2016 South Florida Rising Star Chef Niven Patel, formerly of Michael's Genuine

2016 South Florida Rising Star Chef Niven Patel, formerly of Michael's Genuine
April 2016

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Niven Patel isn’t necessarily what you’d expect in Miami. In a restaurant scene that requires incredible produce, but does little to support it, he’s the guy who drives an hour to and from work because he’d rather live on a farm, close to the source material— cultivating the source material. After culinary school, Patel got his first professional experience at 3030 Ocean Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, where he met mentor Dean Max. From there he took a six-month trip, traveling around Italy, honing his skills, and learning that essential immediacy between chef and product.

Coming back to the States, Patel was part of the opening team at the Watertable Restaurant in the Renaissance Baltimore, eventually moving back down to his home state to be executive chef at the four- diamond Cheeca Lodge and Spa resort in Islamorada, Florida. It wasn’t a long leap from there to join former boss and mentor Max at Brasserie Restaurant and Market in the Cayman Islands, where Patel first witnessed the earnest expression of farm-to-table. Patel met Michael Schwartz in Cayman, and the Miami celebrity chef recruited Patel to run his flagship restaurant in the Design District.

At Michael’s Genuine, Patel ran a juggernaut of a restaurant while continuing his hands-on commitment to local agriculture. In early 2016, Patel announced plans to open his first solo restaurant, an Indian restaurant that will reflect his heritage, along with the bounty of South Florida.

Interview with South Florida Rising Star Chef Niven Patel of Michael's Genuine

Caroline Hatchett: Who’s your mentor?
Niven Patel:
Dean Max. I worked with him for 10 years. I always say I broke up with him and moved to Michael. I started as a student with Dean and worked at 3030 Ocean, then in Cayman. Dean has lots of protégées running around.

CH: What is your favorite kitchen tool? 
Crayola Twistables, the best expo tool. Just joking. My favorite tool is a spoon. It’s a great extension of your hand.

CH: Tell me about your farm. 
I live in Homestead and have two acres. I love farming. I wake up early everyday, do a little farming, and get to work by 7am or 8am. Today, I brought in 100 pounds of baby carrots and 25 pounds of watermelon radish. All the herbs come from the yard. I have some fennel growing now as well. 

CH: How are you involved in the local culinary community? 
When I don’t have anything in my yard, I go to Verde Farms. They do lots of community projects for people who are homeless or living in subsidized housing. It employs them and teaches, but it’s still such a struggle for the to find people to buy their product. Otherise, I don’t have a lot of time. [Michael’s] takes a certain kind of person: there’s no time to be lazy or drift through. I have the most amazing staff I’ve ever worked with; they’re my warriors. 

CH: Where would you most like to visit for culinary travel?
India. I have traveled to India twice and still haven’t hit all the regions with diverse cooking techniques and flavors.

CH: What advice would you give to your younger self? 
Take more notes. The other day I was thinking, “Wouldn’t it have been cool to chronicle all the dishes I’ve been a part of over the last 12 years?” But of course, I didn’t write them down!

CH: What’s your five-year plan?
Something a little smaller. I want to bring Indian food to the mainstream, to take and showcase this style of food from Gujarat region.