The world’s recent food fetish has helped chefs become superstars in their own right. They’re going from behind the line to in front of the camera, and the hand-written recipes they scrawled on napkins are turned into million dollar cookbook deals. The once unglamorous service industry is finally getting the appreciation and critical acclaim it has been craving. Par for the course, the celebrity-chef phenomenon has come to a boil—but not all celebrity chefs follow the same recipe for stardom. Once a chef cooks his, or her, way to household fame, they may create their own line of pots and pans, host their own TV show, or pen a revealing food memoir. Miami is home to a grocery list of celebrity chefs, who have all transformed their passion for the craft into a unique, marketable culinary perspective. From an Ohio-born restaurateur to a competitive cooking champion from the Caribbean, Miami now gladly boasts these five recognizable faces as its own.
Michael Schwartz is the sovereign of an enormous epicurean empire, ruling seven properties ranging from his hometown, Miami, to Grand Cayman, and even on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Most recently, this James Beard Award winner brought back the golden age of fine dining to Miami with The Cypress Room and debuted his own home-brewed American Ale. You know you’ve made it when your name is on a bottle of beer.
Before Nina Compton was declared runner up in Top Chef New Orleans, Chef Scott Conant recruited the St. Lucia-native to be his Sous Chef at the Miami Beach location of his renowned restaurant Scarpetta. She quickly rose in the ranks to be Chef de Cuisine, and helped the upscale restaurant receive countless awards. Compton recently left her position, and her Miami fans are eager to taste what she’s cooking up next.
In 2007, Michelle Bernstein was honored with a James Beard Award for Best New Chef in the South for her dazzling cookery at Michy’s. The Latin and Jewish chef is a proud representative of her hometown, Miami. When she’s not cooking or authoring books (the chef published Cuisine a Latina in 2008), Miami’s culinary sweetheart is fighting childhood obesity in Miami Public Schools alongside First Lady Michelle Obama.
Norman Van Aken
Hailed as the founding father of New World Cuisine and credited for coining the culinary term fusion, this Miami-based chef is an industry titan. His marriage of global cuisines earned him a spot on the James Beard list of “Who’s Who in American Food and Beverage.” Van Aken is the only Floridian to obtain that honor. Six cookbooks, a memoir, and a radio show still won’t keep this cook out of the kitchen. Find him just down the road at his Orlando restaurant, Norman’s.
The first Miami chef to win Chopped, Giorgio Rapicavoli does things differently than most. Instead of the standard apron, Rapicavoli keeps clean with a camouflage-printed bib. The food at his modish restaurant, Eating House, is as unflinching and unapologetic as he is—no substitutions allowed. At the young age of 28, Forbes listed Rapicavoli as one of the “30 under 30” in the Food & Wine category.