Miami's dining scene is one of the nation's hottest thanks to some powerhouse chefs leaving their culinary mark. From haute cuisine to funky food trucks, Miami's hottest chefs are dishing up award-winning, attention-grabbing meals. With many Miami chefs also opening their own restaurants, and becoming local and national television personalities, it's easy to understand why foodies are flocking to Miami as a must-try culinary destination. Below you'll discover some of the hottest names currently gracing Miami's culinary scene, and where to find their prized creations, from udon carbonara to the city's tastiest Southern fried chicken. Tuck in your napkin, and sink your teeth in for one tasty ride.
No Miami chef has garnered the praise -- or fame -- for perfectly executing Southern classics like crispy fried chicken (with unique twists like Tabasco honey), quite like Jeff McInnis, executive chef of Yardbird Southern Table and Bar. After attending culinary school in Charleston, SC, this Florida Panhandle native got his start in Miami at the Dilido Beach Club at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, and was soon cast on the fifth season of Top Chef.
McInnis eventually moved on to trendy Gigi restaurant in Miami’s Wynwood district, where he honed his skills cooking up Asian-inspired meals, before opening Yardbird in 2011. Since then, praise has been heaped on McInnis from the esteemed likes of Bon Appetit for creating Southern fare with flair, from ’77 Elvis Pancakes (think chocolate chip pancakes, banana compote, bourbon maple syrup and peanut butter) to the Big Ol’ Cheddar Waffle, using farm-fresh ingredients like locally grown Florida heirloom tomatoes. Belly up to a table at Yardbird, take a deep breath and start ordering: Chicken biscuits with pepper jelly, shrimp and grits, and the "27-hour" fried chicken -- yup, it takes 27 hours to prepare.
Juan Carlos Ariano Photography
Inventive, pork-centric tapas are the main attraction at this Asian-inspired gastropub in an industrial-chic space in Miami Beach. The restaurant, as well as its chefs and co-owners, Sergio Navarro and Jose Mendín, have become household names among foodies and dining critics across the nation, particularly since Mendín's 2013 nomination for the James Beard Award, Best Chef: South. Mendín studied at one of America's premier culinary colleges, Johnson and Wales’ College of Culinary Arts, while Navarro received his culinary degree from one of Spain's top culinary schools, Hotel Escuela Comunidad de Madrid.
Together, the 2 chefs have created an innovative menu, with dishes like pork belly and scallion dumplings with onion marmalade; as well as udon carbonara with green peas, confit pork belly-poached egg, parmesan and bacon. Try Pubbelly's most popular small plate, the McBelly, a fatty hunk of barbecued pork belly on a soft potato roll served with kimchi and pickles. And put the “pub” in “belly” with the restaurant’s ever-changing selection of beers from breweries in Europe, Asia and the Americas, as well as a wine list that focuses on boutique growers from Europe and the Americas.
Michael Schwartz solidified his standing as a Miami culinary star soon after opening neighborhood bistro Michael's Genuine Food and Drink in Miami's Design District in 2007. A year later, The New York Times’ dining critic Frank Bruni named it one of America’s “10 best new restaurants.” The acclaimed chef went on to win the coveted 2010 James Beard award for Best Chef: South. The award solidified what was already apparent: Schwartz’s mastery of preparing fresh ingredients into inventive dishes, like duck confit with a tangerine marmalade, frisee and spiced pumpkin seeds.
Schwartz often switches up his restaurant menu to feature what's in season, such as Meyer lemons, or what's arrived from local farms or fisheries, such as basil and heirloom tomatoes from Teena’s Pride, a third-generation farm in nearby Homestead, FL, and heritage Hereford pork from Palmetto Creek Farms, about 3 hours north of Miami. Menu highlights during a recent visit to Michael's included the stracciatella, a decadently creamy cheese served with heirloom tomatoes, locally grown basil and fleur de sel. Schwartz's dishes are all a la carte -- consider ordering one of the tasty sides, such as wood-roasted cauliflower or asparagus, or garlic mashed potatoes to complement your meal!
In the midst of Miami's burgeoning celebrity chef scene, few have reached superstar status quite like Ingrid Hoffman. The Miami-based, Colombian-American restaurateur and chef is nationally known for her Latino-inspired Cooking Channel series, Simply Delicioso, which originally aired on Food Network. Hoffman started serving up gourmet cuisine in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood with the 1993 opening of Rocca (the first Miami restaurant to use heated lava rocks for cooking). Though the restaurant closed a few years later, Hoffman has maintained her reputation as a celebrity chef, publishing the Latin-influenced cookbook Simply Delicioso: A Collection of Everyday Recipes with a Latin Twist, and developing a line of cookware for Target and Kmart.
In 2012, Hoffman helped launch a food truck venture, Latin Burger and Taco truck, which allowed her to give culinary school students from nearby Johnson and Wales a place to hone their cooking chops. The truck's mainstay is the Latin Macho burger, a chorizo, chuck and sirloin burger topped with Oaxaca cheese, caramelized onions and jalapenos with Hoffman's signature "avocadolicious sauce" or a red pepper mayo.
Adrianne Calvo is a familiar face on the Miami dining scene; the young chef hosts a weekly cooking segment, Maximum Flavor Live, on South Florida's NBC affiliate station and has competed on Food Network's series, Chopped. After graduating from Johnson and Wales in 2004, the young chef earned numerous accolades, including first place in multiple cooking competitions such as Australia's Taste Down Under, before opening Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar in 2007.
The Napa Valley-inspired restaurant features popular items like crispy panko-crusted French goat cheese served with figs, prosciutto and balsamic and a New Zealand lamb rack served with a merlot demi-glace. Interested in experiencing a true eating adventure? Calvo has also incorporated monthly "Dark Dining" nights at her restaurant: Lights are turned off, guests are blindfolded and out comes from the food -- all of it a complete surprise -- that guests savor with a sense of taste heightened by suppressing their sense of sight.