Miami local Alberto Cabrera hit it big with crowd-pleasing comfort food at The Local Craft Food & Drink in the Gables before leaving in January to open his own Frita Shop billed as a Cuban burger joint. The self-taught chef who grew up cooking with his Cuban grandmother has been working locally for over a decade, including stints at Baleen, Chispa and Karu & Y. He’s sharing his goods with festival goers at The Best Thing I Ever Ate Late Night. We spoke to Cabrera about great late night food, Miami’s role as a food city and creating a United Nations in his kitchen.
Catch Alberto Cabrera at The Best Thing I Ever Ate Late Night
You'll be feeding us late night - what makes for great after dark eats?
I like stuff like steak & frites. I know that’s a lot late night, but I’m a big eater & I’m a big guy. Other than that, burgers or fritas. I’ll eat a steak & fries at 2am and be good to go
How long have you been involved with the Festival?
I’ve been participating since the beginning. The first year I went with Robin Haas from Grove Isle and I’ve been going ever since. I’ve participated in the Best of the Best, Grand Tasting and several others.
How is the Festival important for Miami?
It gives us a lot of exposure. It takes time before you have a good blend between the chefs that chefs know and the chefs that everybody knows. The city is becoming a great food city and now these guys want to come down. It gives Miami a stamp of approval that were are a serious food city and that we’re becoming more of a destination.
Is Miami having its moment as a food city?
Miami is becoming this great food city, but there are always people who want to discredit it. I think the service people are starting to realize that you can make a living being a good server and there’s this whole mixology movement happening. Miami is a young city when it comes to food, but probably one of the fastest growing. To be a good food city you have to have a few underground places that only a few people know about.
Which begs the question, what are your favorite underground spots?
Papo Le Chon on NW 12 Ave. Three Dominican ladies operate a counter and all they do all day is chop up pork and put in Cuban bread. I like Rincon Astorias, Shiver’s BBQ and Marcello’s ceviche – it’s a van he parks at Jimbo’s, you stick your hand in a big tub of ice & get some beer & ceviche. And the Pubbelly guys do amazing work - every time I go there a have a great meal. And then there are the places that have been around forever - Bangkok Bangkok has this great fried chicken.
What’s unique about working as a chef in Miami?
Working with so many different ethnicities and so many different people that are coming in and out of the city constantly. It’s actually benefits the chefs because it makes you more of a rounded chef. My staff is like the United Nations – you learn other people’s cuisines & traditions.