6 Top Chefs Foodies Should Have on Their Radar
These stars of the 2018 South Beach Wine & Food Festival are putting inventive spins on regional and global cuisine.
Photo By: Courtesy of World Red Eye
Photo By: Courtesy of 50 Eggs Inc.
Photo By: Courtesy of Zuma
Photo By: Courtesy of King's Hawaiian
Photo By: Courtesy of Bart Nagel
Photo By: Courtesy of Grove Bay Hospitality Group
South Beach Wine & Food Festival
A real-world utopia for foodie travelers, the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) attracts an all-star lineup of chefs, restaurateurs, wine and spirit brands and culinary personalities. Over the five-day weekend, festival-goers can sip and savor their way through dozens of signature —eventsfrom intimate dinners and seminars to grand tastings and after dark beach parties. Set among Miami’s most glamorous hotels, iconic beaches and beloved restaurants, the festival delights guests with renowned cuisine from across the country and every corner of the globe. Here are six stand-out chefs who will take you on a culinary getaway, with the lift of a fork...
The Chef: John Kunkel
The Culinary Getaway: American South
Talk to Miami locals and they’re likely to hold a special place in their hearts for Yardbird Southern Table and Bar, the James Beard-nominated South Beach hot spot from award-winning restaurateur, John Kunkel. Lured to Miami by its seaside locale and rising culinary scene, the gregarious Atlanta native bottles the perfect blend of classic Southern fare with fresh, local flavors. The rustic-chic space entices an energetic crowd of regulars and out-of-towners with soul-satisfying hits like Lewellyn’s fine fried chicken (Kunkel’s Grandmother’s recipe and favorite dish to make), fried green tomato BLT, deviled eggs and shrimp n’ grits—topped off by an extensive craft cocktail menu and bourbon selection, plus a whole lotta Southern charm. But Kunkel’s hits don’t stop here. In the Miami area, he’s opened Spring Chicken, the fast, casual younger brother of Yardbird, and Swine Southern Bar and Table, where the focus is on barbecue and smoked meats. Named one of Restaurant Hospitality Magazine’s Coolest Multi-Concept Companies in the Land, his company, 50 Eggs, includes Chica in Las Vegas (a Latin American concept with Chef Lorena Garcia) and Yardbird locations in Singapore, Las Vegas, and a new Los Angeles outpost coming in April 2018. Kunkel is a true student of his industry and has traveled extensively throughout the world, soaking up all the foods and flavors that other cultures offer. A passionate visionary, Kunkel aims to launch new restaurant concepts in cities like Dallas, Denver, Boston, Chicago, D.C. and NYC.
The Chef: Oliver Lange
The Culinary Getaway: Japan
No culinary trip to Miami is complete, without carving out time for the wildly popular Zuma brunch, a lively affair—think high-end libations and a freewheeling sax player—complete with a premium sushi bar, baikingu (open food selection), robata counter and lavish dessert platter. At the helm is Corporate Executive Chef, Oliver Lange, who shares Zuma founder Rainer Becker’s vision of elevated Japanese cuisine in a playful ambiance of an izakaya, a type of informal Japanese pub. The Berlin-born Lange was drawn to the people, culture and cuisine of Japan, where he immersed himself in the culinary arts and parlayed his expertise into an esteemed career in Germany. Today he heads up menu development for Zuma Miami, New York and Las Vegas. The passion for his craft is evident in the twinkle in his eye when he talks about the Zuma philosophy and flavors—most notably, the melt-in-your mouth black cod marinated in a saikyo miso (a recipe developed in Kyoto over months). Other must-try dishes include the truffle hotpot, jumbo tiger prawn and lobster tempura. When he’s not perfecting dishes at Zuma, Lange likes to make schnitzel for his friends and wife, who really does most of the home cooking. Along with locations in London, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Dubai and Bangkok, Zuma will soon add Boston to its acclaimed roster. And Zuma Miami is celebrating its seventh anniversary with a limited-edition cocktail collection inspired by the seven lucky gods of Japan.
The Chef: Bert Agor
The Culinary Getaway: Hawaii
Hawaiian cuisine is taking the food world by storm and Chef Bert Agor, Jr. is at the center of the movement. Growing up in Kauai, Agor’s culinary career was shaped by his grandfather and father, both executive chefs who instilled their knowledge and passion for island flavors and cooking techniques. From his humble start, working alongside his father in the kitchens of Hawaii’s TS Restaurants (making sauces, cleaning fish and busing tables), Agor rose quickly through the culinary ranks, relocating to California and holding positions as corporate training chef for Ruth’s Chris Steak House and executive chef of Tustin Ranch Golf Club. Holding fast to his roots, Agor began working with the family-owned company, King’s Hawaiian, cultivating their distinctly Hawaiian approach to hospitality and creating Hawaiian dishes and recipes for brands like Arby’s, IHOP, Hy-Vee, Kroger, Sam’s Club. In August 2017, he was named King’s Hawaiian’s National Corporate Executive Chef, a role he describes as an exciting opportunity to share Aloha with grocery stores, restaurants and sports stadiums across the U.S., including a successful King’s Hawaiian Grill in Dodger Stadium and another coming soon to Yankee Stadium. Look out for Chef Agor as he heads around the country to kick off events and demos celebrating Hawaiian Foods Week, nationally-recognized as the second week in June.
The Chefs: Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger
The Culinary Getaway: Mexico
Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger are known by many well-deserved titles: pioneers in the food world, preeminent ambassadors of modern Mexican cuisine, celebrated cookbook authors, Too Hot Tamales (the name of their long-running Food Network show) hosts, philanthropists and trailblazers for women. They broke into the male-dominated restaurant industry in the '70s, took a life-changing, culinary road trip through Mexico with their line cook’s mother, and have been redefining authentic Latin flavors ever since. Their flagship brand, Border Grill, is renowned for its bold, elevated dishes that are fresh and approachable (like the out-of-this-world baby back rib tacos with cumin honey glaze, pineapple jicama salsa and guacamole that they served at the SOBEWFF Tacos After Dark event). Milliken and Feniger believe in reinventing themselves every few years and constantly evolving their culinary practices—like focusing on sustainability initiatives, locally-sourced ingredients and more plant-based dishes. The powerhouse team will soon unveil a highly-anticipated new space in Santa Monica as well as a BBQ Mexicana concept at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas in May 2018. Their advice for other females pursuing a culinary career... exude confidence, find mentors, don’t ever settle, and above all, know your value.
The Chef: Mike McLaurin
The Culinary Getaway: South Africa
The brainchild of International Hall of Fame golfer and award-winning vintner, Ernie Els, Big Easy Winebar & Grills serve sophisticated South African comfort food, with locations in Durban, Stellenbosch and Dubai. And now, Mike McLaurin is taking the reins as Executive Chef of their first U.S. property in the vibrant Brickell neighborhood of Miami. Throughout his gastronomic career, he’s cultivated extensive knowledge of international cuisines as well as wood-fired techniques and flavors, holding positions at Del Frisco’s Grille, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar and Bravo Cucina Italiana. He’s excited to bring his diverse background to Big Easy Miami to give guests an authentic taste of South African cuisine. The curries and steaks are must-haves, along with the Big Easy Signature Burger, Cape Malay Seafood Pot and the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly lollipop smothered in a sweet and spicy braai "bbq sauce"—that wowed guests at the SOBEWFF BACARDI Rum & Bass Beach Party featuring Walshy Fire. When he’s not cooking, McLaurin loves baking and spending time with his two daughters.