The Taco & Tequila Showdown #TNTShowdown presented by MIAbites and The Liquid Projects is locked in for Sunday November 8th 6-9 pm at the Vagabond Restaurant and Bar.
Benefitting local non-profit, Urban Oasis Project, 12 chefs and bartenders will battle it out to be selected for best taco and tequila drink, and to further whet your appetite and give you a little back story, MIAbites will be profiling each of the chefs leading up to the event.Tickets to #TNTShowdown are $65 in advance and available on Eventbrite link here.
Chef Niven Patel, Chef de Cuisine: Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
A pursuit for knowledge was the stimulus and continues to be the driving force behind Chef Niven’s career. Patel’s first glimpse into the restaurant world was during culinary school, and he was hooked. “I was cooking and working in restaurants the whole time during college”. But his passion for cooking came much earlier on, he says, “I have been cooking all my life. I used to make my menus as a child and let my family order, and then I went into the kitchen to cook whatever they wanted.”
Patel earned his chops at 3030 Ocean Restaurant at the Harbour Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale Florida, working under Chef Dean Max for six years. He then traveled to Italy to learn and cook for six months, returning to the U.S. to be a part of the opening team of Watertable Restaurant at the Renaissance Baltimore. From there, Patel went on to become the Executive Chef at the four-diamond resort Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada, Florida. Chef Niven then moved to the Cayman Islands to work with Chef Dean Max again, this time at The Brasserie Restaurant and Market. Honing his craft, Chef Niven had the opportunity to experience the farm to table renaissance happening on the island.
Patel joined Chef Michael Schwartz at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in 2013. Chef Niven quickly found himself at home, holding the ideal that fresh, simple and pure food is paramount. Working closely with farmers and purveyors, Patel developed a deeper appreciation for the product coming into the restaurant. He began digging in his back yard, cultivating greens, fruits and vegetables. Lovingly referred to as Rancho Patel, bounty from Chef Niven’s garden becomes daily specials on the MGFD menu. Patel’s passion and curiosity is infectious, the whole restaurant lights up when some of his harvest is featured on the menu. For young cooks dreaming of one day becoming a chef, Patel offers some words of wisdom, cultivated over his many years of due diligence, “Be inquisitive. Every time there is something you don’t know, research it, look it up”. Clearly the success of the highly disciplined Patel proves that the chef is guided by his own advice.
How has being a chef in Miami changed over the last few years?
We try to make sure not much changes at Genuine, so we spend a lot of time in the kitchen working to make that happen. There are new food sources available to us all the time so figuring out what will work with here is just part of the routine and keeps us creative. We have to work harder and harder to make sure we exceed expectations, whether it's a guest that comes in three times a week or someone who remembers a meal they had on their last trip to Miami. We spend a lot of time making sure our team on the floor is educated on the menu and where ingredients are coming from. These are the things that make Michael's unique and special so they are really important.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
What is your personality in the kitchen: Angel or Demon?
Angel, but not that I don't get tested!!
What ingredient could you not live without? Your least favorite ingredient?
Mangos from my yard. So I do live without them and that's part of what makes them special! Least favorite is something I haven't tried yet probably...
What is the last dish you cooked for yourself?
My wife Shivani is the best cook at home so I am spoiled! We made dosa together last time we cooked! We eat dinner together almost every night. It's the only time we really get to see each other with our schedules. Sometimes it's midnight but we make it happen. Last night she was crafting for Halloween. She made this amazing skeleton's Tiki bar. Amazing!
Your favorite restaurant other than your own (naturally)?
Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles, in Chinatown NYC on my last trip! Oh my god. Marinated Sichuan cucumbers. Hot chili oil with the noodles, which were pan-fried. The noodles were just perfect, so good. We just stumbled upon the place, which makes it even better.
Let’s talk tacos: Corn or Flour? Hard or Soft? What is the craziest taco combo you have ever had? And where? Can you give us a hint as to what you plan on submitting as your “Signature Taco” at TNTShowdown?
Soft and layered... Whole-wheat flour made with ghee, or clarified butter!
Why do you think YOU will win?
I'm just going to make the best "taco" I can and hope for the best!
Taco & Tequila Showdown #TNTShowdown is presented by MIAbites and The Liquid Projects and will be held Sunday November 8th 6-9 pm at the Vagabond Restaurant and Bar. Join us! Tickets available for $65 advance sale on Eventbrite: