The Magic of Miami with Chef Allen Susser of The Cafe at Books and Books

Interview by

Check us on youtube

Feel more like watching a podcast? Check us out here:


Gretchen Schmidt

Editor and Chief of Edible South Florida

a space to feed your soul

Sign up to get email updates.

Get emails about episode and recipe releases and how you can get Seasonal.

Thank you! Be on a lookout for an email from us!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

In this episode...

James Beard Award winning chef, Chef Allen Susser is the executive chef at the Cafe at Books and Books, where he hosts weekly sustainable vegetable dinners, showcasing the unique flavors of Miami. In this episode, Chef Allen details his latest cookbook, Green Fig and Lionfish: Sustainable Caribbean Cooking, how he developed New World Cuisine, what enchanted him about Miami, how he's attacking the local and sustainable food movement head on, and why you should ditch your measuring cups.

Allen Susser

Executive Chef at The Cafe at Books and Books


Gretchen Schmidt

Editor and Chief of Edible South Florida


If you like what you hear, please show your support for the podcast by visiting https://anchor.fm/maria-tripodis/support so I can keep Seasonal alive. Any contribution is greatly appreciated!


Hello to my lovely listeners. We are back with another edition of seasonal. Today is Episode Seven. Whoo. Which is crazy, but we're here we made it. So I know what you guys are thinking it's already 50 seconds into the episode and she still hasn't gotten to her fermentation update. What's the deal? I'm pissed. So yeah, I realized that and I know that that's the only reason you guys listen to the show. And I hate to say it, but I don't have one this week. My kombucha is still brewing and my bread is still proofing. But wait wait wait before you guys turn off this episode. I have some exciting mango updates for you all. So the gentleman at mango men homestead were kind enough to give me a special variety box with their mangoes and Oh boy, you guys, they're freaking delicious. I've only tried a few but it's insane how different they taste. So at Mango Men Homestead, which was my guest from last week, they develop all of their own mango varieties. So this one they gave me is called lemon zest and it has kind of a lemony citrusy undertone to it. There's one called the Duncan which is soft and tangy. Not fibrous at all. Super good. There's other ones that have a little bit more of a caramelized flavor, savory flavor. So yeah, it's been a lot of fun. So I thank mango man so so much for those. I'm having so much fun tasting. Also, I just want to mention to everybody to please please show your support for the podcast by heading to anchor.fm searching seasonal and clicking support so I can keep this podcast alive and going. And I will also have a link up in the show notes so you can access it there too. So now to the show, Chef Alan Susser is the author of his new cookbook, Green Fig and Lionfish as well as many other cookbooks like New World cuisine, and the Great Citrus Book and the Great Mango Book. He has won a James Beard award for best chef of the south east, as well as countless other awards and recognitions for his exceptional cooking, his humanitarianism, and his efforts toward sustainability and bettering the environment. He has developed a cuisine called new world cuisine, which is described as an innovative blending of American Caribbean and Latin flavors. And currently, he's the executive chef at the cafe books and books. Those of you who live in Miami are definitely familiar with books and books and the delicious food that they have there. And at the location at the Archst Center, he puts on weekly sustainable farm to table vegetarian dinners, where every single thing he uses is from our local South Florida farmers, which is really awesome. So okay, yes, I understand that my episodes keep getting longer and longer. Okay, I realized that, but I just had so many questions for him because he is a true example of what it means to be a leader in the local food movement. So without further ado, let's get to chatting with Chef Alan Susser.

MT  0:00  
Hi, Chef, thank you so much for joining us today. Pleasure. So can you start by telling us about your new cookbook, green fig and lionfish and what inspired you to create this book?

AS  0:12  
Absolutely green second line fish is all about sustainable seafood. But focus on lionfish. I've been a very big proponent of sustainable seafood, kind of caring, what happens to our waters to our oceans through our rivers, and the fish that come from it and the fish that we get to cook with there. There's been a lot of overfishing, there's been a lot of detrimental things that go on with the fisheries. And as a chef, I want to know that we've got great fresh fish, I want to know that the resource of fish is going to be here for generations to come in from my grandkids, grandkids. And that's part of what our responsibility is today, as one of the things that go on with sustainable seafood is also these invasive species like lionfish. lionfish is a fish that does not belong in the waters around Florida and the Caribbean, and the fishes invaded the waters, and is kind of taken over the reefs. And so that I wanted to write this book, green fig and lionfish to make people aware that this is going on to the lionfish is a beautiful fish, but it's a terror to our fish population. And also that there's something that we can do about it by kind of getting people to eat lionfish. So that's kind of the underpinnings of the book of lionfish and where it started. And also, the idea of the book, I wanted to make sure that the way that I cook of being seasonal and local and sustainable goes into the book. So the subtitle is obtainable Caribbean cooking, focusing on seasonal and so that actually the way I wrote the book, it goes from spring, summer, winter and fall so that you go through the seasons, with different availability of different fruits, vegetables, kind of cultural influences to it. And that's kind of where it all got started.

MT  2:11  
Yeah, that's, I love that you have it separated out like that, because that's a amazing resource for people, I'm actually working on separating out my content to be in that way, too. I know, in Miami, it could be a little difficult because our seasons kind of blend together sometimes. I think it like just doing that makes it super easy for people to just be like, Okay, what season are we in? What What is it make most sense for me to cook right now. But I love that, that the whole concept of the lionfish that you're kind of spreading awareness about is just, I love how specific it is. And it's just because people talk about sustainability all the time and our environment, but they don't know what to do, or they know like not not to use plastic straws anymore. But they don't really know what other ways they can tackle it. And this is such a specific approach to just tackling that huge issue. And it's a great place to start for us that don't really know what we're doing.

AS  3:13  
But yeah, and I think you know, and the reason why it's a it's a local seafood book, you know, here in Miami, we're surrounded on all sides of us, we have the Gulf Stream, we have the Gulf of Mexico got the Caribbean and the keys, and this water that's around, this should be a seafood capital of the United States of the world. Yeah. And we're not looked at that. And so that I wanted to kind of make that impression and impact even though I focus on a singular fish, the lionfish. I do give examples of other sustainable seafood, other sustainable fish choices to substitute in some of the recipes. So that people understand is it's more about technique of cooking and cooking sizzle, I suppose what's available and being flexible to understand cooking. And so that when you know, and I thought that was an important component of the book,

MT  4:04  
yeah, that is, I've never thought about that before. But that makes a lot of sense. Because we really aren't looked at as a seafood destination. I don't know if it's because of the different cultural cooking that's influenced our area. But yeah, people don't think of Miami and think I mean, they think stone crabs, but they're not they're not always thinking about the seafood here. Right?

AS  4:27  
Well, you know, it's funny cuz people, people, it's a big gem. Yeah. We've got so many wonderful cultures, such great diversity here in South Florida. And then also, we also don't even appreciate all the seasonality that surrounds us, right. I mean, right now, you know, to put a timing to this, we're right in the middle of mango season. If you don't have a mango tree in your neighborhood or your own backyard or friend's backyard, everybody has it. And so this is mango season, and it's a wonderful time to be here. You know, and just Kind of adjusted about don't crab season see we think seasons, but we're actually not, not letting it filtered down into our, into our cooking.

And also Yeah, and then also you have citrus season, winter citrus season in here in Florida, all the different limes, lemons, tangerines, oranges and yellows, grapefruits, it's awesome. So we really do have a lot of components that we are just starting to understand how to cook seasonally here in South Florida, and here in Miami, for sure.

MT  5:35  
And that's kind of what I'm trying to get. What message I'm trying to get across with this podcast is that I want people to just be aware that we live in such a unique climate and such a unique point in the world that we have access to all these amazing exotic fruits and these crazy vegetables and stuff that nowhere else in the world is has access to. And so many people I know that live here don't know about and I'm originally from Tampa, Florida. And just the diff it's not that far from Miami geographically. But the difference in climate is huge. And we can grow things in Tampa that that we grow in Miami. So people, I just want people to take advantage of what we have here and and just be adventurous and not be afraid to taste those different flavors. I know people that are from Miami and they don't know what like MMA is or something. And I'm like what? Yeah, so it's just crazy.

AS  6:38  
They're missing the world. You know, it's Yeah, it's crazy that if you don't open yourself up, especially you know what, what's cool is that most of these ingredients are found in our Publix in our siddhanta was in most of the grocery stores. But the best place to find is actually at the farmers market. Yeah. Because then you're you're actually kind of feeling the seasons you're seeing, you know who the farmers are. And you're getting ingredients that are kind of ultimately fresh in season at peak quality and peak flavor. That means, yes, that's a that's an important thing for cooking.

MT  7:13  
Yeah. And also I come from that nutrition background. So I'm always telling people to eat locally, just because it's the produce actually is more nutrient dense if you produce that's in season and eat produce that's local. So I'm kind of attacking it from that perspective, but also from a flavor and quality perspective, too. It's so important.

AS  7:35  
Good, good. Good thing. I don't always think of the nutrition. Anytime I'm reminded of it. It's like, yeah it makes sense, eat your colors. Exactly.

MT  7:46  
Yeah it makes sense, also, you mentioned the farmers markets, you can also not only can you buy the produce from there, but if you don't know what to do with it, you could ask the the farmers or the vendors. You know, this looks good. This looks interesting. What can I do with this, and they'll tell you how to use it in the kitchen. So don't be afraid, you know, to try things. I just don't want people to be afraid to like pick something out that they don't know what it is because they can be an excellent resource for you at the farmers market.

AS  8:17  
Yeah, no, I agree with you on that. Yeah.

MT  8:19  
So okay, Is this true? I, I read this in an article about you. But is it true that the green fig is actually a banana?

AS  8:29  
Yeah, so let me tell you about the title of green fig. And lionfish is a take off on the national dish of St. Lucia, the National dishes green fig and saltfish. Okay, which kind of has its cultural history in the days of slavery and lean lean pickings so that the idea that the national dish for the locals became salted fish, which is Cod, and green bananas, which they call the green figs, I mean, the banana plantations that were in the Caribbean, and the salt cod was there. So that's kind of the things that got put together. And then there are a number of violence that you know, kind of do this type of thing. And, you know, so that when I realized that I said, Okay, let's do a 21st century idea of let's replace the salt fish with fresh lionfish and still match it culturally, the same way that you're cooking. So that if you do boiled green figs or green bananas, and that's it's kind of the dishes a boiled green banana and flake lionfish with some seasoning, peppers, some onions, some tomatoes and some heat, you know, and that's kind of what the dishes are kind of real refreshing. It's a precursor. What's the vj is and, you know, but it's a staple of eating in the Caribbean. And so that it kind of borrowed that that name of green fig and lionfish

MT  9:57  
and people are familiar with those flavors going together already. Yeah,

AS  10:03  
yeah, I know a lot of a lot of the Caribbean eat plantains or bananas or ground provision, which could be bunny Otto's and yams. And that may and so that the there's just so many varieties so that's kind of a natural way to eat. And that's kind of what I wanted. You know, the book is very easy recipes, easy preparations for a local vegetables, fruits, tropical fruits and fresh fish.

MT  10:30  
Love that. So can you highlight a couple of your favorite recipes from the book for us?

AS  10:36  
Sure, sure.There's so many recipes that I've got. But you know, when one of my favorites is a sea salt roasted lionfish with West Indian squash, West Indian squash or pumpkin is calabasa. Okay, so with that kind of, you know, you cook up the calabasa into large chunks, and then sort of season that with a cinnamon, fennel, nutmeg time, and do the same seasoning on the lionfish. So then I pan fry the lionfish with the nice aromatic spices, then make make the squash also in large cubes. And so then toss the squash into that, and then finish it with a little bit of a pomegranate molasses. And a touch of olive oil. So I think that's kind of really works nicely.

