Rising Star Chef Cesar Zapata of The Federal Food, Drink & Provisions - Biography

Miami, FL

March 2016

Born in Medellín, Colombia, Cesar Zapata moved to New Jersey when he was 9. His parents both worked, so he often found himself home alone cooking traditional Colombian dishes and experimenting with the Italian-American influences that surrounded him. The family eventually moved to Texas, where Zapata graduated from the Art Institute of Houston and started cooking at Four Seasons. When the opportunity arose to be a part of the opening crew at Four Seasons Miami, Zapata seized it. After two years, Zapata joined Shaun Hergatt’s team at The Setai. Next, he worked with Alberto Cabrera at Karu. It was a life altering experience. 

The unending hours took their toll on Zapata. He felt unhealthy and lost his initial passion for cooking. He took six months off to travel, regroup, and regain his vitality. Zapata returned to Miami 
reinvigorated, but the national economy and local culinary scene weren’t as spirited. Not interested in working at one of the many booming steakhouses, Zapata and his wife, Aniece Meinhold, found a partner and opened a small wine bar, The Blue Piano. It’s kitchen was miniscule, which forced Zapata to do all the prep at home, but the venture was a success. Unfortunately the business partnership was not, and Zapata left to start a pop-up all his own called Phuc Yea!, an ode to Meinhold’s Vietnamese heritage. It was an instant hit and propelled the couple to the open of The Federal, showcasing Zapata’s brand of imaginative American comfort food and Meinhold’s beverage program. With the build-out nearly complete, Zapata will soon have a brick-and-mortar home for Phuc Yea! and the beginnings of a homegrown Miami restaurant empire.