Chef Todd Erickson: #TNT Showdown Chef Profile

The Taco & Tequila Showdown #TNTShowdown is locked in for Sunday November 8th 6-9 pm at the Vagabond Restaurant and Bar.  12 chefs and bartenders will battle it out to be selected for best taco and tequila drink and to 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

Todd Erickson, Executive Chef of both Huahua’s Taqueria and HaVen South Beach

Chef Erickson has a long and impressive culinary resume that started with his graduation from Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, NY. He then moved to Dallas where he was Executive chef at Hector’s on Henderson in Dallas, culinary consultant at Tryst and even started his own catering business, receiving accolades including 'Best Chef Under 30” and “Number One Young Gun Chef”.

But Miami got lucky in 2010, when Zuma recruited Chef Erickson as their sous chef. From there, Chef Erickson partnered with Hospitality and Design entrepreneurs,  Mike Boles and Niloy Thakkar, creating HaVen Lounge, a popular gastropub with a global spin featuring small plates, fresh salads, sushi, skewers, sliders and unique craft cocktails.

In early 2013, Chef Erickson and his partners opened Huahua’s Taqueria offering a fast casual fun taco. burrito and nacho spot with choices of beer, wine and margaritas that has become very popular with both locals and tourists.

HaVen Hospitality continues to grow with a new HaVen now open in Fort Lauderdale and plans in the works for more HaVen’s and Huahua’s. A passionate supporter of many Miami charities and non-profits, Chef Erickson embodies the meaning of community spirit and we are proud to have him be a participant in the #TNTShowdown. 

We asked Chef Erickson a few questions to shed some more light on his style and personality and here is what he said:

How has being a chef/owner in Miami changed over the last few years?

I moved to Miami almost six years ago, at that time I felt that the bar had been set pretty low with a few solid exceptions. Within the last few years, more and more serious restaurants have opened with focus on locals and our South Florida bounty. Being surrounded by a thriving restaurant scene and chef community has really helped my brands through support of my peers and the local community. The social media game has also really boosted in the last few years. With Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we chefs have really become our own publicists managing our social media platforms and reaching a larger group of the population that we would be able to just “touching tables”.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?

I was originally in school for PR and marketing, which I use pretty much every day of my professional chef career, I don’t think I’d go back to that though. After opening several restaurants, I’ve really fallen in love with the whole design aspect of openings and I’ve always loved art in all forms, painting, sculpture, stained glass. If/when I retire, I think I could be really successful with opening a design studio. Food and art have always been my passion, so why not have them both as careers?

What is your personality in the kitchen: Angel or Demon?

 It all depends on how everyone is doing their jobs. I like a certain degree of levity in the kitchen, I like to joke around, I’ve been known as somewhat of a prankster, but at the end of the day we’re running a business that’s sole focus is to make our guests comfortable and happy. When those two things aren’t given to the guest, I can be very emphatic and demanding. I consider myself very fair, and everyone in the kitchen knows where they stand, I like to have fun, but I also work hard and expect it from my team.

What ingredient could you not live without?  Your least favorite ingredient?

Which ingredient could I not live without? Salt. Good thing there’s no shortage. Least favorite would be undercooked egg white. The viscosity just gives me the creeps.

 What is the last dish you cooked for yourself?

Zucchini “pasta” with chick peas, blistered sun golds and almond-mint pesto, unless you count a PB&J, then that would be the last thing I “cooked" for myself.

Your favorite restaurant other than your own (naturally)?

Too many in Miami to name. I was recently in Northern California and had lunch at a restaurant called Farmshop Marin County. It’s a casual chic restaurant with a totally local menu. Simple, beautifully presented plates that allowed the main ingredients to shine. While I was there Michael Mina and his family sat down next to us to dine. Good crowd, incredible food served in an unpretentious environment. I would eat there daily if I were closer.

If you cook alongside any chef…alive or dead, who would it be and why?

I had the chance to cook alongside Jean Louis Palladin at a Friends of James Beard dinner before he passed away. The man was an animal in the kitchen, yelling, screaming in French, but a really cool cat with incredible knowledge and technique. I would cook alongside him any time.

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? 

Deciding between corn, flour, hard or soft taco shells comes down to the filling in my opinion. I enjoy all of them when executed properly and adds to the whole concept of the taco being served. The craziest taco I’ve ever had was the waffle taco at Taco Bell. Yes, I will admit it, I ordered it and ate it. I will also admit that it was a total fail, which is most likely why it is no longer on the menu. For my competition taco, all I can say is that it will have a corn, flour, hard or soft shell, and will be filled with crave-able deliciousness!

Why do you think YOU will win?

 I’ll win because love what I do and it shows through my food.

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