Chef Gonzalo Rivera says Miami is on its way to becoming a real food city. The well-traveled Michael Mina protégé from Northern Cali says, "Homestead is the new California."
Rivera is from Chico, "about an hour north of Sacramento, a real small town." But after graduating from California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, going from line cook to sous chef at Michael Mina Restaurant, touring the country training chefs, and running the show at Nemi for four years in the Polanco district of Mexico City, he has now made his home in Miami.
Rivera is the new executive chef at La Marea restaurant at the Tides
Hotel on South Beach (1220 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach). He says, "My grandma lit the
fire for this -- she's the inspiration. I used to just watch her cook. My
family moved here from Mexico, Michoacan, in the '60s and harvested all
up and down the California coast.
"When I was about 23, I was running an auto upholstery shop with my uncle. I had a couple of buddies -- Robinson Lando and Jimmy Medina -- who were like, 'Let's go, let's get out of here. You can go to culinary school in San Francisco,' who I owe the world to because if I didn't listen to them, I'd still be in Chico doing nothing."
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Harold Ortiz is the lead line cook at La Marea. He says, "Bro, this place is amazing, and I've worked at the Setai and the Mandarin Oriental. I want to be the best chef in the world -- Iron Chef. That's why I work so hard. Some people think you go to culinary school and become a chef. That's the biggest lie in the world. You have to work for it."
Jeremy Chernock has been a line cook at La Marea for a year. He says, "I've never worked anywhere like this before. As far as the caliber of the menu goes, Gonzalo is a mastermind. He's a brain ninja when it comes to this. His palette, his creativity... He's always willing to try new things. He's got something new everyday."
Kalen Starling is a kitchen intern from Johnson & Wales University's culinary arts program. He says, "The amount of attention to detail they pay here is amazing to me. A cook once told me that the difference between a good and great chef is that attention to detail. So if that's what I want to be, what better place to learn than here?"
Chef Gonzalo is committed to excellence at La Marea. He says, "You gotta taste everything. Everything. I even taste raw chicken sometimes."