Chef Michael Bennett tells what we should expect for the future of our Food Business — The Social Changes in Dining Habits
When you think about it, we will never dine again like we did a decade ago.
With the generational gap between the 70’s counter culture people – the Boomers – that demanded uber-chic foods from their restaurants in the 1980’s – to today’s diners – the Y-generation that has lived through multiple economic down-turns and a social revolution over the past two decades; our current dining clientele have no idea what opulent dining should be.
PRICE POINT, INSTANT SERVICE THE GOAL
The dining populace today is looking for dwindling prices and bold flavors. They are not looking for superior products that are well thought-out in rich visual appeal; it has to be instantaneous and scrumptious without drawn-out service attributes. The dining public that insisted on a 2½ hour dining experience is long gone. Those people are now investing their disposable income on supporting their aging parents, instead of treating themselves to an evening of culinary bliss.
There is one avenue in culinary field that is growing in affluence and totality: the gourmet food market segment. Companies such as Wild Oats, Whole Foods and The Fresh Market continue to grow, and are more popular today than anyone could have imagined in the beginning of the 1990s.
It’s the result of the Boomers treating themselves to superlative foods at home, rather than going out for fine dining. Their teen-age kids are being brought up expecting that this the norm. This procurement practice learned before they leave to go to college seems like it will transverse to the next generation unlike, fine dining of the 1980’s.
ARE THEY THE FUTURE?
Gourmet markets flaunting the highest quality cheeses from Europe, olive oils from around the Mediterranean, prime-aged meats and fresh locally harvested seafood abound in and around South Florida. Home-grown gourmet markets budded from long-standing family-owned local food markets. These markets over the decades saw that as their clientele gained esteem through their occupations, so did their need to live prodigiously at home. Coupled with the lack of formal dining out of the home and the need to still treat oneself, metropolitan gourmet markets flourish.
Look across the Southern United States, where retiring Boomers are now settling for a quite retirement from the rat race and you can see there is an increasing demand for gourmet and time-saving prepared food markets. Looking across Florida, Arizona and Texas, gourmet markets like: Epicure, Norman Brother’s, Gardener’s (all in Miami), Fernanda’s and Doris markets in Fort Lauderdale and Carmine’s of Palm Beach, Rice Epicurean and Eatzies in Houston and Dallas, Central Market in San Antonio, Texas, AJ’s fine foods in Phoenix, have been blossoming in popularity and scope.
I can remember going shopping downtown to the only place in Fort Lauderdale that sells deCecco pasta, Fernando’s, with my grandmother in the 1970’s. This is the way it starts for generational cooking at home. The Boomers have already indoctrinated their college aged kids to expect these markets to fulfill their needs for their future.
BOOMERS RETIRE, BUT THEIR TASTES DON’T
It has been a long journey for the family markets but, this segment is expanding faster than most other segment of the food service spectrum.
“We have seen the growth in sales rise ever since the Boomers started to retire”, a gourmet store manager told me. In the Tampa and Sarasota area of the Florida’s West Coast, there is up and coming places like Morton’s that have broken away from the mom and pop attitude to roasted-in-house gourmet coffee beans, supply in-house prepared entire Home Meal Replacements, dedicate a major part of the floor space to European cheeses and charcuteire that until recently unattainable in most of the United States.
A NEW SOCIAL SCENE
A newly unexpected social scene for Boomers occur at these gourmet markets. Not only do people linger long at their favorite markets, purchasing specialty foods for dinner, shopping has become a see-and-be-seen sport. It has become universal rationale to go to your favorite gourmet market to spend the afternoon socializing with friends. Today’s Boomer social customs have changed from the “Me generation” to the “We generation”.
The Internet and these markets are now the new siscos for the We Generation. We all want to be interconnected with others, it’s a social thing. The We society as a whole went through many stages.
First it was TV, then cable and i’s broadcasting of specific aspects of the social realm. Cable news brought us together as a country. Thanks to CNN, we know as much of what is happening in California and New York as around the city in which we live. MTV quickly spread to young Americans the urban sounds that they never would have heard locally in their own rural part of the country.
The rapid spread of cable’s cooking shows have led us to become food voyeurs, watching shows and their hosts that we would have previously would only have known from reading their cookbooks. No one has to look far for lessons on any food subject.
Now, the Internet has become the No. 1 outlet for information and our new interconnect-ability.
In the digital world, everyone can be a star as long as they can reach a dedicated viewership. Our Boomer community feels this immediacy brings more inter-connectivity on a personal basis while scanning their favorite sites. By opting-in to blogs and YouTube videos specific to our own wants, the social inter-connection is growing stronger. We can choose to interact with other cooks online, or watch favorites from our computers now sitting on our kitchen counters.
It’s a new age in dining – and where will the next generation get its food information? Time will tell.
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Chef Michael Bennett is chef at the Bimini Boatyard in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and is the author of In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks, Underneath a Cloudless Sky and Culture of Cuisine.
South Beach, Florida has seen a lot of things. Snow covering the sands of Miami Beach – on Jan. 19th 1977 – was not the most unique of the event that happened.
The discovery of the New World started in the Caribbean but eventually came to the shores of South Florida. Just like those great explores we are now hosting culinary explorers on our shores. The South Beach Food and Wine experience has changed a little since its inception on Lincoln Road……
Just like immigration changed the culture and cuisine styling’s of Peru, France and Japan; South Florida has had been influenced by world travelers.
