Five chefs. Five different means of distinguishing themselves over the course of the past year. The names are Timon Balloo, Giancarla Bodoni, Kevin Cory, Richard Hales, and Simon Stojanovic. The reasons follow:
Giancarla Bodoni, Escopazzo:
The organic Northern Italian fare that Giancarla cooks up at Escopazzo is a genre unto itself. Not only are fruits, vegetables, and dairy products organic, but beef is grass fed and hormone/antibiotic free, and raw food items dot the menu too. Giancarla was behind the line when her restaurant first opened in 1993. She's still there, and has been green for almost as long as Kermit the Frog. 2010 is the year the rest of the local food world jumped onto her bandwagon.
Timon Balloo, Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill:
Timon has paid his dues, working for years in the shadows of some of Miami's finest chefs. This past year the spotlight finally found him as his sharply honed cuisine jump-started the new Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill to the top of the local dining scene. It's a big restaurant with a challenging 3-part menu: Sushi, robata grill items, and small plates. Balloo juggled the three with ease, wowing locals with his sparkling stint on center stage. Recognition, like most things, is better late than never.
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Kevin Cory, Naoe:
his teeny Japanese restaurant in Sunny Isles -- basically a one man operation -- was the only non-hotel restaurant in Florida to nab 4 stars from this year's Forbes (formerly Mobil) Travel Guide's Annual Star Awards. It was just one of three restaurants in North America to be so honored. Kevin Cory is the one man who creates the delectable pre-fixe omakase dinners. Miami's food-savvy public has long known that his cuisine at Naoe is thoroughly unique and absolutely delicious; 2010 is the year when lots of others started to notice.
Richard Hales, Sakaya Kitchen:
In 2009, Hales led the charge of the light Asian brigade, providing delectable, no-frills, affordable fare to a populace hungering for such. In 2010, he took his Sakaya Kitchen concept on the road, and Dim Ssam A Go Go is now in the forefront of of the gastro-truck movement. Hales' continued focus and dedication to quality and value is just the thing we need more of for Miami to take the next step up the stairway of gastronomic respectability.
Simon Stojanovic, AltaMare:
Inheriting the kitchen of a successful, well-regarded restaurant is far more daunting than starting up a new one, and it's a particularly thankless task: Succeed and it's because the place has always done well; fail and it's because the old chef was better. Stojanovic's luscious, sustainable food succeeded beyond expectations. Years of working with Michael Schwartz, from Nemo through Genuine times, no doubt helped prepare him for the job. Altamare used to be one of the better restaurants in Miami Beach. Now, thanks to Stojanovic, it's one of the best.