Q&A with Chef Justin Smillie




The MBVCA sat down with Justin Smillie, chef of Upland Restaurant, to discuss why he loves Miami Beach, the new Miami Beach Upland Restaurant and its unique cuisine. To learn more about the restaurant, visit: http://www.uplandmiami.com/


Tell us about yourself – What inspired you to become a chef?


Growing up in Southern California my mother always kept a garden and I just fell in love with the smell of the tomato leaves. I’ve always liked to work on my feet and to be active and kitchens are just a natural fit.




Tell us about the new Upland. What made you decide to combine California and Italian cuisines? What makes this so unique compared to other Miami Beach restaurants?


The combination comes from my personal experience. The California inspiration comes through in the treatment of the vegetables and Americana aspects — it’s really a melting pot. The pastas and Italian portions of the menu touch on my experience working in great Italian restaurants like Il Buco Alimentari — once you make fresh pasta you can’t not make fresh pasta!

Why did you choose Miami Beach for Upland’s 2nd location?


We like to say we’re bringing Upland back to its palm tree roots (laughs). My partner, Stephen Starr has a footprint here in South Florida with great restaurants including Makoto, and we both agreed that the Miami Beach guest would respond well to Upland. I love traveling back and forth between Miami Beach and New York — it’s the best of both worlds.


Are there any dishes on the menu inspired by local flavors?


Sure. The menu generally has a bit more fish and seafood to reflect the tropical environment and we’ve added a raw section that’s unique to Miami Beach.


What are some of your favorite local dishes? Are there any Miami Beach-inspired dishes?


The Drunken Snapper is a great example of the local influence — it’s like a margarita on a plate with local Florida Snapper, tequila, cilantro and key lime.



What makes Miami Beach’s culinary scene different to that of other cosmopolitan destinations like New York City or Los Angeles?

I think Miami Beach — and South Florida in general — has a lot of people who are passionate about food and new restaurants, but it’s not yet oversaturated. Overall, though, I think that the culinary climate is the same around the country: people are looking for a great meal and a great bottle of wine without having to get too buttoned up.


Lastly, please tell us – Why do you love Miami Beach!


This community has been great to me! The reception has been so welcoming and I’m happy to be a part of the neighborhood. I feel really lucky to be here and the beach just adds to the appeal.


The Wordy Girl; Q and A with Maria Tettamanti, Editor of the Wordy Girl

Q&A with Maria Tettamanti, Editor of the Wordy Girl


The MBVCA sat down with Maria Tettamanti, journalist, digital influencer and Miami-based fashion & travel blogger, to discuss why she loves Miami Beach, emerging fashion trends and the upcoming social calendar for Miami Beach. To follow Maria Tettamanti, visit: http://www.thewordygirl.com/


How would you describe the fashion and style of Miami Beach? Tell us about your favorite Miami Beach fashion trends.


Hellooooo, bold fashion! The fashion and style of Miami Beach is colorful and sexy. I love that both women and men here embrace vivid hues and aren’t afraid to show a little skin. New York can keep their basic black! There’s no other place in the world like it!




How do you think Miami Beach influences your personal style in any way?


Miami Beach’s year-round warm weather and proximity to the ocean certainly influences my style. Airy frocks, bedazzled sandals and a funky fedora are my wardrobe staples. Oh, and don’t forget to apply SPF every day.


Tells us about the 2017 Miami Beach social calendar. What can we expect in 2017? Which events are you most looking forward to?


Miami Beach is packed with world-class events and social appeal. My favorite social event of the year is Swim Week — the premiere event in the world for swimwear fashion which brings with it a number of annual events peppered throughout Miami Beach. Art Basel is pretty epic, too!



What are some of your favorite spots on Miami Beach? In your opinion, what makes visiting Miami Beach so unique?


My favorite hangouts on Miami Beach are clean eats at Dirt and Jugo Fresh. For a major beauty haul, Gee Beauty is most definitely Miami Beach’s top beauty emporium. I also love Barry’s Bootcamp because it offers Miami Beach’s toughest workout. Miami Beach is so unique because its offers something for everyone — from beach bums to busy bodies like myself – it’s the perfect place to be!


Where do you love to take your kids/spend time with your family on Miami Beach?


My kids and I love lazy days by the pool at Soho Beach House. They make the best hamburger in town! You can quote me on that.



Know you keep your finger on the pulse of emerging fashion designers for your blog, the Wordy Girl, are there any local designers our readers should keep an eye out for?


Locally speaking, Miami Beach boasts a myriad of homegrown talents. I love Ximena Kavalekas’ python handbags. I adore ALEXIS’ dresses for special events. Christian Roth sunglasses are epic! Jacqueline Pinto makes fantastic fine jewelry. Samantha Gallacher of Art and Loom creates stunning rugs.  Romi Sarif of Lola James Jewelry makes the most whimsical and on-trend jewelry. I love Karina Grimaldi’s dresses, too.


If you were to take a “staycation”, where in Miami Beach would you stay and what are your “must-do” activities?


Choosing just one hotel is tough! Miami Beach is home to some incredible hotels and upscale resorts. But right now if I HAD to pick…I have an interior design crush on The 1 Hotel South Beach. Their freshly minted Bamford Spa is my vision of heaven. It has a heart motif running through it. Love that!


Why do you love Miami Beach?


Being a Pisces, I love Miami Beach’s long stretches of beaches. I’m also a fan of “mental health” days at The Standard or Soho Beach House. Also, I love to eat and my favorite restaurants — Joe’s Stone Crab, Continental, Byblos, Prime 112 and Dirt — are all located here. Miami Beach is simply the best!