At first SoFlo was the land of frozen turbot and flounder- from New England – that South Beach and Downtown Miami flaunted on menus, later it was the new cuisine styling’s of France’s nouveau cuisine that drove SoFlo chefs in the mid-1980’s
Later the forward thinking and influence from regional and “fresh from the ocean” cookery led us to be described as America’s greatest culinary discovery since the time of Columbus (circa 1992-5). Funny this is the same time that the “Taste of South Beach” gained prominence on Lincoln Road.
After the Taste of South Beach out grew its “road” status it became clear that this organized event needed a new venue and FIU was the adapted venue site for the “Taste of South Beach“. Of course it had to be renamed and, the Food and Wine moniker was adapted (#sobewff).
Since the influence of the name had changed its importance to the Foodie community as a whole, the F&W experience ( #sobewff ) was adapted by its greatest supporter F&W magazine. So the Taste of South Beach returned to South Beach after the FIU campus left out an important detail to the entire overall experience of SoFlo cuisine, the BEACH.
As the beach became the venues location once again, we can celebrate the RIGHT WAY. ….with a libation in hand, hob-nobbing with the glitteratti of the foodie world once again on the pristine sands of the Strand of the Atlantic Ocean – that SoFlo loves so dearly.
“We have been planning this pop-up restaurant event for more than two month now”, says Chef Ricardo Passarelli the owner of 170 Bistro in Itajuba, Brazil.
Itajuba is a budding international (business) city a few hours outside the financial capital of Brazil.
Chef Ricardo Passarelli owner of 170 Bistro in Itajuba, Brazil invited cookbook author and Miami chef Michael Bennetthere because we knew his latest cookbooks were exactly what we wanted to feature at our restaurant to ensure our grasp as the best restaurant in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.
at the end of this article
that will be apart of my new Cookbook
Interview with a Mango
Before all this can happen….
Getting into Brazil usually means journeying to the booming affluence that anchors the country — São Paulo.
Our 96 hours in Brazil (#96hoursinbrazil) starts in the the city that is the powerhouse in Brazil that pays the tab for the rest of the Brazil’s material comfort. The São Paulo (Sampa) failings — of incredibly high prices and most prolifically your non-stop awareness that you could end up being a statistic of street crime; even when added together, are still not enough to deter the millions of noteworthy vagabonds seeking out São Paulo’s artistic and business energy snarled mutually together with a relentless and, stimulating 24 hour a day joie de vivre.
Where to Start Your Travels in SamPa (São Paulo – as locals call it) – Brazil…
A São Paulo suburb – Brooklin, is an area just a stone’s throw from São Paulo’s Wall Street (Paulista Avenue) is being celebrated for its rise among the ranks of São Paulo’s best neighborhoods to experience South American culture and it’s food.
If you are here on Sunday you’re in luck if you are visiting Sampa than that means one thing Pizza. You should never leave this city without trying your closest pizza palace. São Paulo has become home to over five million folks from Italy and, they brought their food heritage – that has delivered to the tune of more than 5000 pizzerias, strewn across this mega-metropolis of 15 million South Americans. This city’s favorite is a New York City stylized restaurant called Braz. When you go, bring a heavy wallet and the empty stomach because São Paulo’s best will tempt your tastebuds with the revelation that Brazil is a damn good place to find a (Brazilian) wood-fire pizza.
Sampa’s incessant compulsion for eclectic fare is reinforced with the pervading din of Brazil’s most significant Foodies. This single-minded contagious energy, that invigorates these frenzied metropolitan denizens, seemingly always has these perpetually tanned, wide-eyed smiles that always great you with an never-ending thumbs-up signs by everyone you stumble across.
Brazil’s Table… it is a harmony of diversity
Brazil is a country that is unified by its indulging yet, it is regionally divided by the deficiency of the practice. It is if you deliberate the contradictions in food heritage; culture, accolades and antipathies of the people who live in Iowa to those who live in Florida. This dissimilar display of fluctuating regional preferences at times share our American dining habits, yet a pattern in Brazil illustrates a harmony that is a diverse as it is similar. How can a culture be so diverse and at the same time similar? Food brings the well-off and deprived together in common ways! Rice, beans, coffee and cakelink all Brazilians as they sit down to a meal.
If you are traveling in Brazil on a weekend, you will have to try the nationalized recipe called; feijoada – that can be found on any weekend dinner table and, seemingly has to be overindulged in to taste the heritage of Brazil, is the classic Brazilian recipe of black beanstew brimming with every part of a pigand is as much as part of the National Brazilian past time, as it is a daily fiscal necessity for the Brazilian populace.
Bolo:Brazilians love cake, which they call Bolo. In fact, it is one food that can be eaten at any time of the day. It is available at restaurants, corner shops, street vendors, gas stations, road stop intersections and generally any place that sells food. Bolo is often made with corn flour (like polenta) instead of wheat flour and is sometimes made with a combination of the two, giving it a different texture than what you expect in the USA.
Brazil has always been recognized as being the world’s best source of great coffee. It is part of the Brazilian culture andyou should neverrefuse a cup of coffee when one is offered to you at a restaurant or, by a new S.A. friend. So, downplay your state of consciousness and simply enjoy the rich roasted flavors of the humble coffee bean.
Shopping in the Centro Market in São Paulo – is where we started our Pop-Up restaurant mission.
Located in São Paulo’s Centro district, our culinary journey starts with more than just a starling acknowledgement that this is a city the screams FOOD! São Paulo’s Marketplace is where we start our culinary excursion…..
