"Everyone thinks the stems of collard greens are trash, and they just throw them away," Little River restaurant Rosie's chef/owner Akino West tells New Times.
But through creativity and thrift, his great-grandmother and mother taught him the value of this underappreciated, humble stem. Instead, they would blanche and pickle them before adding the vegetable to their grits each morning.
Today, in honor of his family's matriarchs, you'll always find perfectly cooked grits — best known as a polenta dish topped with crispy kale, wild mushrooms, and a soft boiled egg — on the Rosie's menu.
West and his wife, Jamila Ross, opened Rosie's only a few years ago, and the Michelin Guide has already recognized the restaurant as a Bib Gourmand.
To go one step further, West is also a James Beard Foundation Taste America honoree set to host the Miami Taste America culinary event at Rubell Museum this fall. Taste America is the foundation's largest series highlighting local chefs in 20 markets nationwide, an epic dinner aimed at offering a taste of local chefs' traditions and innovations shaping the American culinary scene.
At Taste America, 20 talented Miami chefs will showcase their memories and visions through small dishes. This will be the first walk-around tasting of the Taste America series in Florida, which offers a larger platform to celebrate the city's growing dining community.
West collaborated with the foundation for the Miami event on the curated list of chefs representing the city's flavors.
"I wanted to make sure that it is inclusive and that we are doing our due diligence to really touch on what makes Miami special and the chefs that are doing a great job of that," he says, adding that Rosie's offering at the event will include oxtail roulade with sweet potato puree and Parmesan foam.
Eileen Andrade of Finka Table & Tap is honored to be included.
"I will be doing what I love, which is fusing Latin and Asian cuisine and highlighting the beautiful ingredients that I grew up around and came to cherish," she says. "Being invited means, to a certain extent, that the work I have put in and my team has put in for a decade has paid off."
Other chefs include Timon Balloo of the Katherine, Carlos Garcia of Leku Miami, and Carmen Miranda of Tacombi.
A Florida native, West graduated from Johnson & Wales University. He cut his chops at Michael's Genuine, where he learned from James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz. The chef also learned "gastronomy at its best" at the three-Michelin-starred Noma in Denmark alongside chef René Redzepi.
By his side, Ross graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and worked with celebrity do-gooder chef José Andrés.
The couple created Rosie's after they had to shutter their popular bed and breakfast, Copper Door, located in the historic Overtown neighborhood. Rosie's is known for its brunch, as it closes after lunch. After being an outside-only venue, it recently moved to a large indoor space.
"When I talk about the food I create, I'm talking about memories," West explains of the menu. "Even elevated, it still represents what we grew up with."
Take Rosie's pork and peas dish, adapted from one of West's childhood staples: a Campbell's can of baked beans and hotdogs with a side of rice. At Rosie's, it's served as braised pork shank that is smoked and confit, served with field peas grown in South Carolina.
"It's always been important to give back to our community," West concludes. "It's really important that we're always focused on the people that still make up what Miami is and what our community is based on. That's the same thing the James Beard Foundation is doing with this event. They're all about creating a base for community."
James Beard Foundation Taste America Miami. 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 10, at Rubell Museum, 1100 NW 23rd St., Miami. Tickets cost $175 to $250 jamesbeard.org.