MT  11:32  
So I'm gonna guess is that a winter recipe? or fall or winter?

AS  11:38  
Yes. Yes.Second, yes, it is. Yeah, I think you know, for, for me for one of my summer recipes, is a barbecue lionfish with an orange and almond slaw. Okay, so kind of really easy. The slaw is a shaving of fennel and cabbage, mince, garlic, fresh oranges, small red onion, and some almonds that go into and that sort of becomes a slot to be served with the lionfish. Now the barbecue the lionfish actually use the orange juice as a reduced the orange juice with a little bit of fresh ground pepper and olive oil and fresh basil and coriander seed and season that and kind of give it a wonderful grill on the barbecue. And then serve it with the orange and almond slaw, which is really refreshing crispy, crunchy kind of texture finishing it with a fresh almonds on top and fresh herbs and a really nice like that. You know, I think in summer we cook different than in spring. Yeah. And so that summer wants to have a nice crunch and heat and grilling and barbecuing is kind of what you want to do. You know at that time, so that's, uh, yeah,

MT  12:58  
And it's a little lighter. It's it feels better to eat something like that when it's super hot.

AS  13:03  

MT  13:04  
Yeah, that's delicious. So I kind of wanted to ask you this, since our primary growing season in Miami has ended. How do you account for that? When you're menu planning? When like it's summer and what really the majority of what we have available is tropical fruit. Like how do you adjust to that change you source from, like nearby farms and other states? Or how do you kind of account for that?

AS  13:35  
I'm a monster tropical fruit fell in and kind of you know, I kind of take advantage of tropical fruits that when they're mature and ripe, they're not necessarily sweet yet, you know, so there's a lot of starches, so tropical fruits like papaya like mango, you know those are wonderful to utilize. And so that you know I use them for pickles for salads for crunch in the salad as well as when they sweeten up and use use them either for kind of you know, a sweet sweetness to a dish but I always kind of match. You know when cooking. I think one of the things that no matter what season is balancing the sweetness, the sugars, that is the acidity as well as the aromatics so that that balance of sweet and acidity is really kind of changes during the seasonality is no matter what ingredients that you're cooking with. But you know it's like you see the the whole industry of farming go up the East Coast so strawberries that were in season here in January, February, are now up in the Carolinas which are going toward the Northeast tomatoes which were just ended our tomato season are in the Carolinas now, and then, you know, by mid summer, you're going to find them in the Mid Atlantic and then up in New York in the late summer. So you can see the movement of the weather that changes the growing season. And so that just like, you know, right now, though, we're in mango season, you also just isn't much in peach season. And there's actually a lot of peaches that are around. So it's like, kind of finding these vegetables and fruits and utilizing man, like you suggested trying new things, you know, what was the last time you went to a farmers market? Oh, my god, there's some stuff to do. I gotta have some stuff to do. Or my may, I mean, you know, or jackfruit. But you know, awesome jackfruit, you know, which is a very versatile fruit, whether it's sweet or green, use, you know, in vegetarian dishes, or tropical fruit salad, or anything else like that. So and nevermind, the guava, tamarind pie, as you know that the star fruit, passion fruit, you know, is just a host of different ingredients that keep coming through the market. So you know, and I think for home cooking, people like stability, they don't quite understand yet how to infuse a new ingredient into their regular recipe. And that's really one of the tricks of cooking seasonally is you don't have to change your whole repertoire. You can, you know, your family knows what they like it, you know, a new cooking, but if you add one new ingredient that's a seasonal ingredient into a tried and true recipe. You know, let's say you know, you've got a roast come pojo. Okay, and to that rose can boil, let's say you add some mango into it and just into the rice as you you kind of set in the race, you put the map in, give it a left turn, and then all of a sudden you've got a great summertime dish. That's it's like okay, this is awesome.

