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8/25/21 - meal prep, clean cuisine, mindful eating, paleo, keto, bbq, foodie, meals
I sit here listening to Marc Anthony, and La Boriqena came on as I am starting to write this. It occurs to me that I have always wanted to have a passion for where I lived, like the Cuban/Puerto Rico population does. I was born in North Cuba. Yes, I know what I just typed, but North Cuba is North Miami. I was raised in Hollywood. I never looked at the food of Florida as Florida. It made me search to find out what is the food of Florida, specifically, South Florida. So, I asked you what food Florida is known for? I will wait while you figure the answer. As you think, I want to throw a wrench in there; it has to come from only Florida, concept, food as in origin. I know I just made it hard, didn’t I.
Let’s look at this another way. If I told you cheesesteak, you would say what? Yup, in your head, you just said Philly! If I say crab cakes, you say what? Let me guess, you mumbled to yourself, Maryland. If I told you mudbugs and a hurricane, you would; you get my point. Yes, I know you said New Orleans, and you wanted me to acknowledge that, so, great job.
Florida – I bet some of you were like – empanadas/patties/Cuban Sandmiches/ropa veja/bistec de Pollo/key lime pie/conch fritters/Bahamian snapper/ceviche/grouper Rueben/coconut shrimp…Now, let me just start by typing this; if there is a COUNTRY’S name in the dish, guess what; that’s right, NOT FROM guess where. FLORIDA! Truthfully, almost everything on that list is not from Florida. Hell, we don’t grow key limes here anymore. Key Lime is a mix from when we did grow key limes and french cuisine – it’s a custard pie, folks. Side note: Coconut shrimp, whoever invented this dish, I want to throat punch you! Does anyone know how much of a pain in the neck those are to make!!!
As I age like spoiled wine, I realize that I am one of the luckiest chefs in the world. I live in a melting pot of Latin America! I am sitting on the doorsteps of the next biggest thing in cuisine. I have no flippin clue what that is. If you thought it was me, sorry to disappoint. I am sitting here at the table drinking my coffee, watching, helping to shape what tomorrow’s chefs will be like. I get to play in all of these different cuisines. I can do this because I respect CUISINE, the complete word, as in respecting the culture as well. I have never embraced my culinary upbringing. I am an Ashkenazic Jew and was raised as such. I always thought that the food was too sweet and lacked depth. It wasn’t because my family couldn’t cook; they all cooked. Well, two didn’t, my sister and my cousin Sharon.
Out of culinary school, I drifted to Asian and Italian cuisine. I loved Italian food and the togetherness that most Italian families had. It was similar to my family. Asian, well, it fit because of the trade with the Italians. Hell, if it were not for the Chinese, we would not have pasta!
My culinary journey continued, and I was then side blinded by FIRE! That is right, fire. Where there is fire, there is (yup, I heard you say that in your head)smoke. I fell in love with BBQ. I started taking my training in classical French cuisine/modern cuisine/Asian/Italian and mixed in BBQ. I began to realize what the cuisine of Florida is – it is one of many. It is one of the most diverse in the US; yes, I am biased, fight me! With all this diversity comes a tremendous responsibility that chefs need to realize. We need to keep the essence of the food true to its form, not to be hidden away.
Most importantly, we must have balance in each of our dishes. If it is bold, then you should have the yang of that. I am not here to tell you what the answer is; that is for each of you to figure out. Floribbean cuisine owes its beginnings to Chef Allan/Chef Mark/Chef Norman. It is people like Chef Michelle and others that carry on the torch. It is time for us to celebrate our diversity in each of our communities. It is time to blend these bold flavors that the world has never seen before.
Come along this journey. We will have some great libations, mind-blowing flavor profiles, and incredible conversations. Every great story in history has started at a table with food around it. Please have a seat at my table; let’s create the next best adventure! Let’s discover what truly makes Florida cuisine so remarkable and so diverse.