Richard Hales, Chef-owner of Blackbrick Chinese, Sakaya Kitchen and Dim Ssam a GoGo
Why he’s in the Food 50: The guy won’t stop innovating. Richard Hales has been feeding us kimchi and banh mi and other Southeast Asian street food since 2009 at Sakaya in Midtown Miami, then he took the show on the road a year later with his Dim Ssam truck before opening a second Sakaya downtown. Always starting trends, never chasing them, Hales is leading a push to bring authentic, un-Americanized Chinese cooking to Miami with his latest hit, Blackbrick. You want mouth-numbing Sichuan pepper on your spare ribs? Hales does that. Want to see your green beans dancing in a rocket-hot wok manned by a Hong Kong chef? Grab a coveted counter seat. Don’t want to go? Ask for a second fortune cookie; Hales’ wife makes them from scratch.
His skinny secret: Hales turned to a mostly vegan diet about a year ago and has shed about 60 pounds. He said he feels mentally clear and “more energetic to create new things and run all the businesses,” referring to the way he eats now as a plant-based lifestyle. “Calling myself a vegan is just not right since I run a couple of slaughterhouses.” Besides the weight loss, Hales said, he has lowered his cholesterol more than 100 points and brought his blood pressure into normal range without medication. “I was truly a fat bastard, getting sicker by the day and on my way to dying early,” Hales said. “When you have little daughters, you want to get old and stay healthy, and you don’t [care] about bacon.”
Where to find him: Blackbrick, 3451 NE First Ave., Miami; and Sakaya Kitchen (multiple locations).