MT  16:58  
That's so true. Yeah, I do that with Um, so I've mentioned this so many times, I guess. But I'm Greek. So my favorite salad is a it's called a Kodiak Tiki salad, or Greek village solid. So when it's stone fruit season, I just put peaches in air, whatever like comes in, or whatever stone fruit I have. And then like in other seasons, I put just whatever. And then also, my favorite you mentioned under ripe mangoes and papayas. But my favorite, one of my top favorite dishes ever is a green mango salad. The Thai like Thompson and I make that when they're when I've mangoes I make that or I've made it with carrots, like just shredded carrots before. So yeah, you can and it tastes like pretty much the same, which is delicious. But, but yeah, just switch things out. I mean, once you understand, once you have your core recipes, and you kind of understand the fundamentals of cooking, you shouldn't be following a recipe you know, exactly to the tee, you can kind of swap things in and now and if you know what flavor profiles you like, and you can get creative and it can be a lot of fun.

AS  18:14  
Recipes should be used as guidelines for inspiration. It's a lot of hard work if you have to take a recipe even mine, and measure every teaspoon, every tablespoon, every two ounce, every cup. It's like oh my god, you got the patience. I I cook like my grandmother taught me to cook a little of this a little taste it add a little bit more, you know, taste it, you know. And so you're tasting as you're going and you're you're making the flavors pop. And then to finish you also have to taste before you serve it because it may need a touch of acidity, it may need a little bit of more aromatic it may need a pinch of salt, you know, and I'm actually not a big salt person. I think there's so much flavor you can get from fresh herbs and citrus. Other fruits and vegetables.

MT  19:03  
Yeah, I bet your grandmother didn't even own measuring utensils. I know. Or measuring cups. Mine definitely doesn't. But yeah, I tried to go over to my my grandma's house who's getting dementia to ask her to all her recipes, and she couldn't give me any measurements. I don't know. But you know, it's okay. I don't use measurements either. But yeah, so get creative. It's super fun. It shouldn't be a stressful thing to be cooking. Just taste as you go. Like you said, so many people I know just are really intimidated by cooking and it shouldn't be that way at all. It should be relaxing and therapeutic. Great. Yeah. So okay, I want to ask you, you're you're known in our community for sourcing, local ingredients and incorporating local seasonal products into your menus. So have you been like this since when you first started cooking or when did You kind of first become aware that this was the best way to go and your your preferred way to go about your meal planning.

AS  20:09  
Okay, great, great question because I brought my grandmother up, I used to love to go shopping with her. I'm from Brooklyn. And she's from Eastern Europe. But do we go shopping and go to the open markets, they weren't markets not, you know, there was farmers dams in Brooklyn at the time and you know, go to the the fruit stand, and you know, you haven't hog about what's fresh, what's available, and kind of going back and forth. And you go to the little shops, and you can really see the seasonality of that. So from there, you know, I realized I wanted to cook and when I graduated from culinary school, I went to Paris, and I lived in Paris for a year. And there I really saw the market, the farmers market, the street markets, and kind of how they really didn't have refrigeration that they weren't counting on, they wanted to go shopping every day buy what was fresh, what was available. And I think the the influence of the seasonal and local and small, you know, taste, getting those at the ripe peak flavor was, from my French experience, and seeing how much those ingredients could change and what peak flavor meant. And I've always kept to that of cooking from what's available seasonally, and fresh. And from that point, when I opened chef Allen, about 10 years later than that I, when I opened here in Miami chef down, I knew I wanted to do a seasonal restaurant that I would go down to the farmers in the Redlands and meet with the farmers and you know, and really start to understand what was available and kind of what you know what was growing here that could be part of our cuisine that belonged here that made sense to 90 degree heat and 90% humidity. And so that we're you know, hey is different than growing up in New York and was different than Paris and then realized in a different world here. But it was a small town that was growing. And I could see that the the coming of all sorts of folks from all over the world were coming here, it needed to have identifiable cuisine and so that the way to identify is what's available here at E use your local natural resources and fresh fish and farm ingredients was really the key to that.

