The South Beach Wine & Food Festival offers a multitude of celebrity chefs cooking their best for thousands of fans who flock to its parties and dinners. This year, however, one particular event will feature actual local heroes.
At Fireman Derek's Midnight Breakfast, Derek Kaplan, the pie-making City of Miami firefighter, has curated a group of firehouse cooks representing local fire departments to present their favorite breakfast dishes. The event is hosted by model/foodie/America's sweetheart Chrissy Teigen.
Kaplan, better known as Fireman Derek to Miami pie lovers, says SOBEWFF founder Lee Brian Schrager had the idea for a dessert event where firefighters would make their favorite pastries. It evolved into a midnight breakfast. Kaplan, who owns Fireman Derek's Bake Shop & Café in Wynwood, says he jumped at the concept. "I liked the idea of promoting firehouse cuisine and the men and women who cook it."
When most people think of firehouse cooking, their minds go to a big pot of chili on the stove, but Kaplan, who prepares meals for 20 firefighters at Miami Fire Rescue Station 1, says the food has grown to be quite varied and sophisticated. "Nowadays we're experimenting with all sorts of cuisine," he says. Some of Kaplan's favorite dishes include churrasco with rice and beans, jerk chicken with red beans and rice, bow-tie pasta Alfredo with chicken, and steak with roasted parsley potatoes. Though cooks don't have an official title, theirs is an important part of making sure the firehouse works as a cohesive unit — crucial for a group of lifesavers. "Everybody at the station sits down together and eats," Kaplan explains. "It's a family-type thing. We want that feeling. When you sit down with someone and break bread, you form a bond."
When Kaplan was tasked with finding firefighters to participate in the event, he made sure a handful of local cities with fire departments were represented: Key Biscayne, Coral Gables, Hialeah, Miami Beach, and Miami. "I spoke directly with a lot of station chiefs, looking for the best chefs. When they realized this was for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, they knew they had to up their game."
Kaplan, who became a firefighter to serve his community, says that while eventgoers are sure to have a good time, his Midnight Breakfast is a good opportunity for people to get to know their local first responders. "I think people have a lot of respect for firefighters and police officers because we're willing to put ourselves in the way of danger to help other people. There are people still walking around on this planet because of the efforts that my station has put forth. I take being a role model and a leader very seriously."
With a thriving bake shop and exciting plans on the horizon, Kaplan still chooses to stay with the fire department. "It's a great career that has afforded me a lot. I've been able to use my free time to not only get my name out in the community but also promote what we do. It's important to me that when people come into my store, I'm able to tell them I'm a City of Miami firefighter."
Kaplan has plans to build a production facility in the Little River neighborhood. Moving all baking and prep work to a larger space will also free up his Wynwood store for more seating for customers. In addition, the baker is scouting a location for a second Fireman Derek's.
Kaplan has also hired pastry chef Amy Kalinowski. She filled Hedy Goldsmith's shoes at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink when Goldsmith moved to Los Angeles last spring. Kalinowski worked with Goldsmith for five years and then moved to Virginia before taking over the title of pastry chef at Michael's. Right now, Kalinowski is developing recipes for Kaplan's new project: a coffee and doughnut shop.
The shop will be located adjacent to the production facility in Little River, with an expected opening date of spring 2016. Kaplan says that although he didn't want to announce the news just yet, he's been leaking pictures of doughnuts on his Instagram page. "Amy is very talented, and she's been working on all these different doughnut recipes. We've perfected our yeast doughnut, and we have some really solid cake doughnut recipes that we're going to continue to tweak."
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If you want a preview, the Wynwood shop is testing some of the flavors, such as a sweet and tart strawberry lemonade variety.
Kaplan sees the opening of doughnut shops such as the Salty Doughnut and Velvet Creme as a good thing and that together all the shops can thrive. "When other people make key lime pies and talk about them on social media, my pie sales actually increase. I see a demand in Miami for doughnuts, and I want to provide a great product... so people will say the doughnuts in this town are amazing."
For now, there's a party to throw. Kaplan won't say whether he'll preview his doughnuts at the Midnight Breakfast, but he's looking forward to
Fireman Derek's Midnight Breakfast
Hosted by Chrissy Teigen. 11:59 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, February 26, at the National Hotel, 1667 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $95. Visit sobefest.com.