(New Times Best of Miami issue hits the streets this week. With this post, Riptide 2.0 provides an appetizer. The main course/entire issue will appear on the website Tuesday afternoon.)
Cindy Hutson and Doug Rodriguez
Past honorees of this lifetime achievement-type award are Norman Van Aken, Mark Militello, Allen Susser, Pascal Oudin, Philippe Ruiz, Michelle Bernstein, and Michael Schwartz. This year's inductees fit right into this privileged pantheon of pioneering chefs, both having forged personal, South Florida-centric cuisines way back when. Doug Rodriguez's stint began in 1991 at Efrain Vega's original Yuca Restaurant in Coral Gables, which led to Nuevo Latino cuisine and its hundreds of imitators. In a city rife with Cuban eateries, Rodriguez was the first chef to adapt the traditional foods into lighter, prettier, and sometimes even tastier contemporary fare. After Yuca, he opened similarly themed restaurants of his own in New York and then came back with a few attempts at OLA; the present incarnation at the Sanctuary on South Beach is the best yet, his cooking as relevant as ever. Cindy Hutson created her Caribbean-based Cuisine of the Sun at Norma's on the Beach, from 1994 to 1999, and then honed the style at her Ortanique on the Mile in Coral Gables. Ten years later, the charming Ortanique is still packing them in and remains a singular oasis for tropical-accented cooking. Each of these chefs has succeeded in deftly translating Central and Latin American culinary traditions into delectable cuisines uniquely their own -- and both continue to do so better than anyone else.
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Full list of winners June 10 via bestof.miaminewtimes.com, June 11 on newsstands.