MT  22:29  
And also you could use fewer, I found that I could use fewer ingredients in my in my dishes when they're good when they're better quality just because they speak for themselves. Like I could make a salad with three or four ingredients and it's just burst with flavor just because the tomatoes are super flavorful and I don't need to season it with a bunch of different things right?

AS  22:54  
You don't have to make a hodgepodge you can let each yeah nice, seasonal ingredients speak for itself and for exam attributes whether it's crunchy or sweet or aromatic or citrusy or you know tropical and kind of really put that that together and you know thankfully we do have a couple of local farms here that have been establishing that actually have been doing pretty well that they've struggled but you know, they need more support. You know, I try to support some of the local farmers markets, you know, whether we do a Monday evening farmers market at the ostriches 13th in Biscayne Boulevard and you know, we they have a constant flow of farmers urban Oasis is a farmer there that they do such a great job.

MT  23:41  
I love them, I get from them every week. They're great. It's super easy. So on that note, can you tell us some of the local farms and fishmongers that you work with and what you like to get in particular from them? Sure.

AS  24:07  
Sure. Um, paradise farms is another farm that they actually grow wonderful oyster mushrooms, you know, and they grow that all year round because their their greenhouse were on or dark house grown, but also when they're in season, beautiful fennel and fresh greens, really crunchy greens that kind of tastes the mustard greens and the pepper Enos of the arugula and the the crevices and so that you can really in a mix of greens, it's not just this green color, if crunch and flavor and these nuances that you hardly need any dressing on it because the salad mix is just wonderful. So I get that from I also use a hartke farm. Marquis is up here in Broward County actually and He's a small farmer but he is growing all lettuces. hydroponically. He also grows micro herbs which kind of very intense flavor or salads and for cooking and marinate harpy I love what he does occasionally as tomatoes and delicious multicolored carrots, you know that that are great. Right now I'm also buying from mango mem homestead. He's a local farmer.

MT  25:27  
Yeah, I just interviewed them too. Yeah. All right. Are you there? Good? Yeah.

AS  25:31  
Yeah. You know, awesome with you know, it's very interesting because they're the third generation of mango people, you know, which is, you know, their father, Richard Campbell. And his father, you know, has been in the farming, horticulture, just, you know, fabulous knowledge and depth and so that the kids are doing good. Yeah,

MT  25:56  
Yeah, I learned so much from them.

AS  25:58  
You know, I'm really glad to see the the kids doing good as well as the Ellen bait, you know, which, again, I've known mark and Kiki lamb, since they opened the restaurant, almost 25 years ago, and I was buying from them and just kind of weird where we go to find and you find that these are families, and they care about the customer, they care about the environment, and they care about the food that they're growing. And that's so, so, so important. You know, fishing, on the other hand is a little bit more difficult to find because there's not a whole lot of good seafood markets out there regretfully, or direct fishermen down. You know, there's a couple that actually that go to out on Key Biscayne in the marina Key Biscayne that so there's some day boats that go out and there's always one kind of fish whether it's my or tuna or tilefish or grouper or rainbow runner, so they're always got some fishing, you know, and they work together, there's about four or five day boats that go out from there, as well as another company called to bills which always gets some wonderful catch, they go out or for pumping a little bit deeper offshore there and they've always got some great fish coming in Pompano yellow towel, trigger fish, parrot fish, crabs, some really, really nice fish. And then there's Katie, seafood out of the keys, which always has, you know, works with a lot of the local fishermen there. And they've always got whether it's a hog snapper or red grouper or, you know, just tile fish or just some of the wonderful fish that come out of the keys. Besides don't grab

MT  27:45  
Yeah, yeah. And, and just to go back. Where Where can people find frozen or fresh lionfish?

