Miami foodie Q&A with Editor in Chief Evan Benn

The dining room of Caffe Abbracci in Coral Gables.
The dining room of Caffe Abbracci in Coral Gables.

INDULGE Editor in Chief Evan Benn recently sat down to be interviewed by Mark Trowbridge, President and CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, for Let’s Eat, the local foodie magazine that Mark edits. Parts of the interview will be in the April/May issue of Let’s Eat, but the full version is included here:

Evan Benn
Evan Benn. Photograph by Nick Garcia.

1. Who Are Four Food People You’ve Featured in INDULGE Who Continue to Inspire You?

Mark asked: Your foodie issue of INDULGE kills it each year and is one we eagerly await. Who are four people you have interviewed who inspire you as an editor and culinary fan?

Evan answered: “That’s so nice of you – thank you! We publish seven issues of INDULGE a year, each with a different theme. I love them all, but of course our annual Food & Wine issue in February is especially near and dear to my heart. Incredibly difficult question here, but four of the *many* people we’ve featured in INDULGE who continue to inspire me: Shannon Allen, Abe Ng, Della Heiman, Lee Schrager. Shannon‘s passion for making healthful, sustainable food accessible to more people through Grown makes me so happy and want to support her. Abe is the epitome of a South Florida success story – son of immigrants, he pretty much single-handedly brought sushi to Miami’s masses, to its supermarkets, to its bar mitzvahs and to its Sunday hotel brunches through his Sushi Maki. Della keeps making Miami a better, more delicious place to live — first with her Wynwood Yard, and now with her two latest projects: Jackson Hall in the Miami Health District and North Beach Yard in Miami Beach. Lee is a Miami food legend, a rainmaker, and yet he doesn’t rest on his laurels, always striving to make the South Beach and New York City Wine and Food Festivals better and better; I make it a point to include him somehow in each of our Food & Wine issues.”

2. What Are Four Food Trends?

Mark asked: And how are they making an impact on Miami’s dining scene?

Evan answered: “What excites me most about Miami’s food scene right now is how many people are making such exceptional, artisanal products. I’m going to hold off on highlighting craft beer, which is definitely trending here but has been for a few years. Here’s what I’m seeing at the moment: Coffee & Tea. We have some outstanding local roasters that have cropped up in recent years, like Per’La Specialty Roasters, and signing up for the JoJo Tea mail-order club was the best decision I made in the past year. Bread. Naomi Harris is milling her own flour at Madruga Bakery, where the onion-poppy rolls are to die for; and bread from the new Sullivan Street Bakery is popping up on more restaurant menus every day. Kombucha. It’s everywhere now! I emceed a Slow Food Miami event the other day, and there were, like, five different kombucha brewers. I love it. Chocolate. Miami’s artisan chocolate makers are some of the best in the country at the moment. Check out Cacao Art, Cao Chocolates and Exquisito Chocolates if you haven’t already.”

3. What Couples Run Amazing Restaurants in Miami?

Mark asked: Couples seem to be inhabiting the food landscape in South Florida these days. What do you think are four keys to running a restaurant with a partner or spouse or BFF?

Evan answered: “That’s definitely great to see. You really know a couple’s commitment to their restaurant – and to each other – if they’re working side-by-side all day and then going home together every night (for a few hours at least). I’m not sure I’m qualified to say what the keys to success are in this realm, so let me highlight four couples behind great Miami restaurants. Cindy Hutson and Delius Shirley of Ortanique are royalty of restaurant couplehood. Katie Sullivan and Andrew Gilbert of The Seven Dials make it work with her running the front of the house and him in the kitchen. Jen Chaefsky and Mike Pirolo of Macchialina are hospitality veterans who make every guest feel like an old friend. Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis of Stiltsville Fish Bar were recently on the cover of INDULGE – love them.”

4. What Are Your Go-To Farmers Market Finds?

Mark asked: “If I were to unleash you in a local farmers market, say the one in Coral Gables, with $50, what are four must-buys that you would want?”

Evan answered: “The whole point of farmers markets is to buy local, so I’m probably heading first to the Rare Fruit Council’s tent to pick up some backyard avocados or carambolas or sapotes and a container of PG Tropicals’ Redland Guava Marmalade. Then I’ll go to Mr. Green Dean‘s stand for a piece of his sorrel pesto toast and a bunch of whatever greens he’s growing at the moment; I love his spicy breakfast radishes when they’re available. If it’s stone crab season (and since you’re paying), I’ll go to Steve’s Stone Crabs for some fresh claws; his Key West pink shrimp are also terrific. I like having fresh flowers around, too, so on my way out I’ll pick up an orchid or some sunflowers.”

5. What Big-Name Chefs Are Opening Restaurants in Miami?

Mark asked: Who are four chefs looking to break into the Miami market that we might run into at lunch?

Evan answered:Joel Robuchon, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Thomas Keller and Marcus Samuelsson are all opening restaurants here in the next year or two. That’s huge.”

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