Jeff McInnis: Hot Chef

Jeff McInnis's name would stand out on any definitive list of top Miami chefs: It's the one that keeps moving up. This nice young man born in Niceville, Florida, first achieved a high profile thanks to a stint on Top Chef. At the time, he was in the midst of a five-year run as executive chef of the DiLido Beach Club at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. While there, he created highly acclaimed cuisine that proved he was more than just a pretty face.

But it is his gig as chef de cuisine at Gigi, the immensely popular noodles-barbecue-beer joint in Wynwood, that has him shooting up the charts like a bullet. "I had a gut feeling," McInnis says when asked if he expected Gigi to become the hot new spot as soon as it opened. "We knew we had a great concept, and the pieces just fell into place. Gigi is different — breaking the rules and [heading] into a new direction that Miami has been craving for a long time." That craving is apparently for a restaurant that is "well priced, focused on flavor, unpretentious, [open] late-night, and [serving] food that fucking rocks."

With this new, noncorporate setting comes freedom for McInnis to cook the way he wants. "I was never able to remove a cheeseburger or the 'boring hotel must-haves' from my menus. Now I can use chicken feet, pig ears, crab vagina, or whatever I feel like cooking, and not toss caesar salad for thousands all day."

But the biggest difference, he says, is that while working "about 90 hours a week now, every drop of sweat I lose when I'm working at Gigi is to better myself and my own restaurant instead of someone else's."

And really, when you look at the surging success of both Gigi and McInnis, you realize that few, if any, local chefs could have done a better job of bettering things.

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