Miami Chefs Dish About Their Furry Friends for National Dog Day

Bacon and Wasabi might seem like an unlikely pair, but the two have one thing in common: They are four-legged, furry friends owned by two Miami toques. Kyu executive chef Michael Lewis, proud owner of his pal Bacon; and Katsuya chef John Migita, dad to his pup Wasabi, are just two of Miami's chefs who admit their hearts have been stolen by furry companions. 

"In a houseful of beautiful, intelligent, and strong women (my wife and daughter)," Lewis says, "It's nice to have another guy to talk to. Not to mention, he gives great hugs." 

"They comfort you when you are sad," Migita adds. "They cuddle with you when you're tired, and they try to do everything with you. Wasabi knows the sound of me pulling into the driveway too even though I live on the fourth floor."

Many of these chefs even cook with their pups. That is, at home at least. "He's never more than a foot or two from my side at all times," Lewis says. "At work, I wish. We'd both be happier if we could cook together every day."

Lewis and Migita, along with chefs from Verde, Red the Steakhouse, the Sarsaparilla Club, the Continental, Lokal, and BLT Prime agree that life is better with a canine companion. And for this lucky batch of pooches, Mom and Dad know just the perfect dishes to cook. Forget canned dog food or dry kibble. Find these dogs noshing on everything from steak and lamb to tomahawk bones and a mix of steamed jasmine rice and peanut butter.

The chefs have a few tips on what you should serve Fido too: Go as natural as possible, do your research, and be diligent. 
When did you first get a four-legged best friend?
"Since I was a little kid, I always wanted an English bulldog. I fell in love with their Sad Sam-looking face; therefore, I have a couple now. I have a beautiful lady called Princess and a strong boy called Mole." — Chef Richard Torres, the Continental

"I've been a dog owner all my life, but my husband and I only recently got our first puppy together — a black lab named Beretta. Before, we had been living in New York City and felt like it was unfair for a dog to live in a studio apartment without a backyard to run and play in. Moving back to Florida served as a moment for me to start having all those things, like a dog, a house, a car, or even furniture. I had been unable to have all those years before because I knew I wouldn't be in those places permanently." — Kaytlin Brakefield, Verde

"After coming to Miami, the new-city blues hit me, giving me the desire to want a furry, four-legged friend again. And make no mistake, they own me as much as I own them now. They are my best friends. Unconditional love is truly on four legs." — Peter Vauthy, Red the Steakhouse

"I have had a dog in my life since I was born. In recent times, I didn't want my own, but my wife begged me for one. Now we end up sheltering dogs every month. My wife is always bringing home street dogs, and with the dog community around Lokal and Spillover, we have found homes for over ten dogs, not including any adoption events we have had. Our dream is to retire on a farm where we can house all the stray dogs that will fit." — Matt Kuscher, Lokal, Kush, and the Spillover
Best part about having a furry friend?
"Their company. I love the fact that they are always present unconditionally without saying a word." — Richard Torres, the Continental

"Baci, my shih tzu, is my shadow. She is there with me from the moment I brush my teeth in the morning all the way through tucking me into bed at night. But the absolute best moments we spend together are when I first open my eyes in the morning — she is usually lying on my tummy or very close by just staring at me, waiting for me to awake. As soon as she sees my eyes open, she gets so excited as if to say, 'Thank goodness you are finally awake.' She curls up as close as she can, and we cuddle until the very last possible moment." — Janine Booth, the Sarsaparilla Club

"They are all lovable cuddle-bugs. They run and play all day, but they are always ready to relax when you are. They are very protective of the girls too. If one cries, they stop what they are doing to go see what happened. We love to play and rough-house around too. And if you say something they don’t want to hear, like 'No,' they give a sad puppy-dog look." — Dustin Ward, BLT Prime
Cook with or for your pup?
"Whenever we cook steak, lamb, or meats in general, there's always a little something we set aside unseasoned to cook up for Bacon." — Michael Lewis, Kyu

"Princess and Mole's favorite meal is steamed jasmine rice and peanut butter. Every time I’m cooking, they look forward to their carrot treats too. My wife likes to call them my sous-chefs."— Richard Torres, the Continental

"We've come to find out that she loves ice cubes. When we pull the ice tray from the freezer, she goes crazy. She'll crack and chew on them or even chase them around the living-room wood floors. Cooking in the kitchen requires me to not be paying full attention to her, so she likes to bark until I start talking to her too. This has turned into a small cooking class for us — me trying to keep her entertained while getting dinner ready at the same time." — Kaytlin Brakefield, Verde

"On the freak chance of a day off, the three of us walk up to the restaurant, and they know that someone might have dropped something on the floor, which means they might be able to score a snack. On special occasions, I'll make some well-done tomahawk bones for them to chew on." — Peter Vauthy, Red the Steakhouse

"I cook sweet potato, kale, quinoa, and chicken and fold in blueberries and fish oil. It's the perfect mix of protein, carbohydrate, antioxidants, and good fats to keep her healthy. She also loves to snack on blueberries, pineapple, and watermelon and loves frozen banana thrown into a blender. On hot days, I will make ice cubes with frozen berries inside, which keeps her busy and cool while I am at work." — Janine Booth, the Sarsaparilla Club

"We get chicken gizzards from the butcher at the supermarket and cook them with brown rice, carrots, green peas, and blueberries. My one dog, Yeyo, will never leave the kitchen; he is always looking for food to fall on the floor. If we open the fridge, he goes right up and looks for snacks. If we're cooking, he stands on two feet and watches us cook. My other dog, Chichi, is scared of Yeyo, so he keeps his distance." — Matt Kuscher, Lokal, Kush, and the Spillover

"I cook them eggs once a week to help with their coats, as well as ground-down beef, chicken, and fish bones with vegetables for protein and calcium. No matter what I am doing, the dogs are around — especially when I am cooking, but they know not to jump or beg. The better behaved they are, the more they get spoiled (which they know). You can always find my dog by my side." — Dustin Ward, BLT Prime

"We try to be very careful and Google everything before giving it to him, but he loves veggies as snacks. His favorites are bell peppers. He goes everywhere we do. When I'm cooking, he usually balances on his hind legs to get as close to the stovetop as possible." —John Migita, Katsuya
Food recommendations for all dogs?
"We use the same philosophy for Bacon as we do ourselves in that we go as natural as possible, ensuring we can pronounce all ingredients within his food."  — Michael Lewis, Kyu

"I've known a few people who have made their own dog food. We're just not there yet. We've been trying to teach her not to beg for human food, but she does like to hangout on the kitchen carpet and keep an eye out for stray vegetables or any other scraps that might come flying off the cutting board." — Kaytlin Brakefield, Verde

"If I am not cooking my own food for Baci, I will occasionally feed her the grain-free option by Science Diet. Baci is always at my feet no matter where I am, but her favorite thing I cook is roast chicken, as she always knows there is going to be a little bowl of perfectly shredded chicken for her at the end of it." — Janine Booth, the Sarsaparilla Club

"There are a lot of reputable brands, but do your research just like you should do before dining at a restaurant. Make sure you know where the ingredients are coming from. Lots of the dog food out there, like people food, is junk, so be diligent." — Peter Vauthy, Red the Steakhouse

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Clarissa Buch Zilberman is a writer and editor, with her work appearing in print and digital titles worldwide.
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