James Beard Winner Jim Lahey on Bringing Sullivan Street and Cuban Bread to Miami

Sullivan Street's Jim Lahey won a James Beard Award this year.
Sullivan Street's Jim Lahey won a James Beard Award this year.
Photo by Bionicgrrrl via Flickr Creative Commons

Turns out that before Jim Lahey opened his famed bakery Sullivan Street in New York City’s Soho neighborhood in 1994 his eyes were actually set on Miami.

“It was 1992 and the original plan was to do a bakery with restaurateur Joe Allen,” says Lahey, who won the 2015 James Beard for outstanding baker. “I went to the space he opened up on Purdy before it became Joe Allen and saw the emerging scene on Lincoln Road before there was a scene there. It was pretty cool, and then it kind of just didn’t happen. We just decided for one reason or the other it wasn’t the right time and opened in New York.”

Times have changed, however, and the stars have finally aligned for Lahey to bring his no-knead bread to Miami’s flourishing Little Haiti.

“I’ve toyed with the idea of opening a bakery here for over 20 years and have a certain vision in my head about what I think Sullivan Street Miami is supposed to be," Lahey says. "One of the things I brought back to NY from here that formed and influenced Sullivan Street was this weird admiration for the Art Deco aesthetic.”

He adds, “The food scene in Miami has really become this world-class thing. It’s a nice place to live — good vibe, good people, the ocean – and there’s definitely a craft food movement and appreciation for foods made by hand, so we just thought it was the right time.”

His new 4,000-square-foot facility in Little Haiti (just a few blocks away from Soyka) will first open as a wholesale business and eventually make the transition to retail, joining other artisanal bread makers the likes of Zak Stern and True Loaf in elevating our dough game.

“Our plan is to get our footing and routines and rituals and schedules and flow down with the wholesale side to then move into retail,” he says. In NYC, Sullivan Street supplies bread to more than 250 establishments, and Lahey intends on doing the same here. “It’ll take us about six months to get into the groove with people," he says. "It’s a different labor market in terms of where people come from.”

Lahey is also planning a few tricks up his sleeve to adapt to the Miami culture. “We might try to develop our own version of pan cubano," he says. "That’s just one, but there will be many innovations.”

As for the timing of when exactly his bakery will be up and running, it's still "TBD," he says.

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