AS  27:55  
lionfish, okay, lionfish is all hand caught. It's from diverse and so that lionfish you can probably find it most of the time right now in Whole Foods, Whole Foods markets throughout Florida is been carrying sustainable seafood. And they have been focused on lionfish. They almost always have lionfish in each of those stores. very reasonable. They sell it whole, but you can get them to clean it and fillet it. And so that is really just beautiful white flesh fish that, that you get to cook one hand.

MT  28:30  
That's good, too. Yeah, yeah.

AS  28:32  
Yeah. So that's a that's a treat, I was really surprised to see it. And I've been into a number of Whole Foods, and they're continuing to bring them the lionfish on a regular basis. Yeah,

MT  28:42  
I love that. I'm definitely gonna buy some of that. No, but Okay, so I know you mentioned before, when you first came to Miami, you are discovering all of the different flavors that we have here. So can you I know, you're cooking. You're kind of known for introducing, quote unquote, new worlds cuisine. So can you explain to us what that is, and why people describe your cuisine in that way.

AS  29:11  
You know, when I did come to Miami, and so I was discovering what Miami was about, kind of want to identify the cuisine. And you know, it took a while to come up with what you know, new world cuisine would be but to me, new world cuisine was the New World ingredients that we had here that came from here that we're grown here, and they're wonderful ingredients with some of the old world techniques. For me, you know, for me, I was coming from New York and working in Paris and training in Paris that caught on blue and working at the Bristol hotel and kind of really getting that French field for cooking and the fine art of it. I you know, I brought that to local ingredients as opposed to the French ingredients which is very rich and Kind of, you know, very full flavored. So that's kind of when I started to cook with Bonnie Otto and plantains and bananas and mangoes, and papayas, guavas, chayote, a calabasa, kind of really discovering the the the local ingredients that were being grown here that had Caribbean influences that had Latin American influences that had Asian influences. And so those, you know, because we're a tropical environment, and so that the things that grow in the tropics are very different than they grow in France, or New York, you know, within the temperate climate. So being able to cook locally, kind of putting together the idea of new world cuisine, which was a modern cuisine for modern time and a modern city. And that's why it is, you know, new world cuisine, taking advantage of how times were changing, because cultures change, when Columbus came over from Europe and discovered a new world, there was an old world here, but the European centric, called it in a new world, though the cultures here are pretty well equipped to do a lot of things that on their own. But that whole class kind of brought food around the world. And so that change in transportation, communication was big, that next change in transportation communication happened in our 21st century. And that's kind of really where I see the new world cuisine, God established.

MT  31:35  
And it's interesting that you just given your background, you were able to, you have a unique perspective, and that you're able to apply those French European techniques to the produce that we have in this area, which, you know, they might not be able to have access to in France or so you're able to use those techniques and and see what you can do with them here. Yeah, although

AS  32:02  
it's amazing. I'll tell you what the French that come here are some of the great French chefs that have come to Miami there and numbered with our ingredients, the quality of the ingredients, the variety of ingredients, you know, and that's that it's amazing. So and their eyes are open to, you know, and their adventurism just as well that I think the whole world is cooking differently. We don't, you know, we don't cook the way we we did before, I think there's a lot more fusion of flavors of seasonality. And we're influenced I mean, but with the internet, you're looking, you're seeing food in Thailand, you're seeing food in India, you're seeing food in South Africa, you're seeing food in the Mediterranean, you're seeing the Mideast, and you're like oh my god, I want that I want to taste that. And so that you get to taste it. But it's really more about the technique that's being used, and using local ingredients. So kind of being, you know, influenced and excited by the world of cuisine. But you still have to go to your local grocery store. And you should be buying seasonal ingredients, though, you can change it by change it up with the cooking technique, with the spicing technique that you have, and kind of putting it together for what makes sense.

