He may not have a restaurant, but David Ortiz likes to say that the meals he serves in Coral Gables are the most expensive ones in South Florida.
“People come here for lunch, and they leave me with $50,000, $100,000 or more of their money,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz is the Financial Chef, a classically trained graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a certified financial planner.
He combines his passions for food and investing in an office several blocks north of Miracle Mile that’s outfitted with a professional kitchen (the space used to be a restaurant). He cooks his clients multicourse lunches before sitting down to discuss investment strategies with them.
“Talking about money and wealth management and retirement planning is a stressful thing for many people, but food is comforting,” Ortiz said. “When you cook for someone and share a meal with them, you connect and get to know them in a more meaningful way than if you had just met them.”
Ortiz’s office has all the markings of a financial firm: a carpeted reception area, flatscreens monitoring the markets, computer stations, a sturdy wooden conference table.
The idea came to me: Why don’t you cook for your clients?
David Ortiz, the Financial Chef
On the conference table, though, stainless salt and pepper shakers and proper silverware sit beside a highlighter and stapler. And just past the meeting room, a hooded range roars to life next to Ortiz’s arsenal of cooking toys: stationary and handheld smokers, pressure cookers, sous vide equipment, canning jars, exotic spices and more.
Light and bright
Ortiz, 55, keeps to a mostly plant-based diet, and his preference for big flavors in lighter dishes comes through in the food he cooks for clients.
One favorite is a chunky gazpacho, which Ortiz jazzes up with a pinch of cumin to coax out the inherent earthiness of the vegetables, an acidic one-two punch of balsamic vinegar and lemon juice for brightness, and a shot of hot sauce.
Ortiz’s culinary training taught him to approach ingredients in different ways to unlock their greatest potential. He’s a proponent of brining — submerging food in a saltwater bath, essentially seasoning it from the inside out and ensuring it retains moisture while cooking — and has landed on a 9 percent brine (9 grams of salt for every 100 grams of water) as the just-right solution for salmon.
After giving the salmon a 30-minute dip in brine, Ortiz roasts it in a low-temperature oven for 20 minutes for medium-rare, or he’ll smoke it over a mixture of wood for an added flavor dimension. A client might get a salmon fillet plated with a sauté of lentils, green garbanzo beans, onion slivers and broccoli rabe.
Ortiz grew up in New York in a culinary family with Cuban and Puerto Rican roots. He waited tables at kosher hotels in the Catskills before going on to the CIA, graduating in 1982.
He moved to Miami after college and worked as a caterer as well as a chef at former restaurants like Tuttle’s, Cafe Mendocino and Granny Feelgoods.
Food, tech, money
Ortiz was executive chef of Bloomingdale’s in Miami in 1985 when the Miami Herald profiled him, then 25 years old. It noted Ortiz’s affinity for exotic pastas (at the time he was experimenting with a chocolate linguine for dessert) and his skateboard, which he rode all over town.
He packed up the skateboard to open some restaurant-nightclub hybrids in South America in the ’80s before returning to the United States and turning to computer software and technology. He created coding and programs to help restaurants better maintain and manage their inventory and costs.
Another career turn in the ’90s pointed Ortiz toward financial planning and wealth management. He earned his necessary certifications, including a retirement planning course from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and opened his own firm in 2006.
It wasn’t until several years of working exclusively as a financial planner that Ortiz had a revelation — in the shower.
“I loved what I was doing, but I was missing cooking,” he said. “And the idea just came to me: ‘Why don’t you cook for your clients?’”
He moved into his Madeira Avenue office five years ago with a new sign: Financial Chef.
Said Ortiz: “These are two things I love doing and love sharing with other people.”
The Financial Chef
Who: David Ortiz.
Where: 119 Madeira Ave., Coral Gables.
More info: 305-254-4455, financialchef.com.
6 cups V8 juice
4 tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 celery ribs, diced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek or other good hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients, adjust seasoning and allow to sit overnight, covered and refrigerated. Once chilled, taste and adjust seasoning. Generally, you will want to add more lemon or vinegar to add tang to the recipe. Add more V8 juice if you feel it is too thick. Serves 10-12.
Note: This will last refrigerated for a week or more.
Source: David Ortiz.
Moistest-Ever Baked Salmon
Baking salmon often leads to a dried-out fillet. My secret is to use a quick brine and then a hybrid roasting method to get the moistest salmon ever. The process of brining is not well understood. It is simply a solution of salt, sugar and water. The science behind brining is that the salt permeates the fish and allows it to absorb the liquid to minimize drying out during the cooking process. I use a 9 percent brine solution, which is 9 grams of salt for each 100 grams of water.
1 quart cold water
6 ice cubes
3 ounces white or brown sugar
3 ounces kosher salt
4 (4-6-ounce) salmon fillets
1 quart brine
Prepare the brine using very cold water. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl or plastic container. Add salmon fillets for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Heat oven to 500 degrees with baking sheet inside. Reduce heat to 275 degrees, pat fish dry with a paper towel and place salmon skin-side down on preheated baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes for rarer salmon or 30 minutes for a more well-done fillet.
Source: David Ortiz.