You mentioned sustainability issues are a concern. What's on your watch list?
I stay away from bluefin tuna. We get this nice yellowfin from Trinidad. And we get albacore from Hawaii for the poke and sashimi. We stay with the season as far as halibut, is concerned. Only from Alaskan fisheries because the ones on the East Coast don't give them time to develop. I read a lot of the seafood magazines.
Sean [Bernal] introduced me to this guy from the University of Miami... the Rosensteil School, right there on Key Biscayne. His name is Dr. Benetti. They start in tanks and as they progress they send them to the Caribbean and they farm raise cobia in the ocean. I can trace my fish from UM.
Is there a difference between farm- and wild-raised?
The wild just grows a little bigger.
I never asked what your culinary background was. Any other chefs in the family tree?
My family works a lot in the hotel industry. My mom sells and buys produce. My mom moved here when I was 11. My dad still lives in Jamaica. As a kid, maybe when I was about 14 or so, I was talking with my science teacher who told me to try culinary arts. I tried home ec and that was cool. I just have this passion to cook.
What did you cook when you were a kid?
Instant mashed potatoes. [laughs] I thought I was cooking at the time.
And I used to raise my own goats. I'd have to take them to the slaughterhouse. They'd slaughter them and I'd cry.
How sad. Not many goats 'round here. How did you end up in Miami?
I came up in the summer of '93 and just stayed. My first job was at Don Shula's Steakhouse in Miami Lakes. That's when I got into culinary school.
Do you remember that one moment all chefs talk about when they start to question whether they are in the right profession or not?
One time Sean had me peel navy beans. I was doing that for four days. But when I tasted that bean puree, I was like, alright. I have no argument.
I hear Sean can be tough in the kitchen sometimes.
I remember the first time I made lobster bisque for him I burnt it. He was like, is this is going to be your last day? I'm gonna order more lobster. If you burn it, don't come back tomorrow. Now I make the best lobster bisque in the world!
What's the most unusual dish you've ever served?
Last week I did a Sea & Sky: scallops with duck. I made mashed potatoes with boniato, put raisins and olives and made a demi-glace out of tamarind. It was a hit!
What would your last meal be?
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Curry goat with white rice.
Just not a goat you were familiar with, huh?
Monday he'll share a recipe for his take on shrimp and grits.