Before Miami native Chef Douglas Rodriguez became the "Godfather of nuevo Latino cuisine," he was a young chef working on Lincoln Road looking for a dedicated sous chef. Luckily, an aspiring artist named Miguel Paredes happened to know a thing or two about cooking. The two not only worked together, but grew alongside each other. Now, nearly 30 years later and after climbing to the top of their respective professions, Paredes and Rodriguez teamed up again to help Hennessy celebrate Latin music and culture Thursday night following the Latin Billboard Awards.
"It's an honor coming together to celebrate Latinos here in Miami and how we 'Never Stop, Never Settle,'" said Paredes while dropping the Hennessy slogan that is part of the global brand's campaign to celebrate all that is Latino. "You got great music, great drinks from Hennessy and delicious food thanks to Chef Rodriguez."
Paredes had been commissioned by the Latin Billboards to create artwork for the event as its official artist, his third year doing so. The New York native paid his dues over years of putting everything he had into his "wild rabbit," a term he uses to refer to the culmination of one's dreams and the pinnacle of success. He became a staple of the Miami art scene even before opening his Wynwood gallery in 2010. His murals can be seen at the Art Deco welcome center in South Beach and in the heart of the Wynwood arts district.
"My art has always reflected where I am in my life," Paredes continued. "With where I am now my wild rabbit looks to spread the power of art worldwide and reach out to help young artists develop their talent and keep art in the minds and eyes of the global community."
While Paredes kept art in the minds of attendees with his often breathtaking pieces of Urban Realism draped along the walls, Rodriguez concocted a deserving representation of his unique approach to Latino cuisine.
"You know when you have six or seven Latin dishes or hors d'ouevres like we had here, you really have to incorporate every kind of meat, especially pork, and throw in some vegetarian," said Rodriguez. "My challenge tonight was to use Hennessy in as many dishes as possible. So I made a very subtle Hennessy mushroom sauce with the meatballs."
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In addition to meatballs with Hennessy mushroom sauce, dishes like lobster coconut ceviche, perfectly cooked chorizo on slider rolls and chicken empanadas made their way around a packed art studio. DJ Laz helped host the event and music was provided by the Soulfrito collective and Los Rakas. Perhaps the most poignant guests wore gaudy but elegant costumes by designer/artist Olga Saretsky from her Mikimora studio's "High Fashion Circus." Specialty Hennessy drinks like blueberry mojitos and a dangerously subtle sangria Hennessy cocktail were free flowing as guests mingled and mangled until around 3 a.m.