Cook’s Kitchen

This Latin Television Host’s Miami Kitchen Has a Message for Us All — Bite-Sized Guide: Miami

Who: Ingrid Hoffmann, cookbook author and television host of Simply Delicioso and Top Chef Estrellas
Where: Miami, Florida

On television, Ingrid Hoffmann comes across as warm and energetic, with a real zest for mindful living and eating. In person, the host of Food Network's Simply Delicioso is just the same: an enthusiastic consumer of all that life and food have to offer. And the Latin chef's home is, likewise, every bit as vibrant as you'd expect — maybe even more so, thanks to the mega art installation adorning her dining room wall.

Bold, red letters by South African artist Brett Murray read: OPRAH SAYS LIVE LIFE DELICIOUSLY. It's a mantra she has always lived by and it fuels her passion for healthy cooking and food policy. As someone battling Lupus, Ingrid saw how changing her own diet improved her health. Now she's on a mission to help others learn how to eat better on the cheap.


You Have to See This Miami Chef’s Igloo-Shaped House — Bite-Sized Guide: Miami

Who: Eileen Andrade, chef & owner of Finka Table & Tap
Where: Miami, Florida

For Eileen Andrade, the chef and owner of Finka Table & Tap, cooking is in her DNA. Her grandparents, Raul and Amelia Garcia, who immigrated from Cuba in 1977, are the founders of Islas Canarias Restaurant, known for keeping the Magic City in supply of real-deal croquetas.

Eileen cut her teeth at her family's restaurant and bakery, making traditional empanadas, bocaditos, and pastelitos, while also studying traditional Peruvian cuisine and technique from the executive chef. By 2011, she was ready to step out on her own, opening the food truck CubanCube with her brother Jonathan; and a few years later, it was time to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Drawing heavily on her Cuban heritage, Finka Table & Tap puts a twist on traditional Latin food by incorporating Korean and Peruvian ingredients and techniques. "It wasn't easy to turn people on to kimchi, wakame, and shiso," she says. "But we have, and it's a great feeling."

Finka also takes pride in its fresh juices, homemade syrups, and craft cocktails — and, naturally, you can find her family's famous croquetas on the menu.


A Visit with the Miami Bread King in His Kitchen — Bite-Sized Guide: Miami

Who: Zak H. Stern and Batsheva Wulfsohn, the husband-and-wife team behind Zak the Baker; their daughters, 2-year-old Abigail and 4-month-old Maya Maybel.
Where: Surfside, Florida

Zak Stern is better known as Zak the Baker (also the name of his bakery in the Wynwood Arts District) and, for many, he has an even higher title: He is Miami's crowned king of bread.

Together with his wife, Batsheva, he has made Miami a serious baking destination, turning out loaves of sourdough, beautiful babkas, and braided challah from inside a purposefully understated oasis. The focus here is clearly on the craft of baking; it is a gleaming, industrial counterpoint to the visually loud neighborhood of bold, colorful street art.

Since opening five years ago, the bakery has grown from a one-man show out of a garage to a full-blown operation that is tended to 24 hours a day (since bread never sleeps). And just recently, the duo expanded their business to include a kosher Jewish deli, where the ever-changing menu might include kugel, sour borscht, or herring tartine.


A Visit with Two Badass New Orleans Chefs in Their Kitchen — Bite-Sized Guide: New Orleans

Who: Slade Rushing, executive chef at Brennan's, and Allison Vines-Rushing, chef at Port City
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

Slade Rushing and Allison Vines-Rushing are kind of a big deal. In New Orleans, yes, but also in the greater food world.

The husband-and-wife team made a name for themselves at Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar in New York (now closed), then solidified their power couple status at MiLa in New Orleans (also closed). Allison earned a James Beard Award (Best Rising Chef of the Year) while at Jack's, and Slade was nominated for a Beard in his current role as the executive chef of Brennan's.

Now, if you live in New Orleans, you have almost certainly eaten at Brennan family restaurant. Ditto if you have ever visited New Orleans. And even if you have only thought about making the trip down to the Big Easy, chances are you have heard of a restaurant run by someone with a connection to the Brennan family.

The point is: Brennan is a name that means something in New Orleans. So being the executive chef of Brennan's, the original fine-dining establishment responsible for starting the empire (and inventing bananas foster!) really means something.


At Home in New Orleans with Chef Nina Compton — Bite-Sized Guide: New Orleans

Who: Nina Compton, chef-owner of Compère Lapin
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

You might already know about Nina Compton from BRAVO's hit television show Top Chef; the 38-year-old St. Lucia native was the Season 11 runner-up and the fan favorite. But if you don't, my guess is you will soon.

Less than two years ago, Nina and her husband, Larry Miller, moved from Miami, where she worked at Scott Conant's Scarpetta, to New Orleans to open a restaurant of their own: Compère Lapin in the Old 77 Hotel & Chandlery. With Nina in the kitchen, turning out Caribbean-inspired dishes like conch croquettes with pickled pineapple tartar sauce, tuna tartare with crispy bananas, and curried goat with sweet potato gnocchi and cashews, and Larry running the dining room, the restaurant quickly got attention.

(Image credit: Tara Donne)

Local restaurant critic Brett Anderson tapped it as one of the top five openings of 2015 and named it Restaurant of the Year in 2016. Not bad for someone who isn't from New Orleans and isn't serving gumbo or étouffée!

Right now, her job is pretty much her life: Last year, the couple had taken off for Mardi Gras to watch the parades and the restaurant was so busy Nina jumped into the kitchen — with her purple wig on. Her apartment in the Rice Mill Lofts in the Bywater is her retreat — and her kitchen is, she admits, mostly for making coffee and eating takeout.


At Home in New Orleans with Chef Melissa Martin — Bite-Sized Guide: New Orleans

Who: Melissa Martin
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

It's not an exaggeration to say that Melissa Martin is a woman with a mission. The 39-year-old chef from Chauvin, Louisiana, is trying to keep real Cajun food — the kind her mama, Maxine, and her aunts and their mamas cooked — alive, some 70 miles away in New Orleans.

Every Thursday night (or very nearly), Melissa hosts a supper club that's both humble and rich. The menu changes according to the season and what's available, but might include oyster soup and buttermilk biscuits, okra and étouffée, and beignets dipped in cane syrup. She's made a few changes to her family recipes — she uses Poirier's Cane Syrup instead of Steen's, which is what she grew up with, and her biscuits and pies and yeast rolls are made using locally milled whole-grain flour from Bellegarde Bakery — but this feels like the kind of food your grandmother would cook (if grandma were an excellent Cajun cook).

And sitting down at Melissa's table feels like sitting down with family. To that end, it's a BYO affair, but the drizzly night that I attended her Mosquito Supper Club. the gathering kicked off with hot toddies and ended with a group of us sharing whatever wine was leftover from the crowd. The point is: You won't go hungry or thirsty.


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