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The Wayfarer of the Culinary World: Chef Alfredo Alvarez

DSC_3086aBy Nycole Sariol / Photography by Imani Ogden

Once known as a river awash with darkness, perniciously welcoming the wrongdoings of drug-traffickers, Voodoo zealots, and spiritual, Santeria rituals, the Miami River’s banks have recently wiped its – then daunting – slate clean and sings a new aubade these days.

The reasoning behind this jovial redemption: to shine light on Miami’s new hotspot, Seasalt and Pepper, and to serve as a culinary playground for Chef Alfredo Alvarez.

“I was ready to come back to Miami,” Alvarez confesses about his 305 hiatus and the departure from his big-city tenure at Trattoria Dopo Teatro in New York. The chef’s comeback though impactful, was the breath of fresh air that the patrons of South Florida deeply beseeched – or a Mediterranean breeze.

A bevy of the freshest sea-food, oven roasted pizzas, and Volcan clay casseroles flagrantly make up Chef Alfredo’s menu of simplistic inventions and add to the nautical, Mediterranean aura that hangs as sea ropes and a suspended installation turn chandelier innovated by local artist, Carlos Betancourt, depicting the history and ex-reputation of the Miami River.

“I saw the place and I thought right away that the concept of the menu should be a Mediterranean cuisine where you feel like you’re in St. Tropez; you feel like you’re in Positano; you feel like you’re in Santa Margarita, Italy,” professes the world-class traveler/chef. Having spent most of his life abroad, bouncing from New York to Italy to Miami to New York for round two and back to Miami again, the Venezuelan-born chef has also experienced a real life at sea instead of the decorative one he portrays behind the walls of Seasalt and Pepper.

“I decided to go work on a cruise ship as a consulting chef,” the chef recalls, “I stayed there for three years, traveling to places like Tahiti and then all over the world.” It was inevitable that this Lemuel Gulliver of the kitchen would come back with only the most profound flame of inspiration, serving as a compass that would lead him to his latest recognition and the masterful Seasalt and Pepper menu.

However, Chef Alfredo isn’t the only one with a pocket full of “travelers’ tales”. For the food being brought out to the daily quintupling guests in tow of its tantalizing aroma, traveling is the norm. “We grab from all over the world,” the chef speaks of the fresh, upscale products being used day-in and day-out. “We fly the Black Cod from Alaska…the clams we bring from Manila…the Caputo flour from Italy.” That’s not including the savory vegetables that cross the country from California, save for the Heirloom tomatoes that hop over the backyard fence from Homestead.

The Frankenstein amalgam of international ingredients accrue for the gastronomical makeup for such plates as the Octopus Plancha, a steadfast force and a propitious crowd-pleaser among the influx of Magic City locals and the musically royal that swarm the dining room tables like Beyoncé and Jay-Z. “There’s no where in the world you could find Octopus like that,” the tastemaker says of his tender, grilled octopus with a melt-in-your-mouth texture. Though the food evokes a sense of magic from within the Miami food-lover’s heart, the real magic is conjured up in the kitchen. “My chef de cuisine is Venezuelan, my pastry chef is from Turkey; one of my chefs is from Africa, another one from Italy, and another from France.” Joining Alvarez in his 200-person kitchen and intensifying the subject of international imports further.

In spite of the obvious subtext gravitating toward traveling and worldwide everything, perhaps the main component behind the radiance being transmitted from Chef Alfredo’s hands is knowledge – accumulated knowledge. “This menu is my whole career; all thirty-six years of cooking put down on this menu,” romance beaming out of from his eyes, expelling innate love from his body and signifying the severity of his most prized possession and what it means to him. “This menu is my life, this menu is who I am.”

Click here to view full story in our March/April 2014 issue.

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