FROM LEFT: The dining room at Essensia; Rice flour-dusted, pan-roasted local hogfish.

You were born and raised in Brooklyn, went to the New York Restaurant School and trained with Daniel Boulud right out of culinary school. You know the New York restaurant scene. How does it compare to Miami?
We’re almost there. The thing that gives Miami a bad rap is that it’s known as a nightclub and party town. It’s not that we don’t have the restaurants or quality food or fantastic chefs, it’s that we don’t have the educated clientele to back them up. But there are some really talented chefs here, with more on the way. From what I hear, Mario Batali is coming down, Rachael Ray is coming down and Bobby Flay is looking to comedown. Then there’s José Andrés, who worked for Ferran Adriá at El Bulli in Spain, planning on opening in late 2011. Now we’re talking!

That’s Miami’s future. What’s next for you?
Jackie Nespral, of NBC-6, has a new show coming out called Foodies. I’m going to bring her into the kitchen, where she’ll cook with me, then we’ll both sit down and have dinner. I’d like to get involved in TV and remain involved in the community. I’m helping Miami-Dade County Public Schools expand children’s nutritional knowledge and improve their eating habits. And in terms of Essensia, I just want it to continue to grow: We need to stay clean, stay fresh and stay one step ahead of everybody.

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