Q and A with Sandy Shapiro, Executive Director – Miami Beach Botanical Garden

Miami Beach Botanical Garden


Q&A with Sandy Shapiro, Executive Director


The MBVCA sat down with Sandy Shapiro, Executive Director of the Miami Beach Botanical Garden (MBBG), to discuss why she loves the Miami Beach Botanical Garden and discuss how the MBBG is developing community relationships and drawing in visitors. For more information about the MBBG, visit: http://www.mbgarden.org/


Tell us about the current offerings of the Miami Beach Botanical Garden (MBBG). Are there plans for future renovations or garden expansion?


In the 5 years since the reopening following Raymond Jungles’ (RJI) redesign, the Garden has grown into a rich tropical oasis.  We have been emphasizing additional plantings of Florida natives, rare palms and unique tropical fruit trees, showcasing botanical specimens which educate our visitors to the natural tropical habitats.


This year, thanks to an award from the City of Miami Beach’s Environmental and Sustainability Grant, we will be creating a Pine Rockland demonstration garden.  This area will focus on the indigenous fauna that attract pollinators and imperiled species of butterflies. There will be added educational opportunities presenting examples of how locals can find alternatives for their landscape pallets that contribute to our environment. 


The top of our wish list is to open the Garden on the north side with a gate onto the Collins Canal incorporating the area banking the Collins Canal into our landscape thus enlarging our footprint.    The Canal will be undergoing seawall refurbishment this year – what a perfect time to implement the 3rd stage of the RJI plan and extend the Garden’s landscape to the water’s edge.  This would allow visitors who stroll along the Canal access to enter the Garden from the water side.  The walkway goes from Meridian to the Bass Museum – can you imagine how beautiful it would be to stop at the Botanical Garden. I envision this as being Miami Beach’s version of “High Line.”  It is an organic activation which best utilizes this space.  Imagine coming to the Garden by kayak!


What’s the most popular – or unique – event the Botanical Gardens hosts? Does it draw in locals, tourists or a blend of the two?


This year marked the 12th Taste of the Garden, on Jan. 27th.  This primarily had been supported by a local audience of Garden & Garden Club members and friends, yet we are seeing more out of towners coming each year.  The 16th Miami Beach Tour of Gardens is March 11th, a great way to explore behind the gates of residential gardens.  That culminates with an afternoon of activities back at the Garden, including one of the best “Gems & Junque” sales ever!  We are marketing to the Concierges and hoteliers to encourage guests to visit. 


Tells us about the 2017 social calendar. What can we expect to be different this year compared to previous years?


We are adding more family friendly activities.  We recognize how children react to being in this habitat.  The turtle, fish, butterflies and birds trigger the children to explore and it is a comfortable place for families.  We are adding family yoga, continuing Art in the Park with Marie and adding mindfulness programming.   We experimented last summer with Sunday afternoon pop-up dinners, it worked – we will continue it again this summer.  The Garden doesn’t stop in the summer. 


Our Earth Day celebration will be Friday, April 21st when we will be screening, Fisher Stevens and Leonardo DiCaprio’s, “Before the Flood,” courtesy of RatPac Entertainment.  The festive evening, co-sponsored by Whole Foods Market, will start with a yoga class on the Great Lawn, and have various environmental organizations available to discuss their missions and how we can help and support them.


What unique flowers or plant species can a visitor find here in the MBBG that cannot be found elsewhere?


This year we have been feverishly replenishing the beds where we removed masses of specimen bromeliads last summer.  We were fortunate to have the support of our advisory board member, and friend, Raymond Jungles help redesign the beds.  We have added an assortment of gingers, begonias, and a special philodendron named, Outrageous!  They have massive leaves with a red underside.  It really is outrageous – it is the “Christian Louboutin” of plants.  We acquired three – come check it out.


The MBBG is a popular wedding venue – which season is ideal for a wedding?


The Garden is a magical setting 12 months of the year, something is always blooming.  January through May are the most popular months for weddings, being the most temperate season.  Late October and November are also a great time of year. 


The sultry days of summer may seem warm for an outdoor event, but it still is a dreamy time for a wedding.  The Banyan Room is air conditioned and opens out to our shaded patio. The longer days allows more time to enjoy the outdoor areas, the shade canopy offers solace and the fragrance of the ylang-ylang waifs throughout the year as the sun is setting. 



Tell us about the weekly events – know that there’s the Guided Garden Tours, Yoga in the Garden and the Second Saturday Seminar. What appeals most to these weekly visitors?


The appeal is access to a natural sanctuary, escape from the buzz of South Beach and the surrounding construction.  Yoga at sunset in the Garden on Thursdays feels like a privilege.  We promote the approachability of all our activities and events. Intimate, elegant and informative – our staff is committed to welcoming guests and offer assistance where ever we can.  We are open to new partnerships to diversify our programs which broaden our reach. The events calendar are on our updated regularly on our website, http://www.mbgarden.org  and always being updated on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/miamibeachbotanicalgarden/?ref=bookmarks. Things are always happening!


How are the gardens different this year? Anything special you want Miami Beach visitors to experience?


I am amazed how many residents are first timers and pleasantly surprised to find this oasis. We offer scheduled docent tours on Saturday at 11:00 AM, if that is not convenient our On Cell, self-guided cellphone tour is a terrific way to learn more the plants and fun facts about Miami Beach history.  Currently, there are 13 stops on the tour within the Garden, an informative way to enrich the experience.  We consider the Garden to be everyone’s back yard, only this one you are not required to weed!  On that note – we love volunteers, so if residents have a desire to toil in the soil, we would love to have help.