São Paulo’s #96hoursinbrazil
Get here early – before 12 PM.
The place is almost empty after 4 pm and a lot of the vendors move their products out of the confines of the walled marketplace and set it out onto the surrounding streets for sale during the rest of the evening.
Once we completed our hunting and gathering for our pop-up restaurant event, we jumped in the SUV and headed out of the city. Depending on the time of day, it might take you as much time getting out of downtown at rush hour as it would crossing the entire state of São Paulo’s in the middle of the night. So my hint for you is to grab some pizza or, fuel up at a Churrascaria, before gassing up and starting off.
Itajuba, Brazil;a place that speaks to what it is like to live all of your life in the same village you grew up in.
Finding your way to this provincial town might be one that was a happy mistake by any adventurous Brazilian trekker. There are copious explanations yet unseen that will make you happy you found this animated village among the Minas Gerais highlands.
Itajuba, Brazil is about half way between Rio De Janeiro and São Paulo’s on the north side of the Serra da Mantiqueira mountain range – that runs between the capital of Brazil and Brazil’s quasi capital (Rio). It is also the intersection of the other two cities that I came to love; Campos Do Jordao (the city that Switzerland lost during the continent drift) and Sao Lourenco (the water city) both are equally separated by Itajuba yet; seem similar because of the city’s welcoming residents.
Why we are here today…
Miami Nights is the pop-up restaurant that was the brain child of Chef Ricardo Passarelli, the owner of Itajuba’s 170 Bistro. Chef Passarelli wanted to make his restaurant the “Zero Point” for culinary awakenings in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. He decided that the menu had to reflect love of the city chef Passarelli once called home – Miami, Florida.
Chef Michael brought to the Chef Passarelli’s Bistro 170 recipes that were conceived by mingling ideas from two of his four cookbooks. The Miami Nights menu was highlighted by the fact that some of the food enjoyed would never have been seen in Itajuba without Chef Michael Bennett packing them up in his suitcase and bringing them with him from Miami. It was not a specific ingredient that made this culinary expo unique, it was the cookery techniques and artistic food pairings that made taste-buds stand up and take notice.
The meal started with two choices of appetizers, continued with three entrees picks and finished with two options in dessert. A Miami favorite, an appetizer of Mahi Mahi ceviche was at times the most popular of the night. This recipe was paired with one of Chef Michael favorite recipe side dishes; baby greens en vase. This is where Chef Michael places baby greens – that are rolled into a bouquet (like a bouquet of wild flowers) – and squeezes them into a vase cut from a cucumber.
The second appetizer selection was one of Chef Michael’s favorite cookbook recipes called Lucky 13 curry spiced shrimp. A sugarcane stalk is cut down to form a skewer and the shrimp is threaded onto this skewer. This sugarcane is not only the implement use to eat the shrimp with but it also becomes a taste altering, marinating and moisturizing maneuver to safeguard the texture of the shrimp while grilling. Because of the fragrant and honeyed flavor of the sugarcane shrimp, Chef Michael needed to place this atop an approachable taste-variance counterpoint of Kimchee made with green (under-ripe) papaya that he learned about in the Caribbean while living there (circa 2006-2009).
Entrees were a South Florida milieu consisting of a certified Angus NY strip steak, with an extraordinary three-day sprouted mustard seed~Robert (row-bair) sauce and Angry pommery-balsamic, pan-roasted potatoes.
Another of Chef Michael Bennett’s favorite cookbook recipes that became a bombshell best seller on the third night of this culinary exposition was a Caribbean sweet spiced Mahi Mahi with a Caribbean avocado and Italian scampi salad. Last but not least was the apogee of a true South Florida and Caribbean cookery ideal; Brazilian espresso marinated, grilled pork loin and lobster-saffron (Miami-style) Paella risotto made with an infusion of locally produced in the city just a stone’s throw away from Itajuba; Mascarpone cheese.
Citrus is extremely important in this area of Brazil as is cheese so to highlight this, Chef Michael Bennett paired his recipes to reflect the locally available foods for Itajuba’s first culinary expo. The aftermath of all this was the dinner’s finishing touches of Chef Michael’s Saint Maarten, FIVE-liquor Tiramisu made with local Brazilian espresso and locally produced Mascarpone cheese.
The second dessert choice of a Brazilian chocolate and cardamom seed ganached base of a passionfruit – that is always extremely popular in Brazil – Tart; with a cardamom-ricotta cheese (also a locally produced cheese) Mousse dressed with a caramelized citrus sauce was a fitter selection proving Chef Michael use of localized ingredient theory.
The dinner was of course topped off with a multiple red and white Chilean wine selections.
An Afternoon in another Country or, it just seems that way….
Campos do Jordao; the city that Switzerland lost during the last continental shift.
This is a city that if you did not drive here yourself, you would believe that you were secretly discarded in Switzerland by alien abductors.
Traveling a little more than an hour from our Itajuba gastronomic haven we ventured out early in the afternoon to Campos Do Jordao and toured the city’s mountainous (elevation: 6,000 feet) neighborhoods and after we crossed the city’s gates anyone can tell that this city was going to be very different.
This city is known to be Brazil’s fashionable Swiss hot chocolate and fondue capital.
