The Miami Culinary Institute cultivates culinary talent but doesn't put it to good use, at least not at its new, high-end restaurant, Tuyo, which opened a few days ago on its top floor.
With 40 students inducted last spring into Miami Dade College's newest addition and 90 more this fall, director John Richards thinks the students have not had enough training for professional experience. The restaurant instead hired seasoned professionals for its cooking staff.
"This is professional. We are in competition with the best restaurants
in Florida," Richards says. "This is destination dining, not a culinary
school, student-run restaurant."
Executive chef Norman Van Aken, who was tapped by MCI last summer to be its top chef and director of restaurants, will run the new restaurant. As the "founding father of New
World cuisine," Van Aken is known for introducing the concept of "fusion" into the culinary world, according to his bio on the Tuyo website. With a panoramic view of the Miami skyline from the restaurant, Tuyo fuses culinary styles and embraces food-sustainability practices with a supply chain starting from MCI's organic garden only three miles away.
Students at MCI aren't down with the idea of being excluded from the new restaurant. They not only want to practice their skills, but also want the convenience of having work close to school.
"I think that the students should be working here, since it would be easy for us to go to work and to school," says Narky Suazl, an MCI student.
Another student, John Henry, believes the money he spends at MCI, and possibly at Tuyo, will not be cycled back to student services.
"It's not fair. The students should be running this stuff," Henry says. "We're gonna be spending money on supporting it."
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Despite the exclusion, students have the chance to apply their talent at other school-sponsored venues, including the student café and MCI's food truck.
Even though MCI is new, Richards anticipates 40 to 50 more students in January and is expecting to reach a total of 400 by next August. He does not completely rule out student participation at Tuyo. "The students have every opportunity to participate in the café and food truck, just not in the restaurant because they're not ready. But they will be," he says. "We are setting the bar very high."