Some people are born with good looks. Others, with charming personalities. To have both and be a great cook? That’s almost unheard of. But such is the case for some of Miami’s top chefs, who share with us their ways of staying fit during the holidays and all year round.
Mika Leon of Caja Caliente
With a secret family pork recipe and a small food truck without air-conditioning, Monica “Mika” Leon opened her mobile Cuban-Mexican fusion restaurant in 2016. The 27-year-old Miami native will be expanding her Caja Caliente concept into a brick-and-mortar space soon in Coral Gables. It will feature a menu of new specials based on her mom’s recipes.
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To reduce stress and anxiety, Leon works out with a trainer and loves being outdoors on her paddleboard. “It’s all about moderation,” she said. “In the truck I’m around food all the time, so I won’t eat six tacos, but I will have one. Staying fit needs to be a real lifestyle change, not just a fad.” caja-caliente.com.
Denevin Miranda of Katsuya Brickell and SLS Lux
As executive chef of the new SLS Lux Brickell, Denevin Miranda oversees all of the hotel’s food and beverage operations. “In this industry, it’s all about work-life balance,” he said. As a kid, severe asthma kept him from participating in physical-education classes in school.
Now, the 32-year-old works out every day and has a side hustle as a steamy fitness model. For Miranda, being active is a way of life, but he also believes that splurging on food every now and then helps him achieve balance. Inspired by Sunday afternoons eating dim sum with his family, Miranda is starting a dim-sum tapas brunch at Katsuya in December. katsuyarestaurant.com/brickell.
Devin Braddock of Mignonette, Blue Collar and Tricycle
As a child, Devin Braddock didn’t like desserts. Today, she’s surrounded by them as the corporate executive pastry chef for two of Miami’s most notable restaurants: Mignonette and Blue Collar. If that didn’t keep her busy enough, she recently started Tricycle, a dessert pop-up cart serving ice cream, cookies and pie on a stick.
A native of the Tampa area, Braddock, 28, grew up watching her grandmother decorate wedding cakes. “She was a badass, and I wanted to be one, too,” she said. Since moving to Miami, she’s worked at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink and Alter. When stress creeps in, Braddock goes for a run to get rid of negativity and calm her mind. mignonettemiami.com, bluecollarmiami.com, instagram.com/tricyclemia.
Derrick Turton of World Famous House of Mac
Derrick “Chef Teach” Turton has always cooked for fun — even when he worked as Pitbull’s manager for more than 10 years. When Turton’s father died in 2013, it was a wake-up call, telling him he needed to travel less and spend more time with his family. Opening World Famous House of Mac helped Turton stay closer to home, and putting an image of his dad’s face on the restaurant’s logo is a way of honoring his father’s legacy.
Early next year, House of Mac is opening inside Brightline’s Miami Central station. While Turton’s menu has some healthy options, he acknowledges that his place is perfect for a cheat day. “It doesn’t matter how much you work out, it all starts with what you eat,” he said. “So it’s all about moderation — and cardio.” houseofmac.com.
Dallas Wynne of Stubborn Seed
Dallas Wynne, the executive pastry chef at Stubborn Seed, Jeremy Ford’s South Beach epicurean sanctuary, doesn’t bake at home. She estimated that she’s used her oven twice in the past year. And when she goes out to dinner, she skips dessert.
The spry 24-year-old never thought she’d be a pastry chef. “I didn’t want to bake cookies,” she said with a smile. But after baking at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink with Devin Braddock, her best friend and roommate, she fell in love with desserts. Wynne will debut her new desserts at Ford’s next restaurant a-fish-o-na-do, opening next year. Her best tip for holiday eating: “Close your eyes, and then everything is healthy!” stubbornseed.com.
Andrew Balick of Tap 42
Andrew Balick can definitely take the heat in the kitchen. He’s worked for two of the world’s swankiest hospitality brands, Mandarin Oriental and Ritz-Carlton. But it was his first cooking gig at a dingy college sports bar in Gainesville that ignited his passion for the culinary industry.
The 36-year-old corporate chef and partner at Tap 42 is debuting Bar Rita in Fort Lauderdale next month. To say it’s highly anticipated is an understatement. The Mexican-American rooftop concept has been “coming soon” since 2013. To stay active, Balick enjoys cycling and lifting weights. He says the best way to keep fitness goals on track is to get into — and stick with — a routine. tap42.com.