This is a place that in the wintertime (June and July –where the population quadruples) is filled with Brazilians fleeing the warm climes of equatorial Brazil to feel as though they absconded the South American continent to vacation in Switzerland’s Alps. This town is purely a vacationer’s paradise. Even in the Brazilian summer, the nights are chilly at this altitude. The town is filled with gift stores, restaurants, bars and seems to be the only reason that people are on the streets, rambling between one watering hole to another. Some people actually use the city’s antique commuter train to do this like a metro trolley.
Sao Lourenco (the Water City) and the Hotel Brasil
This city is the ultimate spring (September to October) afternoon city. A trip to Brazil’s water city can’t be complete without touring it greatest asset – the Water Park.
The park is a walking tour of nine different tastings of naturally occurring springs. All have of the water stations have different tasting water because of the changing mineral content of each spring. To me it was just amazing to see an adjoining park district separated by little more than a few hundred yards yet, the taste from the wells were completely dissimilar.
Description for the naturally sparkling water spring.
Each spring has different medicinal purposes.
Opposite the park (Parque das Águas) district of São Lourenço; in the city center is a tradition in São Lourenço, Brazil – the Hotel Brasil.
An afternoon at the park will lead to a family in need of replenishment. Directly in front of the Water Park is the Hotel Brasil (com – Certificate of Excellence 2014). Since the founding of this area and the discovery of the healthful spring water, the Hotel Brasil has been there.
The hotel stands out for its gentle care. This has been the branding the hotel exemplifies since the end of WW1.
He who evaluates this hotel can not lose sight that Hotel Brasilhas a full life story and during its existence it has been home to media and social personalities to Presidents of Brazil. Charming and this hotel today still keeps the glamour of the 1920’s DECO era despite several generational renovations and expansions.
The building is antiquated and flows with (the) DECO style of Rio de Janeiro and South Beach of the 1920’s and 30’s
The ambiance is kick started with the ageless marble that surrounds you like a luxurious frock, in every sector of the hotel. Timeless flooring instigates your eyes to notice to original artisan-crafted windows and doors.
Don’t want to compare Hotel Brasil network hotels like; Holiday Inn, Hilton or Marriott. The hotel stands out for his gentle care and this branding is what the hotel exemplifies. It is a place that provides good moments of peace, beautiful photos with friends or family.
Since 1917 this family has been keeping the doors of Hotel Brasil open for road warriors and the summertime family vacationer. This will be the hotel you’ll want to come back to year after the year cared for by the same waiters that have been there for over 30 years. Reserve a stay on the south side of the hotel… to get views of the water park and its lake. The north side of the hotel has views of the city.
Recipe example from #96hoursinBrazil
96 hours in Brazil salad
Like so any other things in this book, this recipe is as twisted in its conception, carry through as it is as diverse as the ingredients that are in the recipe itself.
My edification in the Culinary Arts led me to explore South America and the Brazilian cookery culture. I have found the cookery culture of northern Brazil’s traditions and recipes are akin to the Caribbean cookery heritage because these states were originally made up of peoples escaping Caribbean slavery. Mango, pineapple and dozens of comparable fruits and vegetables in the Brazilian pantry are the same as the Caribbean’s pantry.
Many parts of Brazil have a residential heritage of people from the Mediterranean and Middle East. This is why I have included traveling to Brazil in my research for recipes in this book. Sao Paulo, the financial capital of Brazil, has over 15 million people and 5,000 eateries with Mediterranean cookery heritages.
Cheese and dairy is a large part of the culinary culture of the centric states in Brazil. There are more dairy cattle in States like Minas Gerais than in any other part of Brazil. The addition to cheese to any meal in Brazil is as common as adding salt and pepper to your steak. I have based this recipe in a slightly different form to represent the Mediterranean experienced in this Brazilian recipe.
1 each Romaine lettuce, heart only, chiffonade finely
½ cup Kale, shred into a razor-fine chiffonade, see note
6 logs Hearts of palm
2 each Bell pepper, red, roasted, cut into chunks
2 each Mangos, diced
1 cup Pineapple, sliced thin into 2”x1/2” pieces, caramelize, see directions
1 each Shallot, fine chopped
2 stalks Scallions, sliced finely, on the bias
1 cup Labneh, yogurt cheese, buy in gourmet market or, see note 2
As needed Pecans, see sub-recipe
As needed Microgreens, assorted
As needed Grape-cherry Tomatoes, halved
Sub-recipe: candied nuts:
1 cup Pecans, halved and pieces (you can substitute walnuts)
1/3 cup Sugar
2 Tbs. Water
½ tsp. Vanilla
Sub-recipe: the Dressing:
4 each Passion fruit pulp, Brazilian P.F. is much sweeter than in USA
1 Tbs. Lime juice
1 Tbs. Mirin, sweetened Rice wine
2 Tbs. Shallots, diced
2 Tbs. Honey (if using P.F. pulp from the USA)
½ cup EVO
Wash and dry lettuce, and cut into thin ribbons. Place in bowl. Save to the side. When the other parts of the recipe (main recipe) are accomplished toss together in the bowl and then scoop up all the ingredients and place into a 2 inch stacking tube with a 2 ½ inch diameter. Place an appropriate sized bottle (ketchup bottle) over the top and with a light pushing motion slide the stacking tub up the bottle while removing the salad contents into a stack in the center of the plate.
Drizzle the plate with dressing and garnish the plate with Microgreens and halved cherry tomatoes.