Our ‘Botanical Boutique’ is a new addition – it’s a place to shop for souvenirs, gifts, plants and a curated assortment of cool finds.  We are always adding “Made in Miami Beach” products to the inventory.  This year we commissioned Kawaii Universe to design a series for shirts for the Garden.  The three designs focus on our elements – native plants, butterflies and koi. 



Why do you love Miami Beach?


I have traveled all over the world, when I tell people where I live, the response is a universal WOW!  With all the destinations, I never mind coming home.  Think of the ride from the airport, crossing the Causeway, you look left/right – oh yes, this is just fine! This is a sexy city, we embrace diversity and the rich flavors that contribute to our culture.  The norm is walking around and hearing an array of languages.  After 39 years here, I feel there is a sense of community, people who want Miami Beach to remain a world class destination without sacrificing the charms and natural beauty we are so fortunate to live with each day.                         



Q and A with Ernesto Rodriguez

pdMiami Beach Police Department


Q&A with Ernesto Rodriguez


The MBVCA sat down with Ernesto Rodriguez, the Public Information Officer of the Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD), to discuss why he loves being a law enforcement officer in Miami Beach and discuss how the MBPD is developing community relationships and keeping Miami Beach protected.  


Tell us about yourself! How long have you been on the force/in your position as the spokesperson of the Miami Beach Police Department; how does this role differ from previously held positions?


I am a 35 year old Cuban-American. I have been with Miami Beach PD for 12 years, two of those years as the Public Information Officer (PIO).  I have worked as a patrol officer, Special Investigations Squad detective, Neighborhood Resource Officer and Field Training Officer. While all of these assignments have been rewarding, I find my role as the Public Information Officer especially rewarding. Not only am I honored to be a representative of this great police agency, but journalism has always been a specific area of interest.  In my role as PIO, I have the best of both worlds; I get to be a police officer and also have the opportunity to tell the Department’s story. 



Tell us about the Miami Beach Police Department; what makes being a law enforcement officer in Miami Beach unique? Especially when compared to other popular tourist destinations or neighborhoods of South Florida?


Miami Beach PD consists of nearly 400 sworn officers.  We have the unique challenge of policing residential, business and tourist districts. We have only 90,000 full-time residents, but we have over 9 million tourists who are visitors every year, which makes this a fascinating place to do police work.  Each area of the city has its own unique flavor, with specific challenges and opportunities.  We are fortunate to have not only a diverse community but also a very diverse police department. Our officers are professionals who understand the unique nature of Miami Beach and the neighborhoods they serve. 


We know the MBPD had a ‘holiday cheer’ program and handed out gift cards to unsuspecting drivers, what other community building programs can we expect in 2017? How important is building trust and goodwill within a community to the MBPD?


We partnered with the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police, our police union, for the gift card giveaway over the holidays.  While policing is going through some challenging times, it is important to remember that we are here to work together with our community members. The card giveaway is one example of our efforts to demonstrate goodwill and reinforce our appreciation for the community we serve every day.  Another recent effort that we hope to continue in 2017 is the “Coffee with a Cop” initiative. This program brings the community and law enforcement together to simply have a cup of coffee. There is no set agenda, and we have found this to be a great opportunity to build relationships and better understand resident’s concerns. Finally, for the past few years, we have used social media as another platform to highlight MBPD’s interactions in the community.  I manage the police department’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds and am very proud of the growth and support our Department has seen as result of our social media presence. We are recognized as a leading police agency in the use of social media.



How does the city serve the community and guarantee safety for both visitors and locals? How do you think the MBPD has made the most positive impact within the community in the past year?


In addition to the police officers we have patrolling throughout the entire city of Miami Beach, we also pay special attention to our Entertainment District. A portion of our Entertainment District is Ocean Drive, an iconic destination for many of our visitors, with Art Deco facades, world famous restaurants and nightlife.  In late 2014, a dedicated Ocean Drive squad consisting of six officers and one sergeant was created to deter criminal activity and keep our visitors safe. Consistent with the City Commission’s vision, we are developing a second Ocean Drive squad, which will provide added safety to all those who visit and enjoy what Ocean Drive offers.



Last year Detective Juan Sanchez was honored at the Winter Party Festival for his work as an LGBT liaison since 2010. How has the program evolved since then and how has it been successful? Would you say that Miami Beach is a safer place for LGBT visitors and residents?


Detective Sanchez continues to be the Department’s official liaison to the LGBT community. He has been recognized locally and nationally for his expertise and commitment, including working with the U.S. Department of Justice to design and implement LGBT and transgender awareness training across the country. We are very proud of his accomplishments. For 2017, Detective Sanchez and other police and city representatives will be pushing out a new program to provide formal “Safe Spaces” in select Miami Beach businesses. The police department will be coordinating with local business to offer the program, with a focus on providing a safe area for those who may have experienced victimization. The program also provides businesses with essential steps for reporting crime and helping the victim. A colorful “SAFE” poster will be provided to all participating business owners, which will be prominently posted. We will be excited to share more about this initiative in the weeks ahead. So stay tuned!



Lastly, why do you love Miami Beach?


Not only do I work for the City of Miami Beach, I am also a resident.   I truly believe that Miami Beach has everything; from nightlife to events geared towards residents and visitors. There’s always something to do on Miami Beach. Additionally, my two dogs, Buddy and Stella, absolutely love our parks! As cliché as it may sound, Miami Beach offers a great quality of life for any lifestyle.

Q and A with Josh Weissenstein



The MBVCA sat down with Josh Weissenstein, Director of HFZ Capital Group, to discuss why he loves developing in Miami Beach and why HFZ’s Fasano Residences & Hotel Miami Beach will be like no other upscale luxury resort in Miami Beach. The Fasano is located at 1901 Collins Ave, Miami Beach. It’s scheduled to be completed in early 2019.

 Tell us about yourself!

