Interview: Chef Doug Rodriguez Gets The 10

Oft labeled the "Godfather of Nuevo Latino," bestselling author and Chef Douglas Rodriguez has also been heaped with praise by Newsweek and Zagat, among others. But folks 'round here mostly just know him as "That guy who takes the flavors of Latin America and whips them up into delicious food fiestas."

Fans of OLA, his Latin Fusion resto in The Sanctuary, are all abuzz about his forward focus on Cuban cuisine, but what they may not recall was that Rodriguez's Miami reign with Havana-esque eats began ages ago with Yuca in Coral Gables. PR reps promise his new restaurant at Hotel Astor, D. Rodriguez Cuba, will provide upscale, authentic Cuban food, traditional-style Cuban cocktails, and live salsa music Thursdays through Sundays when it opens next month. Sure sounds like the cherry on top of his Cuban culinary career sundae, right? 

But let's not jump ahead. Read on to discover that Chef Rodriguez would like to be licked by a Fox, prefers a chef's coat to an orange jumpsuit, and has no qualms about slamming "Mr. Bam":

New Times: If you came back in your next life as a food item, what would it be and how would you like to be served? 

Douglas Rodriguez: I'd be a lollipop--whichever flavor is Megan Fox's favorite.

NT: If you could serve a meal to any famous person, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you cook for him/her?

DR: I'd ideally like to prepare a meal with my mentor, Chef Felipe Rojas-Lombardi. He's a Peruvian chef that was extremely influential in the Latin American culinary realm--he's actually credited with introducing the concept of tapas to America. I'd love for us to collaborate on a Latin American seafood dish. 

Otherwise, I'd love to prepare a Cuban feast for Julia Child--Cuban roast pork, black beans, tamales--the works.

NT: What was your best or worst dining experience? 

DR: This in an interesting story; my best and worst experiences were simultaneous. I was dining at el Bulli in Spain, the best restaurant in the entire world, with a few very hungover and overly critical companions. While I was enjoying one of the best meals of my life, I was sitting with the worst company. I wanted to strangle them!

NT: What three words describe your ultimate foodie fantasy?

1. My wife, Nelly
2. Eiffel Tower
3. Caviar and Billecart-Salmon Rose Brut

NT: What's your favorite soundtrack/song to cook to?  

DR: Opera

NT: If you weren't a chef, you'd be...?

DR: In prison.

NT: What's the hottest thing a date could whip up for you in the kitchen?

DR: My wife has an amazing chicken recipe. We simply call it "Nelly's Chicken" (it's actually on the menu at D. Rodriguez Cuba). It's very basic but absolutely delicious. She brines the chicken for three days so it gets very moist, then she roasts it with lemon, bacon, and thyme. Drives me wild.

NT: What's your favorite junk food and where do you get it?

DR: Vanilla ice cream: any kind, any time, anywhere.

NT: Aside from any restaurants you own or have interest in, which Miami eatery is your favorite and what do you like to order there?

DR: I have several. Latin Café 2000 on Biscayne & 25th has the best Cuban sandwich in Miami. Michael's Genuine in the Design District has the best tomatoes on the planet. I really like everything on that menu. Michy's, also in the Design District, has a fois gras parfait that I love. Pizza Volante, again in the Design District (I'm beginning to see a pattern, here), has the best pizza in Miami.  

NT: Without naming the person, what three words would you use to describe the worst celebrity chef alive today?

DR: Just need one: BAM!

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Riki Altman