Taste Masters

Hungry? Good. The chefs you’re about to meet have perfected the science of gastronomy and are cooking up some of the most delicious bites your palate’s ever encountered. Don’t worry if you ask for seconds, just try not to lick your plate clean — you should always leave room for dessert.
Text by Estrellita S. Sibila Photos by Antonio Eli except where noted | May 28, 2018 | People

Israel Mora
Tamarina Restaurant
600 Brickell Ave., Brickell

Kitchen calling: “Ever since I was a kid, I always used to cook for my family…even though I had no idea what I was doing. My mom loved it.”
Culinary style: “Fresh, light, balanced, clean & always looking for the punch-in-the-face factor.”
The menu: “Simple and fresh Italian cuisine focusing on seafood, shellfish & pastas.”
The vibe: “It’s like your second living room with amazing food and an atmosphere where anything can happen.”
Ingredient that best describes you: “Where I come from, pork live free in the meadows, enjoy life, eat, sleep & play around all day long without worrying. That’s me on my day off.”
Strangest ingredient used: “Fried fish scales as a crunchy element on a fish crudo.”
Must-have dish: “Sea Bass Al Salmoriglio.”
Best part of the job: “Creating and playing around with ingredients, flavors & presentations.”
Most challenging: “The day-to-day kitchen operations. You can’t imagine how many challenges you can find in a kitchen on a single day.”
Kitchen inspiration: “I love and collect cookbooks so most of the time I get inspired from other chefs when I read their books.”
In your fridge at home: “Milk, yogurt, fruit, bread & cured meats.”
Final meal on Earth: “Tons of seafood paired with the finest Italian & Spanish wines. I’d want steamed red shrimp, kusshi & salt aire oysters, grilled razor clams, grilled lobster, caviar & salt-crusted sea bass with fresh grilled vegetables & tomato salad on the side with tiramisu for dessert.”
Future goals: “I’m definitely striving to help take Tamarina to the next level and make it a brand that everyone knows about.”

Angel Leon
422 NW N. River Dr., Miami

Kitchen calling: “As punishment for being suspended from school, my parents made me get up at 4 a.m. to work in a hot, steamy bakery alongside my grandfather who was a Cuban Baker & Pastry Chef. I eventually dropped out of school and was cooking full-time by the age of 16.”
Culinary style: “Cuban roots, using French techniques with Asian influences and leaning toward seasonal & exotic ingredients from all around the world.”
The menu: “Fresh imported seafood, meats of the highest quality and a signature wood-fire oven.”
The vibe: “Casually sophisticated.”
Ingredient that best describes you: “A coconut because I’m hard to crack.”
Strangest ingredient used: “Goeduck Clams.”
Must-have dish: “Wood-Fired Market Seafood Casserole.”
Best part of the job: “The Seaspice experience. Try it and you’ll understand.”
Most challenging: “Losing my voice during service.”
Kitchen inspiration: “Feeling the excitement and willingness to be the best, from my talented & hard-working staff.”
In your fridge at home: “A few bananas, a flat of organic eggs, yogurt, Oreos and a few bottles of wine.”
Final meal on Earth: “I’d start with 4 oz of Kaluga Caviar with all the works, a couple of stone crabs & a dozen oysters. For my entreé, a 20 oz prime bone-in ribeye with creamed spinach. After that, a nice cheese platter with grapes. To finish off, a giant piece of the best carrot cake on the planet with 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream.”
Future goals: “Make people happy with great food and service, enticing them to continually enjoy the Seaspice experience.”

Rafael Van De Water
15 SE 10th St., Brickell

Kitchen calling: “I grew up watching wedding cakes & handmade hors d’oeuvres created before my very eyes.”
Culinary style: “Classical and traditional; I love the old-school dishes.”
The menu: “Our emphasis is on Italian but we mix it up with daily specials offering everything from Asian to Latin fusion.”
The vibe: “Warm and welcoming, but also energetic.”
Ingredient that best describes you: “Balsamic Glaze. I’m sweet but I definitely have a sour side.”
Strangest ingredient used: “Goeduck clams.”
Must-have dish: “Linguine Fra Diavolo.”
Best part of the job: “Working with great people!”
Most challenging: “As a chef you typically work nights, weekends & holidays which can make it tough to spend time with friends and loved ones.”
Kitchen inspiration: “Making great food and creating dishes that guests enjoy and want to return to try again.”
In your fridge at home: “Stella Artois Cider, brie, parmesan & some pickled veggies.”
Final meal on Earth: “A good steak and maybe some risotto with shaved truffle followed by pecan pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert.”
Future goals: “Work toward an increasingly sustainable approach to cooking focused on more locally grown ingredients.”

