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PERSONAL BEST Miami 2005 - Marvin Woods of Restaurant MWoods

Personal best Marvin Woods of restaurant mwoods Chef Marvin Woods hails from New York and New Jersey and has worked at the top of the food world, from the SeaGrill at Rockefeller Center in New York City to Restaurant Danzon in Buenos Aires to the National Hotel in Miami Beach. Now ensconced in his NoMi namesake restaurant, Woods is the star and chief scene-stealer on TurnerSouth television's Home Plate Cooking: Everyday Southern Cuisine with a Fresh Twist.

The sassy, handsome Woods says his culinary inspiration stems from summers spent with relatives in the Southern U.S. and from South American, Caribbean, and African recipes.

Best month in Miami: For me it runs from the end of January to, like, May. Blue skies, no humidity? You can't get better weather. The reason I live in Miami is because of the weather. When we're at the peak of our season here, there's no better place to be.

Best reason to live in Miami: Besides the weather, I like the fact that it's close to the Caribbean and it's still on the East Coast. It's close enough that I can jump on a plane and be anyplace I'd like to be in just a couple of hours.

Best cheap thrill: Is there one? [laughs] Paninoteca on Lincoln Road [809 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach]. It's a European-style sandwicherie, and they do a really good job at what they do. I love sandwiches, they're kind of like my weakness. They're not that expensive; you can get a really good sandwich on the healthy side and be quite happy.

Best not-so-cheap thrill: China Grill [404 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach]. They do a great job, but they're a little bit expensive.

Best barbecue: It doesn't exist. I love barbecue. Last year I went to the annual barbecue festival in Memphis, and I saw how it's really done. It's the Super Bowl of barbecue. There are three days of this event, and 63 categories of barbecue, okay? I will give a prop to a place in Fort Lauderdale, Tom Jenkins Barbecue [1236 S. Federal Highway]. They do a decent job.

Best Caribbean restaurant: Ortanique on the Mile [278 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables]. They just do a really good job. Whenever I walk in the door, I'll get the special or whatever, and I'm never disappointed.

What culinary trends do you predict for the year 2020? I definitely think you're going to see more food inspired and influenced by Africa. That's what I do rigiht now. If you were to call up and ask what kind of food I do, we tell everyone New American. The reason we say that is because it's really easy, and a lot of other chefs are also using that term. What it allows you to do is work under this huge umbrella. But when you say American, what is our country made up of today? There are all kinds of different backgrounds. At my restaurant we have lobster, we have crabcakes, filet mignon, lamb -- all those things you'd get at an upscale gourmet restaurant. But when you see how it's prepared, the flavors are Caribbean and Southern and South American and African. I define all of that as food of the African diaspora. But there's no way I can put that out there right now, because I wouldn't get anyone in the restaurant. But I think as people travel and experience more, it's going to hit. Because you can only do Asian so many ways. Give me a freaking break now.

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