 I’m originally from Texas, but have been living in NYC for quite some time. I joined HFZ Capital Group three years ago, and was at Tishman Realty before working here. My past projects in Miami Beach include the redevelopment plans for the Miami Beach Convention Center. I spent a lot of time on that project and fell in love with the city during that time.

Tell us about the Fasano Residences & Hotel Miami Beach, what makes the development unique to Miami Beach?

 The Fasano Residences & Hotel Miami Beach is unique in its combination of old and new. We paid careful attention to respect the property’s rich heritage. By bringing in leading operators to offer food, beverage and amenity services, we aim to create unparalleled offerings on Miami Beach– creating an energy aligned with our Latin American brand and international clientele.

What is it like working with Brazilian designer Isay Weinfeld? He is designing both the interiors and architecture, what can we expect from the design?

Working with Isay has been an absolute pleasure. Isay has the ability to meld indoor and outdoor environments, creating timeless understated luxury. The Fasano will be a sanctuary within bustling Miami Beach. We have the benefit of three private acres, allowing ample size to work in, to create comfortable protection and immediate access to the world’s most energetic city, located right outside the front door.

 HFZ Capital Group is one of the most prolific developers of luxury residential condominiums across the country and collaborates with world-renowned architects and designers. How does developing in Miami Beach compare to other markets like NYC?




The most blatant and obvious difference is the surrounding environment. I’ve worked and developed a lot in NYC – a rich, ultra-dense urban environment – but Miami Beach is more serene and nature focused. The condos here contain a unique set of amenities, with the most profound being the ocean. It’s wonderful having such an immediacy to nature. Each city presents its own unique set of challenges and opportunities. I’ve been fortunate to work alongside such a fantastic team and a wonderful city, to shepherd the Fasano project forward

Who is buying real estate in Miami Beach? Some recent surveys (such as by Bendixen & Amandi International) seem to suggest that the market is becoming less reliant on foreign buyers. What do you think is driving this, and do you think it is a trend that will continue?

 The Miami Beach buyer base is highly diversified – Brazilian, New York and beyond. The benefits of having an award winning designer and a world renowned brand creates a real universal appeal. The international buyer base – in my opinion – is not drying up. If recent surveys are suggesting otherwise, the trend hasn’t been affecting the Fasano. However, I believe this is a testament to our range of attractive features: location, size of campus, the brand itself, etc.

 I predict that the future of the international buyer base will continue to expand – Miami Beach is continually growing its cultural diversity. Paired with the natural beauty and energy of the city itself, this creates an intensely attractive destination.

 What key factors do you think are going to drive the Miami Beach real estate market over the next couple of years?

The fact that so many New Yorkers are now buying here. It basically takes the same amount of time to go from their home in Manhattan to a property in the Hamptons, as it does going from Manhattan to Miami Beach – 3 hours driving versus a 3 hour flight. Seasonality, museums and galleries, outdoor activities, beautiful beaches among other factors play into tourist and buyer expectations in a culturally diverse city.


Q and A with Nathalia Arja



The MBVCA sat down with Nathalia Arja, Principal Soloist for the Miami City Ballet, to discuss her love of Miami Beach and how she became a ballerina. The Miami City Ballet is located at 2200 Liberty Ave, Miami Beach. Make the Miami City Ballet a holiday treat for the whole family, as they present George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® starting on Dec. 9. Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.miamicityballet.org/subscribe


What inspired you to become a ballet dancer? 


I remember sitting next to my mother as a little kid, while she was teaching her dancers. What inspired my desire to dance was seeing their high energy and joy while executing really hard steps. I was fascinated by moving and what I felt watching them. 


Why did you choose to perform in Miami Beach? 


Well, when I was 15 I sent an audition DVD to the Miami City Ballet school. They offered me a full scholarship to study in the school. Most students hope to one day join the company. In 2009, I was chosen by the artistic director to join the company as an apprentice. 


What do you love most about being in Miami Beach? 


I have to say that Miami City Ballet is a lucky company because we are literally across the street from the beach. I love that on my break I can just go enjoy the ocean and relax. But my most favorite thing about South Beach is that you can just about walk anywhere as everything is close by. There are some very cozy neighborhoods. 


What can Miami Beach expect with the new season? 


Every season is exciting because our repertory is so diverse and this season is no different. We go from Giselle, which is a historic classic in the ballet world, and end up with the world premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s, The Fairy’s Kiss. Of course you will be seeing great Balanchine ballets as well, so you’ll see a little bit of everything! We also have the open barre series, which is specifically built for arts education in Miami Beach. It’s a program we do only in Miami Beach twice a year at our intimate studio theatre, in which we have guest artists discuss their work while we perform short excerpts relevant to the upcoming programs. It’s definitely a great show for the community and a chance for them to see the dancers up close! 




What makes the Miami City Ballet a unique company? 


Miami City Ballet is unique because it is a medium-large company that despite its size of 50 dancers, remains very united when it comes to support and emphasis on the success of the company rather than the individual. Ever since its inception, this has been at the heart of the company’s message: to have one soul made of a diverse roster of dancers, together under one banner for the sake of producing the art of the dance for the community at both a national and international level. 


Miami Beach is known for its art scene, would you agree that performing arts and ballet are becoming more popular in our city?


It’s been so refreshing over the years. I’ve watched the art scene grow and become more diverse. It’s an honor to be a part of the Miami City Ballet which I feel is very important  for the Miami Beach art scene. I’m so proud of that!


Q&A with Rachel Loebs

SoulCycle Miami Beach – 1 Hotel & Homes


The MBVCA sat down with Rachel Loebs, instructor at SoulCycle South Beach to discuss why she loves Miami Beach and why SoulCycle is a workout like no other. See what she has to say and check out SoulCycle at 1 Hotel South Beach, 2325 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139.



