Marco Velasquez, Chef-owner of Cheen-Huaye Mexican Restaurant
Why he’s in the Food 50: Marco Velasquez worked for pioneering Miami restaurateur Mark Soyka for 16 years before striking out on his own with Cheen-Huaye and bringing traditional Yucatecan cuisine to South Florida. The path for an independent chef-owner isn’t always smooth, but Velasquez has found a way to not only make it work, but also to necessitate adding more room to his popular restaurant. “The food scene here is getting better, with new restaurants opening every day, meaning more competition, which ups the quality,” he said. “My philosophy is to keep the standard high and keep my customers coming back.” Velasquez grew up in Merida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan, and has a blended Spanish and Mayan Indian heritage. Cheen-Huaye means “only here,” and it’s no lie: The spinach-like chaya that Velasquez rolls up, slices and smothers in pumpkin-seed sauce comes from his backyard garden.
Who else? Velasquez said he thinks Juan Chipoco, chef-owner of Ceviche 105, should be in next year’s South Florida Food 50.
Where to find him: Cheen-Huaye, 15400 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami.