The whole affair was a little mysterious. An email invite to dinner at an unnamed location by an unnamed chef.
Taking the challenge, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the chef who was returning to the Miami dining scene was none other than Gabriela Machado, the chef behind Copperbox Culinary Atelier, the combination culinary proving ground/pop-up dinner party that the chef hosted from her Wynwood space.
Machado closed Copperbox just when she learned all she could from it, telling Short Order that she the project was a way for her to hone her skills, not only on a culinary level, but business-wise and people-wise.
"I came from Venezuela four years ago without knowing anybody. Copperbox was a studio for me. For me to be a better chef, I needed to have a studio to learn. It was an experiment and a test to learn about Miami and learn about what I needed to know to grow. It was me learning and learning the United States. It developed into something beautiful."
Now, the chef has teamed with Soniq, a state-of-the-art audio company, for the Paladar secret dining series. The dinners will be held monthly at the Orchid House, a gorgeous, hidden villa tucked away in the heart of the bustle of Collins Avenue in South Beach. The five-bedroom compound, by the way, is rented by A-list celebrities seeking privacy when visiting Miami Beach. With rates starting at $3,000 a night, it's a safe assumption that these dinners are the least expensive way of gaining entry through the ivy-covered gates.
The dinner, which premiered last evening, caters to an intimate group of about two dozen guests who are treated to champagne in the billiards room before heading to the Paladar dining room, a candle-lit formal affair. Chef Machado, however, doesn't want the dinners too stuffy. She explains that she's been to Michelin-starred restaurants that, while the food is brilliant, left her "cold" by the experience.
"Food is passionate. I want people to laugh and talk at these dinners."
Indeed, the evening felt like a dinner party thrown by your best friend who happened to be named Gatsby. The eight-course experience featured cocktail, wine, and beer pairings by Heath Porter of Uvaggio Wine Bar, foie gras, a kale-stuffed rabbit loin, a cheese course, two desserts, music, good company, and laughter.
The self-taught chef knows a thing or two about hosting culinary fetes. As a private chef in Venezuela for high-profile clients of a Swiss bank, her culinary abilities caught the attention of a visiting Sheikh, who asked her to cook for him in Morocco.
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"It was an amazing experience." Although Machado pointed out that a good private chef never divulges names or details, she did share that he would get up at four in the morning every day for an apple and a walk, before retiring for another few hours of sleep.
The Paladar dinner series will occur monthly in Miami Beach, with plans to take it on the road to Monte Carlo, London, and New York. For dates and prices (which have not been set yet), visit the chef's Facebook page or call 305-904-8535.