17. Cindy Hutson: Jersey Girl Roots; Island Heart

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.

It's hard to believe that Cindy Hutson is originally from New Jersey. After all, the self-taught chef is known for utilizing the fruits, spices, and flavors of Florida and the Caribbean in her unique dishes.

See also: Cindy Hutson to Open Zest in Downtown Miami

But the chef who developed a passion for cooking by watching Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr, on television as a child, was forever changed after moving to Miami after high school.

In 1994, Huston met her life partner Delius Shirley who convinced her that the two of them could make a successful go at the restaurant industry. Together, they opened Norma's on the Beach on Lincoln Road, named after Shirley's mother, Norma Shirley, a noted chef and restaurateur in Jamaica. The restaurant was a hit, receiving kudos from USA Today, the New York Times, and Ocean Drive.

In 1999, Huston and Shirley opened Ortanique on the Mile. Named after a rare citrus fruit that grows in Jamaica (literally, "or" for orange; "tan" for tangerine; "ique" for unique), the restaurant and its "cuisine of the sun" struck a chord with diners and critics alike, including being awarded a coveted five-diamond award by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences.

In 2010, Hutson brought Ortanique to Grand Cayman, opening her restaurant in Camana Bay, around the corner from another esteemed Miami chef, Michael Schwartz. There, her cuisine gets a waterfront view, allowing her to host full moon pig roasts and a Caribbean-inspired tapas menu.

The chef also conducts cooking classes, has expanded to The Dunmore at Harbour Island, Bahamas, and is planning the opening of Zest and Zest Mrkt at Southeast Financial Center. Cindy Hutson and her "cuisine of the sun" are getting hotter by the minute.

Tasty Tidbit

Before becoming a chef, Hutson wore many hats. The chef worked for three years in a state-run hospital for handicapped children, was a professional boat captain who took charters out and fished for a living, imported green coffee from Jamaica, and did a "ton" of charity work before her life-partner, Delius, told her she could "do this" regarding the culinary world.

In Her Own Words

"The Miami food scene keeps changing and reinventing itself. As trends change and imaginations expand outside traditional culinary techniques and flavors, I see seasoned and novice chefs alike expanding their menus with new ideas. We have fantastic products here in Florida provided by our farmers, ranchers, cheese makers, and fish mongers for us to explore our creativity. I could not ask for a better place to show off my culinary prowess right now."

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

18. Jeremiah Bullfrog

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.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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