It's a big month for Cindy Hutson and partner Delius Shirley. The duo and life partners are celebrating a 15-year run in the restaurant industry with their Miracle Mile darling Ortanique on the Mile. Hutson also will bring her Caribbean flair to downtown with the opening of Zest and Zest Mrkt come fall.
But all this could not be possible without the loyal clientele of Ortanique, so to celebrate and thank locals for continuous years of support, Hutson and Shirley are hosting a charity wine dinner in union with Darioush Winery this Thursday, July 31 at 7 p.m.
We caught up with Hutson on what challenges the last 15 years brought and what's next for Ortanique.
Dinner starts with a champagne reception and passed hors d'oeuvres. A five-course menu curated by Cindy paired with varietals from Darioush Winery will follow. Tickets can be purchased for $250 with proceeds going to United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida and Baptist Health Breast Center.
New Times: How has Ortanique changed in the last 15 years? How has it stayed the same?
Cindy Hutson: When we first opened, Ortanique was thought to be a Caribbean restaurant. Most all of the dishes on the menu reflected Island flair and style. Still using ingredients found throughout the Caribbean, I incorporate these ingredients into a new ethnic cuisine that could be recognized as coming from regions other than the islands, and allowing me to create a cuisine that expands from inspiration around the world.
What do you know now that you wish you'd know then?
I don't think that there is anything I wish I knew differently. I think in the world of culinary/restaurants, you must always be willing to learn, evolve, and change when change is needed. It becomes a growth in your profession and a honing of skills more than a, 'I wish I had known that then,' sort of thing.
Fifteen years is a milestone and impressive age in restaurant years. What does it feel like to have such a successful run?
Delius and I feel so proud that we have made a mark in the restaurant world and have been able to stay on top with some of the best restaurateurs in the country. It does not happen with just the two of us working and running our restaurants; it takes the culminating of a strong restaurant team to have a successful run and knowing we have done that feels amazing!
What's been the biggest challenge you've faced in the last 15 years of Ortanique?
Staffing is always the biggest challenge and keeping ideas fresh to keep your staff motivated to work for the culture and history of your restaurant. It's a constant game of reinventing and it takes people, skills, and fresh ideas. Sometimes you are so tired and you just can't think anymore, but the minute you stop thinking and being a leader and a mentor, the team breaks down. If you let that happen you have to start over from scratch, so that's where a great managerial TEAM comes into play. We keep each other motivated and move forward, always thinking outside of the box.
How would you best sum up the last 15 years in one word?
What's in store for the next 15?
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Well, I love our location on the Mile, and the neighborhood. I wouldn't mind giving Ortanique a little face-lift after 15 years. Not change the heritage of what we are about, or the culture of our food and the "Cuisine of the Sun," but maybe some new lighting or ceiling fixtures or perhaps wall fixtures...you know a little "nip and tuck." Who knows, we'll see.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha