As you read this, Andres Barrientos and James Bowers’ lives are about to change — or so they hope.
Friday night, their Little Havana restaurant and smokehouse, Miami Smokers, will appear on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network. Over repeated airings, about 40 million people will watch the former high school buddies from Miami make their bacon-wrapped plantains, artisanal sausage and house-cured bacon, the producers told them.
“It’s like having a Super Bowl ad, except all the viewers are foodies,” Bowers said.
And if those whose Miami restaurants have been featured on reality food television are right, business is about to boom.
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Being on a television show can make an up-and-coming restaurant or chef. Local favorites such as Miami Beach’s Taquiza and Lou’s Beer Garden and Coral Gables’ The Local all have been featured on different shows. “Chopped” launched chef Giorgio Rapicavoli’s career and he used the $10,000 prize to start Eating House. And the chef at the vaunted Matador Room, Jeremy Ford, became an overnight sensation after winning Bravo TV’s Top Chef.
“It’s a game-changer for your career,” Ford said.
But the star-kissed owners and chefs have to be ready to ride the crest of attention — or be crushed under the waves.
“Get ready,” Richard Hales, owner of Midtown’s Blackbrick and Sakaya Kitchen, told Bowers after witnessing what being on Fieri’s show meant for his restaurants. Expect business to double, he told them. And every time the show re-airs, such as 8 p.m. June 4, prepare to get slammed the next day.
During Sakaya Kitchen’s eight-minute segment, their website got 10,000 hits.
“You have to deliver,” Hales said. “People see Guy Fieri raving about your place, and they come in with really high expectations.”
The morning after Aniece Meinhold and Cesar Zapata’s restaurant The Federal, recently re-dubbed The Fed, was featured on Bravo TV’s “Best New Restaurants,” 50 people were waiting outside the doors for a table. The restaurant seats 40.
“We had to lock the door,” Meinhold said. “It was an onslaught of 50 hungry people at the same time. ... It was like a train drove through here.”
The Fed saw business go up 30 percent the year they were on the reality series, hosted by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio. In a matter of weeks, they had to hire and train new waiters, staff and line cooks. And they had to buy more ingredients to keep up with crushing demand.
“You can’t just run out of something at 6:30 at night on a Friday,” she said. “The first week was really difficult. We had to have more of everything.”
Miami Smokers is playing it smart. They already had been working on expanding beyond their restaurant, 306 NW 27th Ave. They expect to have a Miami Smokers storefront opening at 163rd Street and Collins Avenue in Sunny Isles Beach by the end of the year. And they will have an outpost in the marketplace at the new downtown train station, MiamiCentral.
Plus, to ride momentum from the show, they are opening a three-month pop-up, Miami Smokers Express, on June 1 in Mary Brickell Village at the former site of Sushi Maki, which moved to a larger space at 1036 S. Miami Ave.
“We’ve been on a hiring spree,” Bowers said. “With the show airing, we felt it was something we had to make happen.”
But all waves eventually ebb. So make the most out of being in the spotlight, Meinhold advised them.
“Live it and love it,” she said, “for the moment that it is.”
What: Miami Smokers will be highlighted on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” The shop will host a watch party and be open until 11:30 p.m.
When: May 27, 10 p.m. on the Food Network
Where: Watch party will be at Miami Smokers, 306 NW 27th Ave., Miami
More information: “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”