Chef Douglas Rodriguez – El Jefe
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about your family and your background
Chef Rodriguez: Both my parents are from Cuba, I was born and grew up in New York City, started my culinary career in Miami. I am a father of three, a nineteen year old son and I am actually grandfather, a fifteen year old Daughter, and 10 year old son. A beautiful wife and two dogs.
Latin Times Magazine: Do any of your Children want to be a Chef?
Chef Rodriguez: My youngest son loves to make pastries, cookies, and candies. He said if he can’t become a famous chef, he wants to be a pastry chef, I have a feeling he will become a famous chef.
Latin Times Magazine: When did you know and what inspired you to be a chef?
Chef Rodriguez: Julia Childs was my inspiration and I had some kind of a connection with her. I was seven when I started watching her show. Saturday was cartoon day so growing up we were poor and had only one TV so I used to have to fight with my brother and cousin to watch her show on Saturdays.
Latin Times Magazine: Have you seen the movie “CHEF” that came out recently and how can you relate to this movie?
Chef Rodriguez: I felt a very close connection to this movie, it can very well be about my life with the food critics, and it shows the real restaurant world of a chef. Let me tell you something funny about this movie, the Actor Oliver Platt who played the food critic in this movie, has a brother named Adam Platt who was a Food Critic in a New York Magazine for fifteen years and he looks just like him, almost like twins and when I had my restaurant in New York both Adam and Oliver Platt came to visit. The cool thing is “EL JEFE” is my Chef name.
Latin Times Magazine: We just Interviewed Actress Roselyn Sanchez and she is on the cover of this issue, do you know her?
Chef Rodriguez: I gave Roselyn Sanchez her first Job in my restaurant in New York City, she was stunning then as she is today and a very beautiful person.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about a dish you created and your favorite Latin dish to make?
Chef Rodriguez: I make this excellent French Onion Soup and Egg Plant Parmesan that is tremendously good, and when it comes to a Latin dish I love the Cuban sandwich and it was created in Tampa, I like it with UN Batido (Shake) de Mamey MMM.
Latin Times Magazine: How do you like to make your Cuban sandwich?
Chef Rodriguez: Thick, very thick, with lots of meat, very thick and pressed hot en la Plancha.
Latin Times Magazine: What advice can you give to young aspiring Chefs trying to make it big?
Chef Rodriguez: A lot of times people look at these famous chefs, but you have to make sure this is what you really like and want to do, it’s hot and gritty, long days being in the kitchen because you have to have the desire to do it and now there are different types of Chefs today, but it takes hard work and effort to be a really good Chef.
Latin Times Magazine: Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life?
Chef Rodriguez: Julia Childs by far was my greatest inspiration and then there was the first famous Latino Chef who was Felipe Rojas-Lombardi who wrote a book called “The Art of South American Cooking”, he had a restaurant called “The Ballroom”. When he got sick and passed away, they had an auction and I bid on this painting of him, so I won the Bid and now have it and look at him every day in my restaurant. He was Peruvian,the first Chef to Bring Tappas to New York City restaurant Bars.
Chef Douglas Rodriguez, the globally acclaimed Godfather of Nuevo Latino Cuisine, has been taking the nation by storm, opening award winning restaurants across the United States. His culinary creativity has changed the image of Latino food in America. His restaurants are featured in some of the most cosmopolitan cities including his hometown Miami, Philadelphia, Arizona, and the most recent, D. Rodriguez Cuba at the Astor Hotel in Miami Beach.
Chef Rodriguez, 47, a son of Cuban immigrants, was raised in Miami. He grew up with the sights, smells and tastes of Cuban/American cuisine and developed a passion for food early on. By the age of 13, he had a collection of cookbooks, pots and pans, and was developing and preparing original concepts. At 14, he landed his first restaurant job as a summer apprentice at The Four Ambassadors Hotel in Miami. After high school, he gained more experience at the prestigious Fontainebleau Hilton Hotel in Miami Beach before honing his skills and techniques at Johnson and Wales University in Providence,
Returning to Miami, Rodriguez worked at the Sonesta Beach Hotel and Wet Paint Cafe. In 1989 he opened Yuca, an upscale Cuban style restaurant in Coral Gables. Yuca was a success, and at age 24, Chef Rodriguez was a celebrated Miami chef, winning the “Chef of the Year, Miami” award from The Chefs of America and receiving his first and second “Rising Chef of the Year” nominations by The James Beard Foundation. While Yuca served distinctly Cuban cuisine, Rodriguez constantly studied new flavors, ingredients and ideas from his staff, which hailed from a variety of Latin American countries. Soon after, he headed straight for New York City.
Rodriguez became the executive chef and co-owner of the phenomenally successful Patria, which opened in 1994 in New York City. It was the laboratory for his new cuisine, which he called “Nuevo Latino”. Patria received a three star review in the New York Times and accolades from The New Yorker and Gourmet among others. After Patria, Rodriguez opened Chicama, a Peruvian Ceviche bar, to 2 stars in the New York Times followed by Pipa, a Tapas bar that became one of the favorite spots for New Yorkers.
In 2001 Rodriguez joins forces with Restaurateur Steven Starr and Open the acclaimed Alma De Cuba in Philadelphia. Later tha year he open Deseo at The WestinKierland Resort Scottsdale Arizona, Longing for his hometown, Rodriguez headed back to Miami Beach and opened OLA in 2004 followed by D. Rodriguez Cuba at The Hilton Bentley Hotel 2010. Recently, D. Rodriguez Cuba was awarded with “The Best Ceviche” in The Miami New Times’s Best of Miami 2010.
Newsweek selected Rodriguez as one of the 100 Americans that will influence the coming millennium. In 2009, Rodriguez was one of the distinguished culinary elite to be on the First Season of Top Chef Masters on Bravo. Rodriguez has been featured in a myriad of national publications including Food and Wine, Metropolitan Home, Esquire, and Bon Appétit. He has made numerous television appearances including The Late Show with David Letterman, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and CBS Weekend This Morning.
In 1994, the Fine Beverage and Food Federation elected Mr. Rodriguez as the Culinary Master of North America and the New York Culinary Master. He received the prestigious James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award in 1996 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree from Johnson and Wales University in May 1998. Most recently, Rodriguez was nominated again by the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef South Florida in 2008 and 2009. In July 2010, Rodriguez received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Flavors of Passion Awards. Rodriguez is a member of the Chef Conclave for American Airlines.
Rodriguez is the author of Nuevo Latino (published in 1995), Latin Ladles (published in 1997), and Latin Flavors on the Grill (published in 2000). He has been signed by a major publisher to complete a four book series as well. Prompted by huge demand, Rodriguez just released a revised copy of The Great Ceviche Book originally published in 2003.
Sovereign Luxury Experiences announced recently that its executive council has unanimously chosen James Beard Award winning Chef Douglas Rodriguez as the Vice President of Culinary Experiences.