Prepare candied nuts: Place sugar, water, and salt in small saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Add the nuts and cook, stirring constantly. As the water evaporates, the sugar will turn granular in appearance. Keep stirring until sugar starts to melt and caramelize. Once the sugar has melted and you can see a light brown caramel color forming on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the vanilla and pick out the nuts onto a piece of parchment paper to let cool. Add to main recipe.
To caramelize the pineapple; quickly dip the pineapple pieces in the same liquid and remove after one minute. Place on parchment and let cool as well. Add to main recipe. Prepare the dressing: Place passion fruit and the rest of the ingredients (except oil) in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add the oil is slowly to incorporate fully. Check for seasoning and place in a container that can be used to easily apply the dressing to the plate. I use a squirt bottle. Follow directions above. NOTES:
In Brazil I found that in all the Farmers markets where I visited, street hawkers and little old ladies behind the shamble they called a booth, there were small bags of shaved greens. The greens were shavings of Kale. A great green for garnishing plates, salads and it could be used to bolster the vitamin content of any main dish by quick sautéing and placing aside an entrée.
In this recipe, I am going to use it as a thickening Hay in the recipe, like the Egyptians used hay in the mud mortar blocks to build the Pyramids.
Labneh, yogurt cheese is made by taking 1 ½ times as much yogurt for the amount of cheese that the recipe calls for, and add a couple pinches of salt, stir it in and place in a cheesecloth. Gather up the ends of the cheesecloth and tie into a hanging bundle. Place in your refrigerator with a shallow pan underneath the bundle to catch the moisture that escapes.
Tip: Tie the cheesecloth with twine and hang the cheesecloth from the rack/shelf with the twine, to increase Gravity’s pull on the cheese thus increasing the rate and the amount of liquid oozing out from the yogurt.
Before my Vacation…Started?
Well it started out the same way…rush out of work before anyone actually noticed that I was trying to leave for my vacation.
Rushing sounds kinda funny when it is 3:45 AM. After putting in my usual 12 hour day in the restaurant, we have to setup for the Nite club that starts at 12 am 5 nights a week. So when I say that I try to sneak out at 3:45 am I am because we are open till 5 am.
Back when the air was still hot and the sun was high in the sky, I had to set the dining room because the waiter didn’t show up on time. After setting the outside bar I tried to get things organized in the kitchen so I can leave without worrying that the kitchen will run out of food in the first day after I leave.
I decide to do inventory and ordering later (I didn’t know later meant 3 am) and I start to inventory food supplies. As I get the prep list done, just in time as the first order comes in over the computer, I see that I have a butt-load of prep work that …. I have to handle. Being the chef and manager of a 300 seat restaurant does keep one busy (20 hours a day). After the first hour of prep time I finally get a cook to wonder in. He has a list too. Although I know he won’t be able to get his list done while preparing orders for lunch, I tell him these items have to be done for the PM staff before you leave.
Just as I finish doing 90 percent of my prep list, my partner (Michael Jr.) comes in and says that he is ready to finish the renovations to our niteclub now! Well it is un-mercifully hot in the middle of the day upstairs since the air conditioners only keep the room bearable during the day, and they haven’t been turned on yet. Since hurricane Wilma blew one of our 10 ton air conditioners off the roof, the other air units haven’t been able to keep the place cool. Junior comes back and tells me the room will be cool in a minute (which really means he will be ready in an hour) and we will go up to start with the installations of TV monitors and moving the stages for our niteclub event. So I finish over 10 percent of the prep list!
It is now mid-afternoon and it feel like the day is half gone and I haven’t started anything yet because I know the project we are about to undertake will take the rest of the evening. Just as we are planning out the placement of the monitors, the sound guy shows up and tells us he was planning to move the speaker system around to optimize what we had in the place AND, was going to take and move some of the furniture to do it. So not only am I going to be moving stages, but moving furniture for him too. Well, at least this guy helps out. We don’t have to ask him to move the speakers; he wants to do it to make the sound better.
Getting back to my vacation I think….when the hell I will be able to leave. I doesn’t look like we are ever going to be done. As a matter of fact WE DIDN’T GET DONE UNTIL THE PARTY WAS STARTING AT 11:30 PM. of course I had to get out of what I was doing to go out front and control the door. The crowd was already there for 40-50 minutes waiting to get in and they were asking the staff when we will be opening. So I rush down stairs, without cleaning up throw on a clean dress shirt, because I am soaking wet all the way to my shoes, and jump on the entrance of the club. Security has already started to let the waiting hoard in.
I count the people at the downstairs bar and can tell we have been open for a few minutes because there is already 60 people drinking and talking in the Martini Bar. After a few minutes I scurry off to the front door and try to get a handle on the carnage happening with a crowd that has been waiting too long. I notice it is 12:00 am and we are half full downstairs already. The sound is blasting from the new system upstairs. It does sound better.
As the night progresses, I have to jump into the VIP line and get the security guards to actually do their job and read ID’s from the guest. “Just because they are in the VIP line doesn’t mean they can get in without having an ID” I tell them. The night wears on as usual. The steam of patrons never seems to end. It is now 2:00am and the crowd is finally starting to diminish. There is about 450 people inside which is just an okay size crowd for a Wednesday night. I walk around the second floor check on the bartenders, to see if anything is need to replenish the backup stock of liquor, check on the food servers to see if they are low on anything on the buffet line and cruise downstairs to check on the Martini Bar again. Of course the bar back is running all the time, but the liquor cabinet upstairs is emptying quickly, so I grab him and give him some stock to replenish the cabinet.
