7. Allen Susser: Mango Magnate

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.

"Chef Allen" Susser gained national attention as part of Florida's Mango Gang, a quartet of chefs that included Susser, Douglas Rodriguez, Norman Van Aken, and Mark Militello who celebrated Miami's local bounty and put "Florida cuisine" on the map. Susser was instrumental in changing the way Miami restaurateurs cooked meals and how diners ate. Now, instead of replicating heavy meals from the Northeast, chefs were working with tropical fruits and freshly caught seafood.

In 1986, Susser opened Chef Allen's, which was an immediate hit. In 1991, Food and Wine Magazine named the talented chef one of the top ten new chefs in America and the New York Times called Susser, the "Ponce de Leon of New Floridian cooking." In 1994, he won the coveted James Beard Foundation's Best Chef Award 1994, Southeast region. After writing several books and consulting on various boards including (naturally) the National Mango Board, Susser closed Chef Allen's in 2011 after 25 years of service.

See also: Susser Leads Charity Dinners for Japan

Susser is busier than ever. The chef is involved with countless projects, including a line of sauces, Books & Books, The Daily Melt, and Jade Mountain resort in St. Lucia -- but what he is most proud of is his commitment to giving back to the community.

Susser's charity work is seemingly endless. He helped to develop Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's annual mango festival, he is a seafood watch ambassador for the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, he's on the James Beard culinary board of advisors, and he has raised over $10 million to end childhood hunger through Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign and has chaired the Miami Taste of the Nation event for 25 years.

Tasty Tidbit

Allen Susser and the legendary Julia Child spent time together, sneaking off to find BBQ brisket in Texas and Southern fried chicken in Kentucky. Chef Allen even went stone crabbing with the legendary chef and television host on a trip to the Florida Keys.

In His Own Words

"With a decidedly distinctive approach, our Miami cooking has come of age. It's sultry flavors come from a mosaic of foods and tropical ingredients that blend both the climate and the landscape. Our cultural diversity and their exotic spice boxes make Miami food unquestionably a spoonful of paradise."

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

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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