Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded restaurateur Chef Cesar Zapata of Miami's highly acclaimed Viet-Cajun hot spot Phuc Yea will be among the culinary talents slated for Picante tomorrow at Hope Gardens.
The restaurant's name is undoubtedly tongue in cheek, but the Vietnamese word "Phuc" means "blessings and prosperity" and Zapata's journey has certainly not been short of both. Fuelled by old school hip hop, graffiti and a love for life, Zapata's rendition of Vietnamese cuisine is deeply rooted in family recipes, fused with their personal experiences and cooking styles. The food is distinctly 'theirs; it's vibrant, bold and layered. In one word, Phuc Yea's style is irreverent.
Phuc Yea has been a staple on the Miami food scene for over a decade and has received a two-time Michelin Bib Gourmand accolade, a prestigious honour in the culinary world. The restaurant has also been listed as one of Miami's best restaurants in Miami New Times, Eater 38 among other notable publications.
"We're extremely lucky to add Cesar to this year's talent-packed festival line-up," shared Jamaica Food & Drink Festival Director Alicia Bogues. "We met up at Phuc Yea a few months ago, and the food, vibe and energy were out of this world, and not to mention the cocktails!"
Zapata has been an integral part of Miami's dining scene for over two decades, leaving an indelible mark on the city's gastronomy and receiving a number of national accolades; he's been featured on The Food Network's: Diners, Drive Ins and Dives (hosted by Guy Fieri) and was a semifinalist on Gordon Ramsay's Best New Restaurant. Star Chefs awarded Zapata as a Rising Star in South Florida in 2016. Additionally, Zapata serves as a member of the advisory council for No Kid Hungry Miami. He recently launched Pho Sho at the South Beach Food Hall, a cosy noodle shop celebrating the authentic flavours of Vietnam.
Joining Zapata will be General Manager Patricia Del Rio, who originates from Havana, Cuba and has exhibited a proclivity towards creativity since her youth. Alongside her outgoing personality, she possesses a natural flair for hospitality and revels in orchestrating social gatherings.
Del Rio has proven to be an invaluable resource in the hospitality industry, having contributed significantly to the success of renowned hotel chains such as Heritage Hotels in New Mexico, and Miami's own KYU restaurants. However, what brings her the most joy are smaller, more intimate settings like Phuc Yea, where she can exercise her creativity and provide a level of hospitality that surpasses the expectations of typical establishments.
Del Rio has a technical degree in fine arts from proclaimed Fine Arts Academy San Alejandro, located in Havana City, Cuba. Additionally, she holds a bachelor's degree in environmental and urban planning from the University of New Mexico. Her diverse educational background has endowed her with both creative and analytical thinking skills, making her a valuable asset in the hospitality industry. Her passions lie in sustainability, culture, and mixology. Through years of experience working behind craft cocktail bars, she has honed her ability to not only blend unique flavours but also curate the ideal social atmosphere.
Over the past year, she has refined her skills in restaurant operations, serving as the general manager at Phuc Yea, located in Miami's MiMo district. On any given evening she can be seen pouring a glass of her favourite wine, or guiding patrons through the restaurant's delectable dishes, masterfully crafted by Chef Cesar Zapata.
Picante also features son of the soil, Chef Wenford Simpson, who will showcase his Fyah Shrimp with Walkerswood Jerk. What's a Jamaican Food Festival without iconic jerk, an integral part of the island's history, which is now increasingly being showcased on the global stage.