At 2:30 am everything is good. Things are happening on the dance floor that you might only see in a Bordello, but the new sound system is making the room rumble and shake. I notice that the TV monitors that we worked on all day are off. What happened? Nobody knew that had to restart the Dance Video after it ended. So I put it on loop mode and split. It is 3:00 am I am just now getting to order the food for the weekend (while I am on vacation). I finish, leave the clip board on the desk and get ready to pack up all my shit from the office to take home. Clothes are packed up, laptop is loaded but my head is saying leave before someone cuts me off and I can make out the back door. I sit at my desk, pondering, are the police coming today? Is the crowd getting rowdy? Dare I try to leave with an hour still to go before the party wraps up? I walk around the back of the building, check all the rear entrances, check the front entrances, check security out front, everything seems okay, so I move my butt into gear and get to the car. Start the ignition as my vacation starts….
Miami, SOUTH BEACH, Fla.–(The Professional Image, Inc.)—Chef Michael Bennett has wined and dined across the Caribbean in gourmet restaurants and hotels stationed on unique tropical destinations around the world to gather recipes for his latest cookbooks.
Today, Bennett maintains a remarkable 50-pound weight loss while continuing to enjoy the absolute best in exotic tropical recipes, coupled with an active lifestyle.
“Gourmet, Gluten Free and Healthy are no longer mutually exclusive,” said Chef Michael Bennett. “I use only the finest, freshest tropical ingredients I can find to create some of the healthiest Gluten Free gourmet recipes comparable to five-star resort menu offered in the best Caribbean restaurants.”
Chef Bennett believes that you should never have to sacrifice quality, taste, enjoyment, or satisfaction when attempting to lose 10, 50 or even 150 pounds.
Chef Bennett’s vision is simple: you deserve the best and you, too, can enjoy gourmet foods and lose and maintain a healthy weight – complimented by regular exercise. Chef Michael features delicious and healthy gourmet gluten free recipes that he developed from seven of the Caribbean’s top resort locales. His recipes have namesakes like: Antillean (Haiti-French) and Dominican (Spanish), St. Barts, Martinique (French), Blue Mountain (Jamaica-English), Belize (Central American) and St. Croix (an Island governed by 7 different countries).
Chef Bennett’s inaugural signature use of these restaurant proven recipes was at Bimini Boatyard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and, his three generations of menu (circa 2009-2012) exemplified authentic, healthy gluten free tropical fare. After returning from his four year journey across the Caribbean, Chef Michael Bennett used only the finest and locally available quality ingredients that reflected his recipe pursuit in the Caribbean. Chef Michael first embarked offering a lighter fare for patrons who expect the best – outstanding taste and exquisite presentation – using All-Natural Seafood. His dishes soon featured gluten free as the predominate footing in future seasonal menus that eventually evolved into an entirely separate bill of fare for the restaurant.
Bennett’s recipe development namesake unify into two cookbooks: All-Natural SURF Cuisine; May, 2014 and a Gluten Free FLAVOR QUEST; July, 2014 that are being published by The Professional Image, Inc. Bennett debuts these published recipe memoirs as part of a series of healthy gourmet tropical cookbooks. Bennett intends to launch another healthy gourmet recipe cookbook later this summer earmarked “Interview with a Mango”. His groundwork and signature recipe assertion will introduce a fresh audience of Mango devotees to healthy gluten free mango recipes.
All-Natural SURF CUISINE (ISBN: 9781495105982) features 160 page, 100 plus Gluten free Seafood recipes and 40 + Full color pictures are as vigorously innovative in the use of fresh seafood as they are ceaseless examples of a beneficial diet strategy.
A Gluten Free FLAVOR Quest (ISBN: 9781495117619) features 170 page, 125 plus gluten free recipes with over 50 Full color pictures that include pantry busting chapters in spice and marinade combinations, salads, and one just on sauces – that will astonish – paired with any food you would normally serve for dinner in your home tonight.
BEGINNING OF A CAREER:
From the time when chef Michael Bennett directed South Beach’s Epicure Gourmet Market’s healthy Spa-Cuisine menu expansion (circa, 1989-95), he has always wanted to revisit the console of utilization only the best locally-harvested ingredients to procreate superlative healthy All Natural, Gluten Free, Seafood-based Cookbook. In the past two years Chef Michael Bennett has been concentrating on developing and extending his solidarity of “All-Natural” and “Gluten Free” cookery with his culinary consultancies in America and in the Caribbean.
This commenced stemming from a family history where Chef Michael Bennett’s father suffered from massive heart problems. Thirty years ago his family decided to get away from beef-related dinner table but the choices in the 1970’s were limited to chicken, turkey or frozen seafood from the north. Air transportation wasn’t as advanced as today so the only seafood they ever had on the dinner table was what they caught themselves. This is how Chef Michael fostered his love and matured his knowledge of Tropical seafood.
CHEF Michael Bennett – SUBSTANTIVE:
Michael Bennett is a well-known award winning (Chef of the Year-1995) South Florida chef whose customers have been the Who’s Who of Media and Sports personalities. He earned critical culinary kudos as the Executive chef for the 26 year-local culinary force Left Bank restaurant. Under his auspices he brought “Best of” (Zagat Survey), Four Stars (AAA) and Four Diamonds (Mobil) to the long-standing three star rating. He also holds culinary affiliations with several culinary and food-related organizations. He regularly lectures on Gluten Free and Natural “Caribb-ican” cuisine.
