Alberto Cabrera recently posted a picture on Facebook showing himself without the trademark mop of red hair and beard. Instead, the chef presented a bald pate in a selfie with the caption:
"I cant say it was easy. I started this journey 5 months ago and today I'm happy to announce I am in remission! I want to thank my family, friends and the staff at UM Sylvester for being there for me. To all the people affected by cancer I will do my part. ?#?fuckcancer? ?#?deuces?"
Five months ago, Cabrera was diagnosed with stage two lymphoma after finding four large masses in his neck. Cabrera knew there was something very wrong when they started growing rapidly. "In a week, they grew from the size of gumballs to the size of a baseball." Cabrera underwent a neck dissection where doctors removed the tumors. "I have a really good scar on my neck."
The chef and restaurateur is finally talking about his cancer journey after learning he's in remission. With the positive outcome comes one more month of radiation treatments, for good measure. Cabrera says he didn't want to talk about his health because he thought that would make him focus on the disease instead of his day-to-day existence, confiding, "I didn't want to have to think about it."
Instead, the chef chose to cook and go about his life. Still, there were days absent from the kitchens of his two restaurants and Cabrera wanted to come clean as to why customers might not have seen as much of him in the past months. "I just want people to know why I wasn't at the restaurants all the time. I was there as much as I could be, but I never want anyone to think that I abandoned my restaurants or them."
Now, with a light at the end of the tunnel, Cabrera has focused on his successful Little Bread Sandwich Co. He's expanding the concept, launched December 2014, by turning his Coral Gables Bread + Butter into his second Little Bread — with more on the way.
Right now, the Coral Gables location is closed for a light facelift, but should be open as early as the middle of next week with a new menu and a new look. Cabrera says that he decided to change the Coral Gables location to his lauded sandwich shop, so he can streamline his operation while still serving the Coral Gables market. "In Miami, the cost of operating a small business is becoming increasingly difficult, so I'm targeting what my strengths are. In Coral Gables, it's overwhelming how well we did on lunch and brunch, so that's what we'll focus on."
Cabrera said that although he loved Bread + Butter, he knew it was time for a change. "For me, when I got into the business, I said to myself that I would let whatever happens, happen. We have a really good concept in Little Havana and that's what I want to focus on right now. Believe me, I had a lot of time to think about things this past five months.
"I love the Gables and I wanted to continue offering something, so we'll do breakfast and lunch weekdays and brunch on the weekends. We'll close at 7 p.m. to focus on pop-up dinners and private events." Cabrera also said that by focusing on one concept, he's got more time to spend with his family — something he appreciates more than ever after the past few months. "With the sandwich shop, I feel like I can split my time and still be creative. Curing our meats in house and making our own bread still stimulates my creative juices. I can have fun with it, as well."
The chef also adds that there's nothing better or more satisfying than a good sandwich. "If I could have any meal in the world, it would be a turkey sandwich with Doritos and grape juice. That's always been my favorite. I'll have a turkey BLT over anything else."
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The new Little Bread Cuban Sandwich Co. in Coral Gables will feature an expanded menu, with favorites from Bread + Butter. "We'll have the croquetas, of course, along with five snacks. We'll offer salads and bowls where you can choose your protein and grain, and of course sandwiches. It's a simple, well-executed menu." For dessert, the Coral Gables location will offer Fireman Derek's pies and Azucar ice cream. Cabrera is also turning the space's back room into a cozy secret lair. "It's going to be cool because we have this secret room in the back that we'll call the deal room. After all, Coral Gables is the kind of place where backroom deals are done."
In addition to the changes in Coral Gables, Cabrera is opening an outpost of Little Bread at American Airlines Arena at the 100 level, which should be open in time for basketball season.
Cabrera also sees expanding into the Kendall area in the next year or so. "I grew up there. The thing about Kendall is that you have a lot of working class people and families that want to go out. The more options you give them, the more they'll come. There's one thing, though. Most people who live out there are really good home cooks, so you have to make sure you really bring it!"