Chef Kris Wessel of Wessel's Tropical BarBQ - Biography

Miami, FL

March 2016

Kris Wessel grew up with the bold flavors of the New Orleans melting pot. Throughout his teens and early 20s, Wessel cooked in tourist-driven kitchens before heading to South Florida to earn a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Florida International University. Wessel’s style evolved during his time abroad staging at Michelin-starred restaurants in Austria, France, Spain, and Italy.

Back in South Florida, Wessel took his talents to Mark’s Place under the tutelage of Mark Militello, and after three years, set off to make a culinary footprint of his own with Paninoteca. The European sandwich concept opened in 1996, and by 2002, two more locations had opened. 

Wessel’s successes with Paninoteca spurred the opening of Liaison, his ode (a duet) to South Florida and Southern Louisiana. Liaison paved the way for Elia, Wessel’s modern Mediterranean concept. In 2008, Wessel opened Red Light in MiMo, which by 2010, earned him a semi-finalist slot for James Beard’s “Best Chef, South.” In 2012, Wessel competed on Food Network’s Chopped, and won.

After the closing of Red Light in 2012, Wessel opened Florida Cookery, followed in 2014 by Oolite Restaurant & Bar, a healthy dining concept that reflected the beloved flavors of the region. Having moved on from Florida Cookery, Wessel’s next anticipated project will be Wessel’s Tropical BarBQ in Miami’s Little Haiti Neighborhood.