Chef and Author Michael Bennett, an acclaimed South Florida chef has made a name for himself by mixing culinary traditions from diverse parts of the World.
Press Only: Rebba Pusckor
The Professional Image, Inc.
What the Mango Gang joined together no one can really rend asunder.
By: Jen Karetnick
Apr. 4, 2014
Puzzled? That’s not surprising. A hybrid of the words Florida and Caribbean, “Floribbean” denotes the blending of these regions’ tropical ingredients – an abundance of fresh tree fruit, ground roots and seafood – with warm-weather-friendly cooking techniques like marinating and grilling. It was, and still is, a term widely accepted by well-educated diners, by those who live here as well as by those who visit. “Floribbean” even appears as a valid category in online dining directories such as Frommer’s.
But while it makes perfect sense for prospective diners to pigeonhole places with a cutesy portmanteau, many of the South Florida chefs preparing this type of fusion reject it. They feel the moniker lacks dignity, and neglects other elements of the cuisine as a whole – namely, its Deep South, Asian and Mediterranean influences.
Today, the debate continues, with some Fort Lauderdale chefs calmly acknowledging that their contemporary “farm-to-table cuisine” has Floribbean roots, and others flatly denying that Floribbean by any other name smells just as enticing, even when the evidence is on the plates in front of them.
Floribbean – The History
At the time the name was coined, back in the late 1980s, South Florida chefs – mainly those in Miami who were conducting this epicurean renaissance – were actively trademarking Floribbean cuisine a number of other ways. Norman Van Aken, at a Mano, and Allen Susser, at Chef Allen’s, both called it New World Cuisine, publishing cookbooks on the subject. At Mark’s Place, Mark Militello, who combined the goods from artisans from all over the country with local product, preferred New American. Cuban counterpart Douglas Rodriguez, approaching the dishes from a Hispanic sensibility at YUCA in Coral Gables, termed it, logically, Nuevo Latino.
Together, these four pioneers were labeled the “Mango Gang” for their collective and oft-experimental use of tropical fruit, local flora and fauna and borrowed modus operandi. (Mango Gang is another name, it should be noted, that was also roundly loathed.) Other Miami chefs were quickly added to their circle: Johnny Vinczencz, gaining fame at Astor Place as the “Caribbean Cowboy;” Robbin Haas at the Colony Bistro; Tony Sindaco at Langosta Beach; Michael Schwartz at Nemo; Cindy Hutson and Delius Shirley at Ortanique on the Mile.
No matter what it was called, and which cultural arm it pulled on most, the cuisine was met by critics with a mixture of love and hate, admiration and envy, clarity and confusion. Dishes were a riot of influences with titles as long as those of Fall Out Boy songs, such as Van Aken’s “Snapper Escabeche Ensalada with Salsa Romesco, Arbequine Olives, Avocado, Oranges, and Ribbons of Greens.” One plate could have as many as five or six different components on it – a protein, a starch, a sauce, a salsa, a garnish – built on top of each other architecturally. Successful dishes were just that; failures were like pileups on I-95, with each element spun around in a different direction.
Along with varying appellations, regional chefs had fluctuating definitions for Floribbean fare. Dean James Max, who launched 3030 Ocean at the Harbor Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale (then assisted by Hell’s Kitchen runner-up Paula DaSilva, who is now executive chef there) says, “This wave of cooking started as the first wave of farm-to-table. The chefs heavily involved in this were simply showcasing the mangos, guava and other fruits and vegetables like yucca and plantains that were being grown in South Florida. What’s special about it was that it was the first sign of what farm-to-table and local was all about in the region.”
Although Max missed the first flush of Floribbean cuisine in Miami, he was at the forefront of it in Broward County when Mango Gang-era chefs like Johnny Vinczencz, chef-owner of Johnny V. on Las Olas Boulevard, and Tony Sindaco, chef-owner of SEA in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, migrated north. They joined chef Oliver Saucy and Darrel Broek, co-owners of the 30-year-old Café Maxx in Pompano Beach, where Saucy had always followed a fresh-and-local credo set forth by his father, who taught him to cook long before he attended the Culinary Institute of America.
“This was the evolution where the chefs said, in essence: ‘Let’s make the cultural food of the Caribbean flavors [into] fine dining.’ And they did,” Max says. “Some still wanted to use ingredients like foie gras, but they paired it with mango and citrus. Some took lobster and paired it with vanilla and avocado. There also was a lot of flavor blending of different food styles from Puerto Rico to Cuba, to Jamaica and [elsewhere]. Lots of cool things were happening that made the press take a look.”
One of those very cool things was the treatment of Indo-Asian flavors. They came into the mix by virtue of African, Indian and Chinese immigration to the islands and then, by extension, South Florida. These stewed, curried and wok-fried rudiments are an integral part of Floribbean cuisine, one of the reasons why chefs objected to its non-inclusive name in the first place.
Climate, however, plays the main role in introducing those now-familiar fundamentals to the cuisine, argues chef and cookbook authorMichael Bennett, who most recently held the helm at Bimini Boatyard Bar & Grill on SE 17th Street.
“The cookery that was born here in South Florida was shaped with incalculable Asian culinary principles. Not only did they help shape methodologies, they espoused the use of locally harvested Asian ingredients that can only be nurtured here in this part of the United States. Luckily for Floridians, seafood especially loves being paired on the plate with Asian ingredients like a variety of citrus, coconuts and lychees.”