Describe your experience at Soul Cycle thus far. How is teaching in Miami Beach different from New York City?


New York City was different because I came into SoulCycle and it was already established. People knew the culture, how to ride, and what they wanted out of class when I started teaching. Everyone has somewhere to be, or rushed to get back to work, so people take fitness and time VERY seriously. Miami Beach is more relaxed and easy going. A lot of people are on vacation. We are still introducing the life style down here which is an amazing thing to share with the community. I feel like I am a forever student and I continue to learn something new every day! In Miami Beach, I get a lot of riders from all over the country which is amazing! I see some of my old riders from New York and Long Island and that is a super special privilege of teaching down here.


Soul Cycle has become a favorite workout class in Miami Beach… what makes Soul Cycle Miami Beach a favorite with visitors and residents? Why does the Miami Beach studio fill every class? 


It is such a special workout because it is not just a physical connection, but also a mental one. It is a 45 minute class of sweat, creation, and love. We genuinely give everything in the room (we as the riders and instructors) so we can also try to take some of the same experiences outside and apply it to our real lives. Anyone you speak with about SoulCycle will tell you their special story and connection with the ride. Having a SoulCycle in Miami Beach is so special because we get people vacationing from all over the world and they get to enjoy SoulCycle for the first time. We have a space for returning riders from other cities who already have SoulCycle. It’s a wonderful melting pot for everyone here and everyone is always in a good mood because it is Miami Beach!


Tell us about the workout. What makes a Soul Cycle unique from other cycling workout programs?


SoulCycle is a challenging work out, but everyone can take the class at their own pace. Especially here in Miami Beach, we have all different experience levels coming to class. We want every single rider to feel as though they are right where they need to be and feel accomplished when you cross that finish line. SoulCycle always makes you feel as though you can succeed at anything. We use our entire bodies while dancing to the most amazing music.



How do you find inspiration for creating new and exciting content for your classes? Does Miami Beach’s Latin culture inspire your programming?


Of COURSE! I love listening to music out at restaurants and bars, always asking my riders for their favorite music. Miami Beach has the best music culture!


Do you expect Soul Cycle to grow within Miami Beach? What can we expect next?


I sure do hope so! Its all about when the timing is right. Stay tuned!!!


Lastly, why do you LOVE Miami Beach?


I LOVE the weather. It is summer all year long. People know how to have a good time, unwind and relax. It is very different from New York. Also, the Cuban food is fantastic!

Q&A with Chef Juan Loaisiga


The Traymore Restaurant and Bar at COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach

The MBVCA sat down with Chef Juan Loaisiga, chef The Traymore to discuss why he loves Miami Beach and what it is like being a chef in the city. See what he has to say and check out his restaurant, Traymore Restaurant at 2445 Collins Ave, Miami Beach.


What did it take to make the Traymore one of the most highly-acclaimed restaurants in Miami Beach?

We feel The Traymore Restaurant and Bar has always been one of the most approachable and relaxed dining experiences in South Florida. We pride ourselves on not being the typical South Beach “see-and-be-seen” establishment, but more of a place you can speak with the person you’re with and be heard without having to talk over thumping music. The Traymore is a soothing place to dine that has an air of sophistication and romance.  Our cuisine compliments this ideology rather well and has been the driving force behind the restaurant’s popularity.


The Traymore has been referred to as “not your typical Miami Beach restaurant.” What would you say makes it different?

The relaxed environment and clientele we attract is what sets The Traymore apart.  Our hotel guests are always a priority, but locals also love our intimate setting and unpretentious service that has a traditional approach.  We don’t set aside private tables for celebrities, bring out sparkling bottles of champagne or turn up the electronic music after 11pm.  ‘Silent Luxury’ is the message we like to abide by for the property and The Traymore reflects COMO Hotels’ wellness philosophy that can be enjoyed through our COMO Shambhala cuisine, Gin Bar and wellness juices for example.


How do you find inspiration for new flavors to incorporate into your dishes?

Miami has such cultural diversity that always gives me inspiration for new flavors and ingredients.  Trying new ideas from other cities or simply stumbling across an unusual herb at a market can spark creativity.  I’m always looking for new ways to be inspired, whether it’s during my travels or when hearing stories from family and friends about new and exotic places they’ve discovered.  The newly published COMO Shambhala cookbook with a worldly array of recipes and techniques also gives me some great inspiration.  I keep it next to me when I’m in the kitchen at home and at work.



How does working in Miami Beach compare to where you’ve worked previously?

Miami runs at a far higher pace than most people imagine. Restaurants in Miami like to have a high turnover every evening that often makes people feel uncomfortable, as though they are being rushed to make way for the next group of guests.  We like to adopt a far more relaxed and friendly approach, whereby no table is ever encouraged to leave when they’ve finished eating and we don’t bring the check to the table until it’s requested.  This is how restaurants operate in the most sophisticated cities and this is how we like to treat our guests as well – with utmost respect.


What dishes, or flavors, resemble the energy of Miami Beach the most?

Our seafood plates reflect the coastal energy of Miami Beach.  From the Octopus and fish to our fragrant Seafood Stew – we live in a beach town and therefore the produce caught in Florida’s waters is primarily what can be found on our menu.  I enjoy bringing a contemporary layer of flavor, and sometimes even spice, through the herbs and seasonings added to both the seafood and meat dishes that we offer.  Some of our dishes are also special additions or can be found on certain days of the week, so that we are always fresh.  Some of our small plates also resemble the energy of Miami Beach and we have also been known to collaborate with our resident mixologist at The Traymore Gin Bar to offer “Gin inspired” appetizers in the past, such as Ceviches from around the world, and even gin-infused sorbet.



