For a while there, when Michy's, Michael's, Fratelli Lyon, North One 10, Pacific Time 2 and Red Light were all newish news, it looked as though Miami was on its way to becoming a cool food town -- the sort with a community of chefs who open restaurants that reflect their vision, and that, taken together, form a gastronomic montage of the tastes and cultures of the city.
But at this point, it appears to have been just a temporary surge by a group of brave and seasoned chefs. Miami's current dining scene can best be viewed as akin to a culinary outlet city where you can one-stop shop big brand names -- Michael Mina, Alfred Portale, Govind Armstrong, Nobu Matsuhisa, Danny DeVito, Alan Yau, Philippe and Mr. Chow, Scott Conant, Michael Psilakis, Laurent Tourondel. Except you'll never see Michael Mina, Alfred Portale, Govind Armstrong, Nobu Matsuhisa, Danny DeVito, Alan Yau, Philippe and Mr. Chow, Scott Conant, Michael Psilakis, or Laurent Tourondel. They're all working in the cities where their flagship businesses are. Somehow, secondary locations are always second fiddle.
Don't we have a farm system of sorts, comprised of talented chefs who have toiled and tutored in kitchens under the last generation of notable Miami chefs -- LoSasso, Bernstein, Oudin, Van Aken, Susser, Eismann, Ruiz, Rodriguez, Wessel, Jorgensen, Militello and on and on -- who can pick up the torch and start opening personal, passion-fueled places that showcase their own distinctive vision and approach to cooking? Hello?
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To be fair, a few small, chef-driven joints have debuted in various neighborhoods over the past year or so, including a disproportionate number of French and sushi spots (by the likes of local talents such as Neal Cooper at Petit Rouge and Kevin Cory at Naoe). But none are being driven by inspired young chefs forging New American cuisine -- or even by old American chefs forging Old American cuisine. Biggest gastronomic news in our sunny city this past year? Pizza, hamburgers, and steak houses. Second biggest news this past year? More pIzza, more hamburgers, and more steak houses. How sad. What will the next huge Miami food fad be -- cupcakes?