MT  33:17  
Yeah. And I think it's important to to, if you approach cooking and approach new ingredients, like in a child's like perspective, and you're just always curious and always excited about it, then you'll you'll never get bored of cooking. Because even these fret, like you said, these French experienced French chefs, you think they know everything there is to know about cooking, and then they come here and it's completely different. And so you just always have to have that curiosity. And it'll always excite you. So, so lastly, I just wanted you to really quickly tell us a bit about your sustainable vegetarian dinner series at the cafe books and books. And kind of briefly how you create those menus every week and just tell the listeners how, how they can attend those and the info, they need to know a little bit more about what they can do to check that out. Sure.

AS  34:16  
Well, the farmers market dinner series is on Monday night at the Art Center, the cafe books and books. And so each Monday night, I do a family style dinner influenced by the farmers and what's available. So quite honestly, what I do is talk to the farmers each week that they come and find out what's available that day as well as what's coming up in the next week or two. So I could do a little bit of venue planning and know the season you know, you need to know the seasonality of what's coming in and what to get ready for and so that in being able to talk with the farmer directly, I'm really interacting and knowing what's going to taste best and what what's going to be freshest. So what we do is a family style dinner. So it's a five course veggie vegetable dinner. And usually, I actually theme them very often by seasonality. And by region, you know, so that if I'm doing a C, seasonal region of coastal cuisines, for instance, and we're maybe I'll do coastal cuisine, in New Orleans, with the influence of New Orleans cooking in South Carolina with the, you know, influence of Charleston, you know, so I kind of capturing some images and flavor styles of a coastal cooking. And so in a month, I'll do a fourth series of four, Monday's of doing coastal cuisine, and that sort of fashion, or, you know, coming into the summer, we're gonna do a, you know, grilling, so I'll do four weeks of grilling. And so grilling could be grilling in Texas, you know, and there's all vegetables, but thinking, you know, thinking of what a Texas barbecue or grilling would look like. And so I do that, and so that, you know, the same grilling can be done for in Nashville or in Indiana, you know, or, you know, someplace, you know, in the Massachusetts area, like Cape Cod. And so that kind of really thinking about how the cuisine would be adding in the our local ingredients, but cooking it in the spite and spicing it. In those profiles were five course dinner, which always has homemade desserts with it always has a farmers there. And very often I'll have the farmers come to the table and talk about what they're farming and what's seasonal, and really getting and encouraging people to support the farmers markets, whether it's their or their local farmers markets. So it's been great. And I usually have the menu, draft and call it a draft up on our website at books and books calm so that people can see what I'm intended. But till I get to the market until they, you know, I get to taste it, it could change on a daily basis. But the the intent of what the dish would be probably not changed too much, so long as the products come in.

MT  37:17  
So to my listeners, if you live in Miami, and you want to kind of experience a beautiful showcase of what we have available here, then attending these dinners is a great way to do that. Because you can just get exposure and you don't you don't have to stress about messing it up in the kitchen, if that's what you're worried about. But you can just have exposure to these new flavors. And then it might inspire you to take that home with you and, you know, experiment with it in your own kitchen. So be Wanda and you're interested in that then these dinners I think are the perfect avenue for you to to go after. Yeah,

AS  37:54  
I'm glad you brought that up. Because I think that guests come in very often a lot of these vegetables they may not have ordered on their own. They may not have you know thought to put them together in the flavors that I've done. But you know, being that when you come to this dinner, it's family solid. So you don't you're not ordering off a menu. Yeah, you're getting what I'm cooking for you. And so there's always plenty of food, a lot of you know, great flavors, and you're going to taste things that you may not have ordered for yourself. But meanwhile, since it's part of the difference, like okay, it's in front of me, I'm going to taste it. And maybe I like it or maybe I don't but there's always plenty more other things to eat. So,

MT  38:34  
there are a lot of fun. It's a lot, a lot of good, good natured eating and good way to meet people as well. Okay, Chef, that's it for our interview. Oh, you so so much for your time. I really enjoyed this. I really learned a lot. Thank you so much.

AS  38:52  
My pleasure. Thank you. Thanks for the invite.

MT  38:54  
Of course. That was a lot of fun.

Listen on