Carlo Huerta
Embarcadero41 Fusion
168 SE 1st St., Downtown Miami

Kitchen calling: “I started cooking at the age of 8, my first plate was an Ají De Gallina, which is shredded chicken with a creamy yellow pepper sauce and Andean potatoes.”
Culinary style: “My cuisine is Contemporary Peruvian Fusion.”
The menu: “The menu is based on classic Peruvian gastronomy, which has a lot of intercultural fusions which we include in all of our dishes.”
The vibe: “At Embarcadero41, you’ll feel free and happy, just like you would at home. Everything is focused to yield the utmost experience and comfort.”
Ingredient that best describes you: “Aji Amarillo Peruano because it’s the most important flavor in my culinary style and the hardest to handle since you have to extract all the spicy without taking the flavor.”
Strangest ingredient used: “Duch Muchame.”
Must-have dish: “Pulpo A La Parrilla.”
Best part of the job: “When the customers are grateful for the food and service they experience.”
Most challenging: “As the corporate chef of a restaurant chain, I have to manage 14 kitchens with more than 190 cooks in order to ensure the standards of flavor are met and correct processes are followed.”
Kitchen Inspiration: “My inspirations comes from Andean ingredients and their different uses.”
In your fridge at home: “I always have Peruvian lime, rocoto pepper, celery & fish fillets for ceviche.”
Final meal on Earth: “It would have to be a Peruvian Lomo Saltado with a big side of fries.”
Future goals: “I want to keep growing with Embarcadero41 by opening more restaurants around the world.”

Kaytlin Brakefield
Verde @ PAMM
1103 Biscayne Blvd., Downtown Miami

Kitchen calling: “The way food brings people together intrigues me. There’s a lot of history in what we make and why we congregate.”
Culinary style: “Seasonal ingredients inspired by the Italian way of life.”
The menu: “Clean, fresh & colorful.”
The vibe: “Light, bright & casual.”
Ingredient that best describes you: “Calabrian chilies. You know why…”
Strangest ingredient used: “Tomato leaves. They’re poisonous.”
Must-have dish: “Tomato Panzanilla.”
Best part of the job: “Having the opportunity to cook every day.”
Most challenging: “Constantly creating new menu items.”
Kitchen inspiration: “Finding a fresh approach to classic flavors.”
In your fridge at home: “Pickled okra and gin.”
Final meal on Earth: “Deep-fried mozzarella sticks.”
Future goals: “I aim to never get bored and constantly staying challenged.”

Alberto Cabrera
Bread + Butter
2330 Salzedo St., Coral Gables

Kitchen calling: “When I was a kid, my favorite part of the day was dinner.”
Culinary style: “Simple.”
The menu: “Overall, it’s Cuban in its roots with American influences.”
The vibe: “A fun, casual setting where people feel as if they’re at a family member’s house they can visit multiple times a week.”
Ingredient that best describes you: “Vinegar. I think its obvious why…just ask my staff!”
Strangest ingredient used: “Meat Glue.”
Must-have dish: “Media Noche Croquettas.”
Best part of the job: “I love creating concepts that work, especially when you make something that exceeds people’s expectations.”
Most challenging: “Definitely it finding a balance between family time and work.”
Kitchen inspiration: “The memories of the people in my family always leads the way for me in and out of the kitchen. ”
In your fridge at home: “Frosty beverages. Lots of them.”
Final meal on Earth: “I would want a big ham & cheese sandwich with lots of extra mayo, a bag of chips and Welch’s Grape Juice.”
Future goals: “I want to grow into a successful multi-unit restaurant company that’s synonymous with great concepts, service and food.”

Eric Do

Kitchen calling: “My grandmother was a church chef and I spent lots of time helping her prep. I realized food made me happy so I quit my job, enrolled in culinary school and took on a full-time job at a local restaurant.”
Culinary style: “A harmonious balance of sweet, salty, sour, bitter & heat to make sure each dish hits all the taste sensations.”
The menu: “As a Pan Latin Steakhouse, we focus on our high-quality meats & seafood grilled over natural charcoal. We also feature a lot of great small plates inspired by different regions of Latin America.”
The vibe: “Sexy, chic & lively.”
Ingredient that best describes you: “Kimchi. Some people really like me, but a lot of people think I’m weird.”
Strangest ingredient used: “Silkworm larvae…in Korea, they call it bbeondaegi.”
Must-have dish on menu: “Chipotle Miso Sea Bass.”
Best part of the job: “This job forces you to think outside of the box and be creative; It never gets boring or old.”
Most challenging: “Not being there on the holidays and weekends for my kids.”
Kitchen inspiration: “I love to take classic dishes from my childhood and see if I can elevate them with new techniques.”
In your fridge at home: “Kimchi, pork belly, butter, eggs, cheddar cheese, Korean chili paste, miso, jalapeños, milk, OJ, Stone IPA & a half-brown lime.”
Final meal on Earth: “Steamed dungeness crab, a dozen Kumamoto oysters, Santa Barbara Uni in the shell and a Stone IPA or 3.”
Future goals: “Keep learning and making the most of every opportunity I get right now.” never get bored and constantly staying challenged.”