Friday, August 7, 2015



In Key West, a line snakes, sometimes for blocks, with people waiting
for a chance to take a picture with the famous Southernmost Point
marker, which proclaims Cuba is only 90 miles away. Now that diplomatic
ties between the United States and Cuba have been officially
re-established, connection with the people of Cuba is closer than ever.
There's no better way to bond with someone than over food.

Miami chefs such as Douglas Rodriguez and Jamie DeRosa have recently led
culinary tours to the island to visit farms and paladares —
independently-run restaurants. Now several of Cuba's finest chefs are
set to visit Miami, with some of South Florida's top toques hosting
their Cuban counterparts.

This chef exchange is being hosted by the Cuba Study Group. The
Alexandria, Virginia-based nonprofit's mission is "to help facilitate
peaceful change in Cuba leading to a free and open society, respect for
human rights and the rule of law, a productive, market-based economy and
the reunification of the Cuban nation". The upcoming culinary visit is
the third in a series of Cuba entrepreneurial exchanges, designed to
connect Cuban entrepreneurs with their American counterparts. The
exchange runs from August 10 to 14, culminating with a gala dinner at Tuyo.

According to Tomas Bilbao, executive director of the Cuba Study Group,
the four Cuban chefs — Luis Alberto Alfonso Pérez of El Gringo Viejo,
Michael Alejandro Calvo Oviedo of Atelier, Yamilet Magariño Andux of
Andux, and Gilberto Smith Álvarez of Pizzanella — were chosen to come to
the U.S. for their promise and their potential to learn from their
experiences. "The folks coming are from the more successful restaurants.
Chef Yamilet, for example, is a pastry chef and a published cookbook
author," he says.

Though many people in the U.S. don't realize it, Cuba has almost one
million entrepreneurs and small business owners. According to Bilbao,
the push started in the 1990s when Cuba first allowed individuals to own
their own bed and breakfasts and paladares.

"Then these businesses were heavily restricted, but in the last five
years, there's been a big expansion to about a million people in the
private sector," he says. "There are many restaurants that have been
operating independently from the government for a while. These are owned
by folks that face unique challenges on top of the usual hurdles that
face a business owner, and they have been able to do so with great success."

He adds, "The authorization of private sector business has been growing
over the past five years. It's the reflection of the slow revolution of
Cuba. People are taking advantage of these openings, that can sometimes
be limited, to improve the quality of life of their families and to
realize their dreams of being a chef."

During the course of the week, the Cuban chefs will take turns working
with the host chefs, which include Wolfgang Birk (Area 31), Bernie Matz
(Bodega), Alberto Cabrera (Little Bread Cuban Sandwich Company),
Santiago Alvarez (Cantina la Viente), Michelle Bernstein (Seagrape and
Crumb on Parchment), Douglas Rodriguez (DeRodriguez Catering), Tomas
Prado (Golden Fig), Victor Santos (Tuyo), Miguel Aguilar (Wynwood
Kitchen and Bar), and Steve Hosang (Sushi Maki), sharing ideas on food
preparation, safety, finances, and operation.

On Friday, August 14, the chefs will all meet at the Miami Culinary
Institute for a demo for students. On Friday at 7 p.m., the chefs will
cook alongside each other at Tuyo for a benefit dinner to raise funds
for future exchange programs. Tickets for the gala dinner are a $150
tax-deductible donation and are available through

Source: Miami Chefs Host Cuban Counterparts for Historic Exchange
Program | Miami New Times -

No comments:

Post a Comment