E. Michael Reidt, Area 31

The Miami dining scene would be missing a serious talent if Lowell, Massachusetts-born executive chef E. Michael Reidt had been better funded in college. His passion for cooking followed a detour from completing a degree in civil engineering. “I simply did not have the money to pay tuition, and ended up leaving school,” he says. “I was able to secure a job making omelets in [Boston’s famed marketplace] Faneuil Hall on the weekends, while working at an architect’s office during the week. The contrast in the two working environments is what eventually led me to stay full time in the kitchen, and finally attend culinary school a few years later.”

Now, Area 31’s “ocean to table,” conservation-friendly ethos (it takes its name from a United Nations-designated area of the Atlantic that the organization hopes to make fully sustainable) benefits from his deft, sophisticated touch.

And Reidt is no stranger to Miami. After his own Boston restaurant, Bomboa, helped score him a Food & Wine Best New Chefs nod in 2001, he decamped to Miami to helm Wish from 2001 to 2003. He later worked in Boston, Santa Barbara, and Baltimore before returning to Miami a year ago to create a playful menu at Area 31. “I would like to be considered a chef who tries not to take things or himself too seriously, and I hope diners see that on the menu,” he says. Cases in point: Yellowtail Snappah with decidedly non-Boston coconut rice and cilantro pesto, a number of snack-type options (chorizo-potato croquetas and pork belly sliders), and constant experimentation with new ingredients such as eel scales, local organic cheeses, and even a newly popular bulgur-like grain called freekeh. “I think the people of Miami are always intrigued by what is new,” Reidt says. “This city taught me that the ‘wow’ factor is of utmost importance.” Epic Hotel, 270 Biscayne Blvd. Way, Miami, 305-424-5234

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