4. Douglas Rodriguez: Pioneer of Pan-American Cuisine

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.

Like many chefs, Douglas Rodriguez has had a roller coaster ride of a career. Through all the openings and closings, TV fame, and accolades, Rodriguez maintains his title as the "Godfather of Nuevo Latino Cuisine." The son of Cuban immigrants, Rodriguez was raised in Miami, fully immersed in Cuban-American cuisine. After perfecting his skills at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., he exploded onto the dining scene in 1989 with Yuca, the Coral Gables spot regarded as South Florida's original upscale Cuban restaurant.

At Yuca (an acronym for Young Urban Cuban-Americans), Rodriguez gave locals a first taste of "Nuevo Latino" eating, a combination of traditional Latin ingredients and South, Central, and North American cooking. By pioneering this practice, Rodriguez quickly became the most celebrated chef in Miami, winning "Chef of the Year, Miami" award from The Chefs of America. Rodriguez took his talents to New York in 1994, where he opened restaurants Patria and Chicama, a Peruvian ceviche bar, along with Pipa, a tapas bar. He received the 1996 James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef of the Year Award, and in 1998 was awarded an honorary doctorate from Johnson and Wales University. Rodriguez was nominated again by the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef South Florida in 2008 and 2009.

See also: Hennessy Celebrates Latin Music, Culture With Help From Artist Miguel Paredes and Chef Douglas Rodriguez

Rodriguez returned to Miami and opened OLA at the Sanctuary in 2004 and De Rodriguez Cuba at Hotel Astor in 2010, which closed shortly after and merged with another location on Ocean Drive. Over the years, Rodriguez authored several cookbooks, beginning with the groundbreaking Nuevo Latino (1995), followed by Latin Ladles (1997), Latin Flavors on the Grill (2000), and The Great Ceviche Book (2003). Rodriguez gained more mainstream fame with his stint on Bravo's Top Chef Masters in 2009, the first season of the hit chef competition show.

Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean remains open today in Miami Beach, in addition to Alma De Cuba, a Philadelphia-based Latin fusion restaurant and lounge Rodriguez opened 13 years ago. Currently, Rodriguez also is the Vice President of Culinary Travels Sovereign Experiences, where he organizes luxury culinary tours with celebrity chefs from around the world.

Tasty Tidbit

Rodriguez fell in love with cooking at a young age, amassing a collection of cookbooks by age 6. He landed his first restaurant job at 14 as an apprentice at The Four Ambassadors Hotel in Miami. After three decades in the culinary industry, the part that Rodriguez still enjoys most is the cooking, especially at home with his family, his grill, a glass of wine, and friends. "Cooking for me is my therapy. When I begin to cook I emerge into another world; a world of food and new ideas."

In His Own Words

"In the last five years, Miami has become a culinary destination, attracting international restaurant operators and bringing a new level of talent into already competitive markets. I can't wait to see what the next five years bring to Miami."

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

17. Cindy Hutson

16. Jack Homes

15. Shareef Malnik

14. Bruce Ozga

13. Robert Is Here

12. Julio Cabrera

11. The Garcia Family

10. Norman Van Aken

9. Lee Schrager

8. Bacardi

7. Allen Susser

6. Stephen Sawitz

5. Felipe Valls

Follow Shelly Davidov on Twitter @ShellyDavidov.

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