Cindy Headshot 2016 copyExecutive chef, owner and consultant, Ortanique Restaurants

How did you get started in the restaurant business?

I never went to culinary school. I was really thrown into the restaurant business in November of 1994 by my partner, Delius Shirley. I had always loved cooking, and at the time I was between jobs. He asked me if I wanted to go into the restaurant business. I said yes, thinking I would be front of the house, having fun with the guests. That was not his intention; he threw me into the kitchen. I cried just about every day thinking I was horrible at this, working so many hours. About three months in, USA Today wrote a review [of her restaurant, Norma’s on The Beach, in Miami Beach, and gave it kudos]. I then stopped crying.

2 What role has your family played in your success?

My children were very young when we started. They grew up in the business coming to work after school every day. Each of them has worked for us at one time or another, but it was our daughter, Ashley, who took it more seriously. She has been an amazing asset to the restaurant, first being my personal assistant and then doing the social media, working her way to assistant general manager and now general manager. Although she prefers front of the house, she is a rock star in the kitchen too. My sister Kathy is the event and party planner. Along with Delius and I, it really is a family affair.

3 What does your signature phrase, “Cuisine of the Sun,” mean to you?

It means seasonally fresh, ethnically driven and anything under the sun I feel inspired to cook. Miami’s diverse cultures and my travels are the reasons I create dishes from all over the world.

4 What is your favorite dish that you have created?

I don’t really have a favorite. I have been creating for many years. I make a Blue Mountain Coffee and cocoa crust with a cherry chipotle and agave glaze that is killer on many different proteins. It elevates the flavor of salmon, short ribs or any steak, lamb or pork. I even did a cauliflower steak with it for a vegan who came to dine. I would say the fan favorite is a toss-up between my double bone-in Niman Ranch jerked pork chop with guava rum sauce and tropical fruit flambé, or pan-sautéed black grouper with Bacardi Limon sauce.

What can you say about your involvement with the Baptist Cancer Institute?

I was just honored by the invitation to be the culinary ambassador of the Miami Cancer Institute. They have asked me to create a menu for the café and patients getting treatment, using some of the healthy “Cuisine of the Sun” flavors such as fresh ginger, turmeric and super fruits. I am just beginning to create new recipes with miracle fruit from Miracle Fruit Farms in the Redlands, such as salad dressings, Popsicles  and candies. The fruit coats your taste receptors, turning acidic or sour things sweet. Hopefully, these items can eventually be used to relieve the metallic taste associated with treatment.

6What is something no one knows about you?

I used to sportfish for a living. When I first moved to Miami from New Jersey, I got my “six-pack” [charterboat] captain’s license and a 28-foot Bertram, and headed to the Keys.

What’s the best part of living in Pinecrest?

Pinecrest was where I bought my first house. I lived on an acre, in a four-bedroom, four-bathroom home. I paid $119,000 for it, divorced my first husband and sold it for $195,000 a year and a half later. I moved to Kendall but always wished I would have kept that house. Now, it has been renovated and sold for $6.3 million. Delius and I bought in Pinecrest again in 1997. The value in Pinecrest keeps growing. It is also a great neighborhood to raise kids.