AJ Yaari, owner of the recently debuted, ultra-contemporary Tsukuro, where small plates such as oxtail spring rolls blend the best of the region with Asian authenticity, acknowledges the ease with which Asian influences have slipped into Florida. “Because of our proximity to the sea and year-round growing seasons, Floridians are accustomed to fresh foods year-round. It is very similar to the Asian culinary and street-food culture where fresh ingredients are sourced and cooked.”
But he is quick to note that the Fort Lauderdale Beach-situated Tsukuro, which means “where the moon arrives over the water,” is more difficult to classify. “We do not fit in the mold of Floribbean just because we are in Florida or have citrus and mango in some of our dishes, nor are we Asian-Fusion, which marries various Asian cuisines. While ‘Florasian’ has a nice ring, we wouldn’t classify ourselves as that either. We consider our food ‘Asian-Inspired’ because we marry global and Asian cuisines to add depth and flavor; dishes are curiously familiar but surprisingly different. It’s a style we felt strongly would appeal to South Florida’s growing landscape of sophisticated, adventurous diners, as well as visitors who travel to our resort destination from around the world.”
Floribbean – The Present
Given the disagreement over the Floribbean name and definition, it should come as no great shock that many of today’s chefs either refuse to admit that their cuisine is Floribbean, or don’t even know what that means in the first place.
For example, the chef team from the Seminole Hard Rock complex displayed their goods at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in February. The presentations consisted of dishes such as chicharrón bites, mango chimichurri, queso blanco, pickled onion and roasted tomato salsa; an arepa slider (braised carne asada, fresh mozzarella, cilantro garlic aioli, avocado, crispy corn arepa); and chocolate hazelnut panna cotta (Nutella, coffee gelée, toasted banana cake, chocolate cookie crumbs). Even the cocktails, including a caipirinha made with Leblon cachaça, simple syrup, pineapple, mint and lime juice, seemed like a Floribbean given.
But an inquiry to feature the chefs and their fare brought the following answer from their press representative: “The team will be passing on this opportunity. [They] said they don’t have any Floribbean cuisine to offer up at this time.”
Most likely, the reluctance to identify with Floribbean sprouts from the very same kind of thing that gave birth to the label in the first place: a trend. As much as critics were quick to define culinary paradigms in the 1990s, and chefs were quick to align themselves with one, this decade sees the same professionals trying to resist classifying and being classified.
To that end, some see Floribbean cuisine as dead in the warm, tropical water. “It’s a thing of the past. The product is not being used the way it was with the Mango Gang,” Sindaco says. “It had its run, and that’s not such a bad thing.”
Bennett disagrees. He still sees Floribbean alive and well in several establishments, including his alma mater Bimini Boatyard – which he says offers “Caribb-ican cuisine,” a subjective interpretation of Floribbean that he created – and 15th Street Fisheries, which he notes is “currently flaunting a Latino-Floribbean cuisine.”
As far as flaunting goes, Johnny V. continues to be crowded, and not much menu evolution has gone on there. Down the street, the very on-trend YOLO, run by the former Himmarshee folks, delivers some Floribbean dishes, although it leans more Mediterranean overall. At 3030 Ocean, the always in-demand Paula DaSilva has picked up where Dean Max left off, with plenty of sophisticated, far-from-overwrought Floribbean fare. And the much-beloved Café Maxx, unlike southern counterparts Norman’s, Chef Allen’s and Mark’s Place, appears to be like bamboo in a hurricane: unbreakable.
In addition, long-running Eduardo de San Angel can be interpreted as Floribbean-Mexican; Blue Fire Grille in the Fort Lauderdale Marriott North has a Floribbean-Mediterranean vibe; Salt Life Food Shack in Coral Springs has a good number of items that qualify; and Sugar Reef Grill, on Hollywood Beach, has had a long run with items that include tropical fish stew in green curry sauce and Jamaican pork loin. Farther west, you can also find Floribbean dishes at the Banyan Restaurant and Bar Zen at the Bonaventure Resort & Spa.
Floribbean – The Future
Is farm-to-table the culmination of Floribbean fare? Has it evolved to the point of disappearance? Or has Floribbean cuisine turned into Asian fusion, served at swank beach establishments such as Tsukuro?
Perhaps we should define Floribbean, and search for it, based on what it isn’t, as Bennett suggests.
“What Floribbean is not is a cuisine that is solely based on the ideals of a singular chef as it was in 1995. Now Floribbean cuisine is more an ideal rather than an unusual ingredient vat,” he emphasizes. “In Broward, one must look at the dining public to foresee if the Floribbean cuisine we once knew will continue to flourish. Our dining clientele has so drastically changed in the last decade there cannot be a discussion about its future without evaluating the clientele of Fort Lauderdale. Since Fort Lauderdale is a family-centric metropolis, so will be restaurant menus. Restaurants need to serve family-friendly food, so Floribbean cuisine is not seen as regularly as it once was.”
Or maybe we should acknowledge that it has simply been absorbed into the current food culture. In a way, it seems that Floribbean has become an influence all of its own. And for those willing to do a little research, that’s acceptable. As Max, who has himself gone on to other climes with his DJM restaurants in the Midwest and West, notes: “I think if you looked at a lot of the local chefs’ menus you could pull off one or two things that would classify as Floribbean, but I don’t see that many going fully in that style. It’s almost become a part of the menus like Italian tomato [and mozzarella] salad or Caesar salad.”