New Times' Best of Miami 2014 issue arrives June 19. To celebrate, Short Order is paying tribute to Miami's culinary all-stars. These people forged our city's food scene into what it is today -- a thriving amalgam of tastes and cultures. Through their insight and talent, they've given the city a unique flavor and paved the way for bright new chefs and restaurateurs to follow their lead and take the Miami food scene into the future.
Tyler Florence. Emeril Lagasse. Michelle Bernstein. Lorena Garcia. Sean Brock. Timon Balloo. Jose Mendin. What do these chefs have in common, other than their passion? They're all Johnson & Wales University alumni.
The University, which started in 1914 as a business school in Providence, Rhode Island, has evolved over the years, adding campuses in Charlotte, Denver, and North Miami, and branching out into other fields of study that include fashion merchandising, criminal justice, marketing, and the well-respected College of Culinary Arts. That college has attracted thousands of eager young talent, turning them into trained chefs by giving them both academic knowledge and hands-on experience.
Bruce Ozga, JWU's North Miami campus' dean of culinary education, is in the unique position to tell a student, "I know exactly how you're feeling, since I was once in your shoes." He received his associate degree in culinary arts and a bachelor's degree in food service management from JWU before earning a master's degree in education from Colorado State University. He is also a past recipient of the Southeast Regional Educator of the Year from the American Culinary Federation.
Ozga also has practical background in the culinary field. Before joining JWU in 1997 as a culinary faculty member, Ozga held several culinary positions in his home state of Connecticut, including the 1784 Inn of Franklin, Norwich Inn & Spa, and Bruxelles Brasserie & Bar in New Haven.
Under Ozga's leadership, JWU embraced the local culinary community by establishing the annual Zest awards in 2012, which acknowledge culinary excellence within the greater Miami area. Recipients have included JWU alumni such as Michelle Bernstein, Timon Balloo, and Jose Mendin, plus community and industry leaders such as Hedy Goldsmith, Allen Susser and Richard Ingraham.
Dean Ozga's pride in the school shines brightly, especially when hosting esteemed graduates who return to mentor current students and host a dinner at the Distinguished Visiting Chefs series. At these dinners, the past, present, and future of the culinary world come together to make bread and to break bread.
Although he has spent the majority of his adult life in cities, Ozga's appreciation for food developed from his years growing up and working on his family's dairy farm in rural Connecticut. He credits his upbringing for his passion for farm-to-table cuisine, a practice he tries to instill within the college's programming and curriculum.
In His Own Words
"Miami's food scene offers something that appeals to every palate thanks to our geographic location, strong tourism industry and the international flair of our city. Our students come from all over the world and commonly say that they were inspired to study in Miami because of the climate and South Florida's reputation as a world class dining destination."
Miami Food All-Stars
25. Dewey LoSasso
24. Mark Soyka
23. Jason Starkman
22. Lorena Garcia
21. Barton G.
20. Mike Hampton
19. Chef Creole
17. Cindy Hutson
16. Jack Homes
15. Shareef Malnik
Let your voice be heard by voting in our Readers' Poll. Visit readerschoice.miaminewtimes.com by June 4. Then check out the 27th-annual Best of Miami issue, available online and in print Thursday, June 19, to see if your favorites won.