Why is it important for your food to be locally sourced?

We offer the best seasonal products from local farmers. We are committed to supporting our local economy as we showcase the finest crops our Florida land produces and the fresh fish our oceans bless us with.  The menu at the Traymore is focused on showcasing fresh, seasonal ingredients from Florida and other regions of the United States. We buy as much local and organic produces and products as possible. Our focus on local ingredients stems from our dedication to sustainability, giving back to our surrounding community and providing only meals of the highest standards to our guests.  We like to showcase ‘excellence’ from the region, from the seafood in Florida’s waters to the fruit and vegetables grown by Paradise Farm in South Miami’s Homestead area.


Our fish, shellfish and crustaceans are sourced from small-scale, reliable, sustainable 

fisheries from Florida and around the United States. We receive our fish in less than 24 hours from the time it was caught. Then, we are able to skillfully prepare it and serve it with pride.


How would you describe the experience of eating at the Traymore on Miami Beach?

The Traymore Hotel which reopened as the COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach in March

of 2014 was originally designed and built in 1939 by leading Art Deco architect Albert Anis

(1889-1964), the “father” of Streamline Art Deco. The hotel’s fortunate location between Lake Pancoast on the West and the Atlantic Ocean on the East granted almost every room a water view;1940’s postcards from the hotel describe a “Private Beach and Cabana Club”, still present 

today, as well as a “Continental Dining Room” and “Blue Angel Cocktail Lounge” both of

which have been redesigned by Paola Navone as our own Traymore Restaurant and Bar.  I would describe the experience at The Traymore as calm, rejuvenating and with every attention to detail taken care of. 



Any unique dishes for Miami Spice?

Our Miami Spice lunch menu features Swordfish with garden vegetable ribbons, toasted pine nuts and Florida citrus, and the Steamed Mussels with bouillabaisse and prawn chips.  For our dinner menu, I’m particularly keen on the Trout with baby bok choy and yellow tomato coulis, the Squid Ink Linguine with seafood sausage and the Soft Shell Crab with savory corn bread cake and aji Amarillo aioli.


What do you have up your sleeve for the fall and winter menus at the Traymore?

We’re going to have a very down-to-earth menu for the new Fall and Winter season ahead.  I’ve decided to introduce some root vegetables to the menu, mushroom inspired dishes, some additional lamb and chicken plates, while bringing an array of interesting smoky flavors to the way we cook and prepare our fish dishes.




About Juan Loaisiga


Juan Loaisiga, 30, was born in Nicaragua and moved with his family to Miami, Florida in 1992.  Juan always aspired to be a chef during his teenage years, after helping his Mother with their family restaurant in

Nicaragua.  She became a lifelong inspiration for his work in the kitchen.


After graduating from Miami Senior High, Juan took his diploma at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Miami, where he started his formal training as a chef in 2008.  His first job took him to Grove Isle in Coconut Grove at Gibraltar – a restaurant specializing in seafood, a cuisine that would soon became his specialty.  Over a three and a half year period, Juan became a line cook shortly after proving his capabilities as an intern.


A friend studying at the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University saw an attractive job opening for Juan and notified him of the opportunity.  In January 2014, Juan became a line cook under Executive Chef Jonathan Lane at the newly opened hotel, COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach, the inaugural U.S. property by COMO Hotels and Resorts.  Juan joined the team for what was to become a world class seafood destination at the hotel – The Traymore Restaurant and Bar.  Under the tutelage of Chef Jonathan, Chef Juan honed his skills to develop an expertise in locally sourced seafood fare to the delight of repeat restaurant patrons.  Chef Juan progressed to become Junior Sous Chef for a year, before becoming the restaurant’s Sous Chef.  Six months later, Juan took over at the restaurant’s helm as Chef de Cuisine, a position in which he currently resides.


Chef Juan enjoys the locally produced seafood ingredients harvested from the Florida waters, while adapting to the seasonal trends and experimenting with the fresh and rich variety the market has to offer.  He admits to seafood still being his favorite cuisine by way of its “delicacy” and the precise cooking techniques he adopts for locals and visiting hotel guests.


A Chat with Michael Pirolo

The MBVCA sat down with Michael Pirolo, chef/owner of Macchialina to discuss why he loves Miami Beach and what it is like being a chef in the city. See what he has to say and check out his restaurant, Macchialina at 820 Alton Road, Miami Beach.

michael pirolo-1

1.     What inspired you to become a chef? What do you love most about the profession?

I grew up in a house where food was a big part of our life.  I remember growing up, I literally was not allowed to eat out at a friend’s house. Sitting around the table with my family was about more than just food. When I finally convinced my mom to let me eat out, I remember coming home afterwards and complaining to my mom about the canned tomato sauce, and the fact that everyone was eating in front of the television. In my house we would be at the table for hours talking and laughing.  Food for me is a way to bring people together and I will always associate it with that. My favorite part of my profession is that cooking is a great creative outlet for me; I am able to express myself through my cooking. The comradery you build in the kitchen, with your staff and with guests, is extremely rewarding. 

2.     Why did you choose to open a restaurant in Miami Beach?

I moved down from New York 8 years ago and it quickly became home. I fell in love with the lifestyle down here, especially working the hours we do in this industry. I bought a Vespa within a year of moving to South Beach so I could spend a few hours on the beach before going to work every day. In comparison to other cities I have lived and worked in, I felt a strong sense of community down here within the restaurant industry. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly. When it came time for me to open my own restaurant, in my mind there was no other place.  

3.     What do you love most about being in Miami Beach?

Tough to pick just one thing- the diverse culture, the weather, the emerging culinary scene.  

