chef, then that pretty much makes the list bogus and we shouldn't feel too bad.
    I've always liked the underdog anyway.

  8. I second Berenice at Sra Martinez!

    Forte is way overrated.

  9. Alberto Cabrera has never been at MIA.

  10. Alberto - I meant that you were Missing In Action, not that you were at the new downtown restaurant "MIA" (which I don't think was publicly announced when this post originally went up).

    What are you up to these days?