Here’s What a Diverse Florida Michelin Guide Would Look Like
We can think of at least six Sunshine State chefs from Miami, Orlando and Tampa who should’ve earned a Michelin star.
When the Michelin Guide arrived this month, the Florida restaurant scene finally got the recognition it deserves. The peninsula many out-of-staters probably associate with nachos from Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion now has 15 restaurants that have earned the coveted stars.
Michelin’s bestowing of its coveted stars, however, wasn’t all extra bacon crumbles on an iceberg wedge. The stars were handed out mostly to white men. Just two women received the honor, and Michelin awarded no black chefs a star.
The thing that’s most disappointing about this is that Michelin had plenty of female chefs and chefs of color worthy of the honor. To prove it, we scoured the restaurant scene in the three cities eligible for Michelin stars—Miami, Orlando and Tampa—to add some much-needed diversity to the list of Florida’s best chefs.
Bennett marinated her culinary chops with roles at Bern’s Steak House and Oxford Exchange before turning on the gas as executive chef at The Library in St. Petersburg—at just 30 years old. Her time there quickly earned her national acclaim when the James Beard Foundation put her on the short list for its Rising Star award. Next up for her, how about a Michelin star?
After a long career that’s earned Bernstein a loyal following, she’s now the chef in charge of Cafe la Trova, a lively spot where she combines her Cuban-Jewish heritage into dishes that reinvent or simply showcase traditional Miami dishes. Since it opened in 2019, it has become the kind of restaurant you pictured would be waiting for you on Little Havana’s Calle Ocho.
After a pandemic-delayed opening, Red Rooster finally created a new destination in Miami’s historically Black neighborhood of Overtown. It’s a lively spot, with a charming outdoor garden, happening bar and dining room that’s both modern and welcoming. Best of all, the food coming out of the kitchen from chef de cuisine Tristen Epps is worthy of every award this restaurant can get.
Good chefs can do something that none of us can really pull off at home: combine ingredients you wouldn’t imagine together, suddenly transforming them into something unpredictable. That is Chang’s specialty, bringing together techniques and flavors from Peru’s Nikkei cuisine to make dishes literally nobody has before. Chang’s restaurant, Itamae, earned a Bib Gourmand, an award that recognizes places with great food at a good value, but in my humble and hungry opinion, one of Florida’s most exciting restaurants deserves an actual star.
With a back story that will make anyone an instant fan, Moso did what lots of immigrants do to make it in America: he worked insane hours, spent every dime he had and then persevered through tough times to see his restaurants, Kabooki Sushi, turn into local Orlando favorites. Celebrities now fill his Instagram feed, because they know this guy can cook.
The chef who brought a new take (at least for Americans) on Indian food to his restaurant Ghee while cooking with produce harvested from his own garden thankfully received a Bib Gourmand honor from Michelin. But Patel’s Miami restaurants, including Orno and Mamey, are original, delicious, charming and shining examples of top-tier service. What’s missing, Michelin?