Letter from the Editor: Opportunity and Community in South Florida Vol: 123

April 2016
Antoinette and Will
Antoinette Bruno, CEO and Editor-in-Chief
Will Blunt, Managing Editor

South Florida: It’s not just for tourists anymore. In Miami, Wynwood and the Biscayne corridor have supplanted South Beach as food destinations, and across the region talented chefs are planting themselves in shopping centers and cooking with heart and finesse. It’s a sure sign that locals are driving restaurant revenue, and they’re making it possible for young chefs to build successful, community-oriented businesses.

There’s a lot spurring the change: money is pouring in from South America (just take a look at Faena), artisans are establishing a foothold, and the craft cocktail scene is making headway in the land of clubs (even if vodka remains a best seller). There’s still a Latin influence in the market, but the handcuffs are off in terms of creativity and cuisine type. Niven Patel is in the early stages of planning a farm-to-table Indian concept. Cesar Zapata makes wild American comfort food at The Federal (p. 29), and he and his partner Aniece Meinhold are opening a traditional Vietnamese restaurant, Phuc Yea!, in the coming months. British-born Chef Andrew Gilbert makes elevated pub food, along with the best fish and chips in Miami (p. 18).

Food here isn’t trendy or derivative—it’s idiosyncratic and exciting. And there’s a whole lot more room for talent and serious craftsmanship in the region. Rising Star Artisan Zak Stern may have said it best: “Miami is kind of like a teenager with a lot of money. We buy fancy cars and butt lifts, but we’re growing up. We could have been doing the same thing 15 years ago, but I’m not so sure Miami would have supported us.” In 2016, Steve Santana can make an honest living selling nixtamalized tortillas (p. 52), and Brewer Rauf Khoffner entered a market that was thirsty for traditional German beers. Through the good work of roasters, starting with Panther Coffee in the South and Oceana in Palm Beach, specialty coffee is gaining traction in a market long dominated by sugar-spiked cortaditos (p. 60).

South Florida has always been an American outlier, and the restaurant industry is no exception. It has its own rhythms, influences, and flare—distinct produce, seafood, and growing seasons. In the past it was also transient and occasionally shallow. Now, the cowboy days are over. The men and women in the pages ahead will make a lasting impact on food and drink in South Florida. With style and on their own terms, they’re building on the legacies of Norman Van Aken, Allen Susser, Michelle Bernstein, and Michael Schwartz—to name a few of the greats who had a hunch early on that South Florida could one day support an industry bursting with culinary greatness. 

Antoinette Bruno
Will Blunt
Managing Editor