4.     Macchialina has become a culinary institution in the city and you are now closing in on your fifth year on the Beach, a rare feat for a restaurant. What advice do you have for a chef looking to expand to Miami Beach?

As far as expanding to Miami Beach, it’s a tough market for an out-of-towner to grasp.  I would love to see more of the local talent following their dream and opening their own restaurants here on the beach.  We have a lot of great transplant restaurants here, now it’s time to further develop our own scene.

5.     What do you have up your sleeve for Macchialina? Any unique dishes for Miami Spice?

We just hosted our Pirolo’s Panino pop up for three days in June and plan on popping it up around the city over the next few months; think traditional Northeast sandwich shop.  I am looking forward to Miami Spice this year. We’ve become known for offering all of our signature dishes on our spice menu so you can look forward to more of our creamy polenta this year on our Spice menu.





About Michael Pirolo

Born in Queens, New York, but raised in Avellino, Italy, Pirolo comes from a fiercely passionate food family. So much, in fact, that at the age of 21 he enrolled in culinary school in Torino, Italy; a formal education that led to apprenticeships at Michelin-starred establishments such as La Voglia Matta in Bologna and Café Groppi in Piemonte. After finishing his degree, he relocated to New York and changed tracks, immersing himself in French cuisine before relocating to Philadelphia to take the role of sous chef at Alfred Portale’s Striped Bass, where he met Jennifer Chaefsky. A friendship turned to romance and when Pirolo had the opportunity to return to New York to take a post at Chris Lee’s Gilt at the Palace Hotel, Chaefsky went with him.


During Pirolo’s time at Gilt, the restaurant earned two Michelin stars. Following his love of Italian cuisine and striking up a professional bond with celeb chef/restauranteur Scott Conant, Pirolo joined Conant’s Scarpetta restaurant in New York, then relocated to Miami to take the helm as chef de cuisine of Scarpetta at Fontainebleau Miami Beach. There, Pirolo made a name for himself and rose through the media ranks as a rising star in Miami’s culinary community, an earnest, hard-working, careerist “chef’s chef.” A rare 4-star review from Miami Herald food critic Victoria Pesce Elliot helped elevate his profile and set the stage for Pirolo to move out on his own. He opened Macchialina with Chaefsky on Miami Beach’s Alton Road in 2012.


About Macchialina

Opened late June 2012, Macchialina, located at 820 Alton Road in the heart of South Beach’s residential west side community, has quickly become a favorite Italian restaurant among critics, locals and in-the-know tourists, who flock to the casual neighborhood eatery to indulge in chef/owner Michael Pirolo’s rustic yet sophisticated, Italian fare.


Macchialina began racking up accolades almost immediately, such as a 3½ star Excellent rating from The Miami Herald, a stellar review, as well as Best Restaurant 2013 by the Miami New Times, all in its first year. Pirolo and his team at Macchialina have taken the city by storm. Now heralded as the most starred chef working in Miami, Chef Pirolo continues to garner praise for his soulful, Italian food.


Environmental and Sustainability Division; An MBVCA Q&A


The MBVCA sat down with the City’s Environmental & Sustainability Division to discuss Miami Beach’s efforts to combat climate change as well as the many green and eco-friendly initiatives. See what they had to say and check out all of their programs here: Environmental and Sustainability Division

·         How would you best describe the unique mix of urban and natural beauty that exists in Miami Beach?

When our City was founded over 100 years ago, the western side of the island was protected with a dense mangrove forest and the Atlantic coast was covered with palmettos along a beach dune. As the City grew, the mangroves were cut down and filled to create land for development and the dune was converted into ocean front properties. Since then, we have learned about the value of these natural resources and their important role in our community. So, as we plan for the next 100 years, bringing back our natural resources is a critical component of our resiliency strategy.


Natural systems, such as dunes, mangroves, and coral reefs, protect our City against weather events and create habitat for plants, corals, fish, and birds. The vegetation in coastal dunes keeps beaches strong by gradually accumulating sand, minimizing erosion rates, and reducing the need for renourishment projects. The dunes also protect coastal infrastructure and properties from storm damage by blocking surge and absorbing wave energy.



Similarly, red mangrove forests have been found to have the highest carbon net productivity amongst all ecosystems and approximately 3 to 4 times more than temperate and tropical forests. A mangroves’ ability to provide a habitat for microorganisms contributes to the high amount of carbon it sequesters. In addition to reducing carbon in the atmosphere, mangroves protect the shoreline by adapting to changes in the water line and the elevation of the land. Therefore, shorelines that incorporate natural resources like mangroves are an important asset to climate adaptation and mitigation in coastal communities like ours.


As our city continues to develop, we will continue to explore options to promote the restoration and reintroduction of these habitats. After all, our beaches, waterways, and overall natural environment are what make our City so unique!


  • How would you describe Miami Beach to visitors? What makes Miami Beach special to you?

The City of Miami Beach is a barrier island community located in southeast Florida between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The City has flourished by linking the urban environment to its natural capital including parks, natural and manmade waterways, sea grass beds, mangrove shorelines, sand dunes, and over seven miles of white, sandy beaches. The City’s beaches are a critical economic, recreational, environmental, storm protection, and erosion control asset for the City of Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, and the State of Florida. Last year, they attracted approximately 7 million overnight visitors to Miami Beach which spent $11.4 billion. Additionally, the beaches are the first line of defense in protecting over $30 billion in taxable property value in Miami Beach against storm surge and sea level rise.



Miami Beach has approximately 70 miles of shoreline along numerous canals and waterways. The waters surrounding the City support a wide variety of flora and fauna. These waters also act as nurseries and habitat for migratory birds and for commercially and recreationally important fish. Furthermore, the City’s beaches support shorebird species and are a designated nesting habitat for the protected Loggerhead, Green and Leatherback sea turtles.



