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Great Chef

Eight Miami LGBTQ+ Chefs and Restaurateurs You Should Know 2021

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With annual Pride events and a dedicated Chamber of Commerce, Miami is a hotspot for queer-identifying hospitality professionals.

It’s easy to see the impact the LGBTQ+ restaurant community has made on Miami.

“LGBTQ+ employees and restaurateurs have always had a presence in almost every restaurant you’ve ever been to,” says chef Todd Erickson. “I think it’s really fantastic that we’re finally getting acceptance and recognition for all that we do for the community as a whole.”

In that same spirit, here are eight LGBTQ+-identifying chefs and restaurant owners to support this Pride month and beyond.

Eileen Andrade

Eileen Andrade

Finka Table & Tap, Amelia’s 1931

Eileen Andrade grew up learning the ins and outs of the restaurant business at her family’s place, Islas Canarias. As an adult, she’s made her own mark on Miami’s culinary landscape. She created and runs Amelia’s 1931 (13601 SW 26th St., Miami), a cozy date-night spot named after her grandmother, and Finka Table & Tap (14690 SW 26th St., Miami), a sprawling space in West Kendall that’s one of the hottest restaurants in town. Andrade mixes her classic Cuban roots with inspiration from her travels to create a unique fusion of flavors.  And she’s expanding her growing restaurant empire with the addition of Barbakoa, set to open this fall at the Doral Yard.

R House's Rocco Carulli and Owen Bale

R House’s Rocco Carulli and Owen Bale

Photo by Dan Kocsis

Rocco Carulli and Owen Bale

R House

Husband-and-husband duo Rocco Carulli and Owen Bale started R House (2727 NW Second Ave., Miami) as a place to celebrate art, music, and food with no judgments or exclusivity. They wanted it to be a safe haven for people from all backgrounds and communities to enjoy good food and great times together. The now-iconic weekly drag brunches are packed with diverse crowds who gather to enjoy local and nationally recognized drag talent. The menu features an array of Latin American dishes as well as collaborations with local bakeries and breweries. R House’s generous happy hour allows customers to sample some different bites and specialty cocktails before dinner. (Look for some late-night entertainment programming currently in the works.)

Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale executive chef Paula DaSilva

Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale executive chef Paula DaSilva

Photo courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale

Paula DaSilva

The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale

As executive chef of the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale (1 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale), Paula DaSilva knows how to keep cool under pressure. It’s this attitude that earned her a runner-up placing on Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, catapulting her into the spotlight as one of South Florida’s most sought-after chefs. The Brazil native worked at some of Miami-Dade and Broward’s most illustrious hotels before taking over as the executive chef for the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale property.  DaSilva’s soulful cooking has earned her numerous awards, including semifinalist for Best Chef: South by the James Beard Foundation. In her community, she works with Feeding South Florida, the Foodservice Council for Women, and Women of Food and Beverage.

Thomas Donall of Palace Bar

Thomas Donall of Palace Bar

Photo courtesy of Palace Bar

Thomas Donall

Palace Bar & Restaurant

Palace Bar (1052 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach) has been a staple of the South Florida LGBTQ+ scene for 33 years. When Thomas Donall took over ownership in 2007, he knew he had to do everything in his power to maintain the legacy. Through every hardship he’s faced over the years — see: restrictive city ordinances, new location, global pandemic — Donall has managed to anchor the Palace more strongly than ever as a South Beach mainstay. Some of the city’s most beloved drag queens call it home, performing at the famous weekend drag brunches as well as nightly events. Since the pandemic, Donall has hired a new chef and sous chef to help revamp the menu for the locals and tourists who pack the house.

Chef Todd Erickson

Chef Todd Erickson

Photo by Reid Harrison Studios

Todd Erickson

g.l.o.w., Munchie’s Pizza Club, the Todds

Todd Erickson has been the driving force behind some of South Florida’s most dynamic restaurants. His past projects include Haven, Huahua’s, and Glam Vegan. His latest venture: culinary consultant at g.l.o.w. (97 NW 25th St., Miami), a fast-casual restaurant in Wynwood focused on healthy eating. Erickson says his love for cooking was inspired by the strong women in his life, and now he’s looking to pay it forward. g.l.o.w. is committed to donating all its profits to various organizations involved in furthering education for women and girls. Erickson has also created the menu for Munchie’s Pizza Club (200 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale) and is a partner in the Todds, a South Florida-wide catering service.

Night Owl Cookies owner Andrew Gonzalez

Night Owl Cookies owner Andrew Gonzalez

Photo courtesy of Night Owl Cookies

Andrew Gonzalez

Night Owl Cookies

The Miami dessert scene is filled with talented bakers looking to make a splash with sweet concoctions, but few have been able to leave a mark like Andrew Gonzalez and Night Owl Cookies (various locations). What began as a late-night Instagram delivery service has exploded into a Miami dessert institution with three physical locations and two more in the works, plus a formidable Postmates presence. With cookie recipes that range from traditional chocolate chip to versions that incorporate childhood favorite cereals and candies, Gonzalez and his team are constantly innovating.

Airport Cafe's Reuben Ruiz

Airport Cafe’s Reuben Ruiz

Photo by Alina Macia

Reuben Ruiz

Airport Cafe & Liquors

Reuben Ruiz got his start at the age of 10, scrubbing floors, bathrooms, and dishes at his father’s restaurant on Bird Road. Years later, he’s been able to put that strong work ethic to good use as the owner and chef at Airport Cafe & Liquors (4427 NW 36 St., Miami Springs). The restaurant, which doubles as a full liquor store, offers a vast menu of home-cooked-style Cuban meals and comfort food. Chef Reuben describes the restaurant as a melting pot, just like the city of Miami. The sandwiches have developed a cult following among regulars, and a rotating list of burger of the month and hoagie of the week ensures there’s never a shortage of new creations to try.

Cheeseburger Baby's Stephanie Vitori

Cheeseburger Baby’s Stephanie Vitori

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Vitori

Stephanie Vitori

Cheeseburger Baby

Stephanie Vitori has turned Cheeseburger Baby (505 Washington Ave., Miami Beach) from a hole in the wall to a Miami Beach landmark. This tiny, woman-owned cheeseburger business in South Beach is a favorite of locals, tourists, and celebrities alike. Located on Washington Avenue at Fifth Street, Cheeseburger Baby stays open late to serve the beach’s vibrant crowds. It also operates food trucks for delivery and catering and was the cheeseburger of choice for Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union’s wedding. Vitori is passionate about empowering women in the community and in the restaurant industry and is involved in Grubhub’s RestaurantHER project, which supports women-led restaurants.

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