As world-renowned chefs flock to open outposts in our little piece of paradise, Miami may move up from second tier status as a culinary city. From Jose Andres to Daniel Boulud, the biggest names in food are bringing new flavors, influences and ideas to our shore.
Enter Yoshi Migita, the new Head Sushi Chef at Bal Harbour's swank, creative Japanese eatery Makoto. Migita has studied under some of the world's best names in food -- and recently moved from Philadelphia to Miami to embark on a new culinary journey.
A Culinary Institute of America grad, his background is star-studded. After graduation, he whipped up pasta with chefs Marc Vetri and Jeffery Michaud at Philadelphia's Osteria before moving on to study under Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.
Earlier this year, he joined the team at Makoto (our 2012 Winner for Best Japanese Restaurant). Short Order spoke to Chef Migita on Latin influences, celebrity chefs and why a little heat is always a good thing.
Short Order: What prompted you to relocate to Miami and take a position with Makoto?
Chef Yoshi Migita: I was in a transitional phase in my career and open to new opportunities when I got the call from the Starr Restaurant organization. I had previously worked with Emily Aguilar, Makoto's General Manager, and Makoto-san at Morimoto in Philadelphia. The timing was right and the restaurant was right for me, so only about a month after I first spoke to them I was packing up and getting ready to move down to Miami.
What do you find most exciting about Miami's culinary scene?
I appreciate the diversity in Miami's culinary scene. In particular, I'm looking forward to exploring the Latin and Caribbean influences. There's not a lot of those flavors in Philadelphia so the new experience is exciting to me.
How does the culinary landscape differ from what you experienced in Philadelphia?
Well, as previously stated, the Latin and Caribbean influences. Also, the scene is much more spread out, geographically speaking. The Philadelphia restaurant scene is pretty well concentrated in Center City, but there's many more options and areas to explore in South Florida.
What changes do you see coming to our city?
Miami has such such artistic and international appeal. In coming years, I think we'll see more prominent chefs from New York, Chicago, Philly and elsewhere take on projects in Miami.
How does your current position differ from your experience working at Osteria? And at Morimoto?
I was very lucky to learn under Morimoto-san, and then Marc Vetri and Jeffery Michaud, who are among the best Italian chefs in the country. These guys taught me so much about what it means to be a chef, and now I'm able to take these lessons to work everyday while working on my own flavors and techniques.
How does your city of origin affect the menus you create for Makoto?
I'm originally from San Diego, California. Growing up by the ocean certainly impacts you--it's all about fresh fish! Also, I grew up eating Mexican, so a little heat is always a plus.
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What dish would you say is most representative of your background and experience?
Of course every dish I make represents my background in some way, but I wouldn't say there's one that is all-encompassing. I like to keep things seasonally appropriate. My latest dish is a watermelon ceviche with a variety of fish and wasabi peas for some texture.
Other than your own, what's your favorite restaurant thus far in Miami?
I have had a few great experiences at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar -- the atmosphere is really cool and Chef Miguel's menu is great. I also like Hiro's Yakko-San for a late dinner.