Kris Wessel, Chef-owner of Oolite Restaurant & Bar
Why he’s in the Food 50: Kris Wessel wowed us in 2014 with his local-regional, gluten-free cooking, earning his new Oolite the top spot on our Restaurants of the Year list. He’s already hit the ground running in 2015, adding more vegetarian and vegan options to his menu. Like Basil Park’s Tim Andriola, Wessel is proving that healthful, sustainable eating can be every bit as flavorful as the sugar-salt-flour-fat combinations we’ve grown accustomed to. Case in point: local grouper poached in coconut water with lime, Homestead boniato and Florida clams. Wessel manages to lasso all the flavors of Miami in a shallow bowl.
All about that shrimp: No dish epitomizes Wessel’s straightforward, no-holds-barred approach to regional Southern cooking more than his New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp. It was a bestseller at Wessel’s dearly departed Red Light, and he smartly puts the dish front-and-center on Oolite’s menu: “Wessel’s BBQ Shrimp: $14.” What’s charming about the appetizer-size portion is that, after you eat the meaty, moist, hot shrimp, you get to spoon your way through that heady, tangy, umami-packed sauce. So it’s really like two dishes in one.
Where to find him: Oolite Restaurant & Bar, 1661 Pennsylvania Ave., Miami Beach.