Since he was 7 years old, Chef Douglas Rodríguez was curious to learn how to prepare the exquisite dishes from the restaurants he would visit with his parents. “It all started with a trip to a restaurant. I ordered French onion soup topped with melted cheese, and when they brought it out, it stuck in my mind, and I told my mother: «I want to learn how to make it.»” Since then, his mother piqued his curiosity by buying books and kitchen utensils that allowed him to pursue his passion.
His dedication to culinary art still lives today, and has brought him many renowned recognitions like the Honorary Doctorate degree from Johnson and Wales University, and the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from “Flavors of Passion,” among others. He has also left the mark of his amazing experience with his four books: Nuevo Latino, Latin Ladles, Latin Flavors on the Grill and The Great Ceviche Book. But if you ask Douglas what has been his greatest accomplishment or recognition, here’s what he says: “What brings me most joy is to see the young people who have been in my kitchen, who have learned with me, be recognized for their creativity and have their own restaurants; that’s what makes me proudest.”
Chef Douglas Rodríguez is known as the ‘Godfather of Nuevo Latino Cuisine’ because he has tried to take that special flavor of our countries to another dimension. “I learned about classic cuisine in school and I want Latin dishes – which are very rustic – to have some technique.” And this interesting fusion has attracted the attention of diners from several regions in the United States who have visited the different restaurants he has owned: Yuca, Patria, Chicama, Pipa, OLA, Alma de Cuba, Deseo and his most recent, D Rodriguez Cuba in Miami Beach.
Douglas, the son of Cuban immigrants, doesn’t leave his talent in his restaurants; he actually takes it home with him and makes a big spread for every get-together, which he enjoys with his wife and three children. For Rodríguez, the kitchen is also the world’s best spa. “When I’m under a lot of stress and want to relax, I escape to the kitchen, start cooking and forget everything.”
As part of my interview, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to ask Douglas for the secret in preparing a good ceviche, one of his most acclaimed dishes, and this was his surprising answer: “Sometimes frozen fish can be better than fresh fish to make a good ceviche, because sometimes the best fish is frozen on the boat to better preserve it.” And, like a true expert on the subject, he predicted that “mamey” is one fruit we will often see on the menus of the most exclusive restaurants. So, ladies, let’s follow the trend and enjoy some mamey in 2013!