  • Year after year, visitors flock to Miami Beach in massive numbers, how does the city educate and advocate to keep the city green while also promoting the growth of tourism?

The Miami Beach anti-litter campaign was developed to encourage people to keep Miami Beach clean through the lens of fitness.  This City is not only known for its natural beauty but also its attractive and healthy individuals. Utilizing the platform of fitness, the campaign is geared towards making the disposal of trash a way of life and a way for everyone to explore the City, stay active, and make a difference. The campaign was created with a sense of flexibility to serve as a lead-way to teach people on how to properly recycle as well as incorporate the element of reusing. The City collaborates with local non-profits for beach clean-up, waterways clean-up and dune-restoration activities. The City has also promoted trees and balcony plants give-away, as well as workshops for residents regarding composting, rain-barrels, energy and water savings, amongst others. 


In addition, very turtle season, throughout the months of April to October, the City has educational campaigns for residents and visitors on how to improve the nesting conditions for marine turtles. The City also works closely with Miami-Dade County and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to provide support for the nesting conditions of marine turtles.



·         Does the Environment and Sustainability Department work directly with hotels?

Our Director, Elizabeth Wheaton, is a member of the Sustainable Hospitality Council. Spearheaded by the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association, this group serves as a source to exchange ideas and promote sustainable practices within the hospitality industry. Additionally, the City is currently in the process of working with a local hotel on the development of a green alley. Green alleys can transform underutilized and neglected alleys into safe, attractive, and functional social spaces that foster community cohesion. This green initiative can help in reducing the use of alleys for illicit activities, creating a safe place for active recreation and pedestrian activity, and utilizing the public space for implementing community gatherings and events.


  • Considered a “natural capital” can you share how Miami Beach protects its many vulnerable flora and fauna (i.e. sea turtles and beach cluster vine)?

The City of Miami Beach has a Dune Management Plan and a Dune Restoration and Enhancement Program to foster and maintain a healthy, stable, and natural dune system. The City manages the urban, man-made dune as close to a natural system as possible and ensures the dune provides storm protection, erosion control, and a biologically-rich habitat for local species. The dune restoration efforts includes the removal of non-native, invasive plant species such as Scaevola taccada and Casuarina equisetifolia; the replanting of cleared areas with native species; the selective trimming of native vegetation; the demolition of remaining wooden dune crossovers; the replacement of protective fencing adjacent to the dunes; and, the installation of educational signage.


It is especially critical that the City limit pollutants from entering the environment due to its proximity to the City’s vast system of interconnected waterways and sensitive marine habitats. One pollutant of particular concern is expanded polystyrene, petroleum based by product which constitutes a large portion of the litter in the City’s streets public places and waterways. Expanded polystyrene is a particularly harmful pollutant because it is non-biodegradable and not readily recyclable, and fragments into smaller pieces that easily enter and remain in the environment, harming or killing marine life and other wildlife that accidentally ingest it. The City recently adopted a polystyrene ban where no food service provider or store shall sell, use, offer for sale or use, or provide food in expanded polystyrene food service articles including the sale or use of polystyrene ice chests and coolers, with few exceptions. The City is currently under the educational and written warning phase of the ban, but on September 16, 2016, the enforcement and penalty provisions of the ordinance with regard to all other expanded polystyrene food service articles (in addition to coolers and ice chests) will take effect.



In addition, the City is looking for opportunities to use natural or living shorelines as an alternative to traditional seawalls. Beyond structural stabilization, living shorelines enhance the waterfront revitalization and aesthetic value of the site; provide protection of surrounding riparian and intertidal environment, creation of habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species, and improvement of the water quality via filtration of upland run-off.


The City is also looking towards decreasing its GHG emissions and is finalizing its first GHG inventory. In order to reduce the City’s GHG emissions as well as to design, build, and operate a new generation of efficient, environmentally responsible, healthy and resilient buildings, the City recently adopted a green building ordinance. Now the City requires LEED Gold certification or Living Building Challenge certification for all new constructions over 7,000 square feet or ground floor additions to existing structures that encompass over 10,000 square feet of additional floor area. 


  • Miami Beach is undergoing a vast array of environmental initiatives and projects right now; when will these be completed and how will they affect residents and visitors?

Miami Beach is taking a leadership role in establishing effective long and short terms solutions to address one of our world’s toughest challenges: preparing for the future uncertainties of our changing climate. Its geographic location and low-lying topography makes this coastal municipality inherently vulnerable to flooding, storm surge, and other environmental impacts.  As part of its resiliency efforts, adaption and mitigation solutions have become critical.


Miami Beach is adapting to sea level rise by updating their existing gravity-based stormwater system with tidal control valves, pump stations, and other innovative drainage improvements. Pump stations and raising roads serve to keep streets dry by quickly expelling rainwater and elevated groundwater from urban areas.  The City is also amending the Land Development and Zoning Codes to establish standard base flood elevation, higher minimum finish floor elevations, and minimum elevations for public and private seawalls.


Natural infrastructure is also a major component to Miami Beach’s adaption efforts.  The City’s beach and dune system provide natural buffer to protect the City from storm surge and erosion, while also providing natural habitat for migratory birds and nesting sea turtles.  The City is also developing a robust urban reforestation program to increase the City’s tree canopy, reduce heat island impact, capture stormwater and create a more walkable city.


About $430 million will be invested in capital improvements for the City’s storm water management system for the next 5 years. Temporary construction can affect residents and visitors, however this improvements will preserve their quality of life, as well as provide a more resilient place for them to live and visit.