If you don't know who Alex Stupak is, you will when the pastry chef turned taco king opens up shop here. When asked about Miami's taco revolution and whether he would contemplate bringing his tortillas down to South Beach at Thursday night's Tacos After Dark, the chef told us, "I'm beyond contemplating it, I'm pursuing it."
The late-night event held poolside at the Loews presented by Casa Amigos tequila and hosted by Aaron Sanchez celebrated the hottest trend (the taco) and booziest of all booze (tequila).
A pastry genius with a resume that includes WD-50, Alinea, and Clio, Stupak had never cooked Mexican food when he decided he would trade liquid nitrogen for a spit. At Empellon Taqueria in New York City, which has been open since 2011, the 35-year-old chef takes a modernist approach to the humble taco. Think wavy masa crisps with sweet shrimp and sea urchin mousse. His goal? To have the first three-Michelin-starred Mexican eatery.
"Do you think about seafood when you think about Mexico?" he probes. "You should. It's 2014 and we don't have an opinion on Mexican cuisine." One to push boundaries, Stupak says that it's Miami's "awareness opposed to ignorance" what had him turn to the Magic City for the evolution of his taco-driven empire. "We've been fortunate to expand in New York City but the natural progression is to look at other cities. The trio's been so inspired with the East Coast that Miami has kind of gone to the top."
While its only Stupak's second time in Miami, he's hitting up all the hot neighborhoods seeing just where he might fit in. "The thing for me that's fascinating is that I think many outsiders automatically go to South Beach, kinda like how people who go to Vegas and stay only on the strip, but I had a tremendous meal at a new restaurant last night." The restaurant he's referring to is Vagabond, although he also had every taco on the menu at Coyo. "There's a community here dying for good stuff, and Miami's got its own style. People are concerned about art and lifestyle beauty and things that I'm one hundred percent aligned with."
Even though an opening seems far away, we can only hope that Food & Wine's Best New Chef for 2013 does in fact pursue Miami. Last night, he gave attendees at SoBeWFF's Tacos After Dark event a taste of what to expect by way of a short rib pastrami with mustard seed salsa taco.
Other highlights included the Federal's Tabasco sweet and sour chicharron de pollo taco, served in lettuce cups. It was the best bite of night.
Ted Allen was spotted socializing with Michael Schwartz and catching up with Giorgio Rapicavoli.
Brad Kilgore from the soon-to-open Alter got cozy with Aaron Sanchez.
Todd Erickson from Haven who participated in the event kept warm with Nina Compton.
Pubbelly's Jose Mendin smiling with his creations: tacos de costillas (Smithfield back ribs, Vietnamese slaw, fish sauce, and peanuts) and sausage quesadillas with roasted poblano rajas and queso Manchego.
After the tacos came tequila shots.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha
Follow us on Facebook at Miami New Times Food & Drink.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.