When South Street, the Motown-inspired Design District eatery closed in spring 2013, abruptly closed, there was but one notice on Facebook to let its fans know: "South Street is closed... STAY TUNED FOR WHAT'S NEXT."
The restaurant — a collaboration between Amaris Jones, a self-described "lifestyle consultant, dot connector, visionary, lover, sister, friend, amazing cook, foodie for life," and Gigi restaurateur Amir Ben-Zion — opened in the former Sra. Martinez space. It was a hit with celebrities, including Martha Stewart, who famously raved about the restaurant's pork-free soul food during Art Basel 2012.
Jones has kept herself busy this Art Basel season, restaurant or not. The chef recently teamed up with chef Irie Spice to cook for the Lexus Uncorked Miami Food & Wine event, among other functions. "There are definitely great culinary collaborations with Basel and all the other incredible art fairs. I just curated a private Art Basel dinner where I served organic fried chicken, caviar, and champagne. It's all art."
Jones is also Rick Ross' personal chef, a position formerly held by Gastropod's Jeremiah Bullfrog. Bullfrog and Ross are so close that the rapper even asked the chef to costar in a Reebok commercial. It is the very same shoe company that led to Jones' being tapped for the gig. "I was introduced to cook for Ross through Reebok in which he started to follow an intensive CrossFit program. Ross creatively now coins his workout program as #RossFit."
Last year, Ross released a 24-minute video for Reebok in which about two of those minutes feature Ross working out. After the workout, Jones can be seen in Ross' kitchen preparing a meal and a "Ross punch," a sugar-free lemonade, sweetened with fresh fruit.
The partnership is working, with Ross dropping about 80 pounds since then. Jones gives the credit to the musician. "Ross has lost over 80 pounds, and I must say he did it. He made the choices. I presented dishes in front of him, but it was his choice to really embrace a healthier way of eating. I would just incorporate a ton of vegetables into his diet — kale, cauliflower, peas, beans — high protein, no carbs at all.
"We did that for a good year, and the pounds just came off. Of course, he had his exercise regimen every single day. Everything I cooked for him is organic. One of his favorite meals is grass-fed lamb chops, a caesar salad — which is called 'Boss salad' — and honey spiced pears as a snack."
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Jones may just be the perfect chef for Ross. The chef, known for making healthier renditions of even the most decadent foods, famously omitted pork from her soul food dishes. Although that move might be considered blasphemy in the South, it's common in Jones' hometown. "I grew up in Philadelphia, and there were a ton of alternative options in the soul food restaurants there. They would sub pork chops for turkey chops. The no-pork rule at my previous restaurant, South Street, was paying homage to something that was familiar in my hometown."
Jones doesn't have a magic wand to make food healthier. Asked for tips on how to eat better, Jones gives these three no-nonsense tips: "First, always pray over your food and be grateful for what you put in your body. Have that mindset that what you're putting in your body is of nutritional value to you. Then research the food that you like to eat. Find out where the farms are in your neighborhood, and visit those farms and pick the vegetables.
"Finally, use a ton of spices without all the salt. Spices and herbs give so much flavor to your food. You would not believe how amazing your dish could come out without any added salt or an abundance of salt."
It looks like all of Miami might be able to get a taste of "Boss salad" and "Ross punch." Although she won't give specifics, Jones does let slip the following intel: "I'm planning another concept that will delight South Florida." With healthy eating becoming increasingly prevalent, the Magic City is finally ready for some healthful soul food.