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The James Beard Foundation’s Taste America® Begins in Miami Slideshow


Friday dessert

Milk panna cotta, banana ice cream, and Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles textures, courtesy of Sergio Navarro of Miami’s Pubbelly

Friday Evan

Miami Herald food editor Evan S. Benn emceed Friday evening’s festivities

Friday guests

Diners at Friday’s fundraiser dinner at the Forge in Miami.

Friday lettuce bundles

Lettuce bundles with pork larb, crispy garlic and shallots, puffed rice, thai chilies, and nuoc cham, prepared by Cesar Zapata of Phuc Yea

Friday miso Chilean sea bass

Local Star Christopher Lee prepared miso-marinated sea bass with baby bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and yuzu-ginger reduction

Friday Norman Chris

JBF Award winner Norman Van Aken, who served as the night’s VIP Host, posing for a photo with Local Star Christopher Lee

Friday reception

Guests at the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America® Miami event at the Forge

Friday reception chefs

Friday night’s reception chefs: Timon Balloo, Brad Kilgore, Cindy Hutsin, Cesar Zapata, and Giorgio Rapicavoli

Friday tuna crudo

Rocco DiSpirito served the first course at Friday’s Taste America Miami dinner: tuna crudo with lemon, Italian chilies, and capers

Friday veal saltimbocca

Rocco DiSpirito’s veal saltimbocca with faro risotto and mushrooms

Saturday Cindy Hutson

Chef Cindy Hutson demoing a recipe for kale salad with grilled pineapple and kefir-marinated skewers

Saturday-popcorn

Sur La Table customers enjoyed free organic kettle corn samples from local artisan Project Pop


Postcards From Florida

Two celebrated chefs share how they came to South Florida, and why they stayed. This is the second in a series of short stories by notable Floridians.

I arrived in Florida in 1992 with my husband, Eddy, and our 4-year-old son, Caio. Our cousin had invited us for just a visit, but we fell in love with America and decided to stay. Eddy got a job at a church, and Fort Lauderdale has been our home since. We chose to live in the cozy Sailboat Bend neighborhood, in a small but charming house with an enormous backyard planted with oak and palm trees. The next year, our son, Matthew, was born. There weren’t many other Brazilians in Fort Lauderdale, and I didn’t know anyone else who spoke Portuguese. I was homesick and wanted to go back. I didn’t realize how much I would end up loving Florida.

I became a bus driver at a private school, later joining its cafeteria as a cook, helping to feed about 900 diners every day. The work taught me how to prepare meals for large groups, and it inspired me. I thought to myself that one day I could cook for a lot of people and make them happy.

I asked Eddy to build an outdoor wood stove, like the one my parents had on our small farm when I was growing up in the mountains of Minas Gerais. That was just the start. After that came the chicken coop, a rabbit cave, a swing for the kids, a choo-choo train and picnic tables. Eddy finished my dream, even before I had finished dreaming. I also became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze. All of it brings a contagious happiness.

I became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze.

We began entertaining our friends from church, making hearty soups and stews on the stove from my family’s Northern Brazilian recipes: oxtail, canja (chicken stew), sweet corn with cloves and coconut milk. After a friend posted about it on social media, I got 1,000 friend requests. The meals grew bigger: shrimp and fish, bacon and corn, and sweet peanut butter and coconut soups. Mashed yuca with jerky made with cheese, heavy cream and a hearty Brazilian butter. Feijão tropeiro, a classic dish of bacon and sausage mixed with pinto beans, onion, green onions, garlic and cilantro. Farofa, made from toasted cassava flour. Chicken and okra, the most traditional dish from my state. Baby back ribs. Fresh red snapper slow-cooked with onions, peppers, coconut milk and cilantro. Corn grits. We finished dinner with a table of sweets: tapioca flan dulce de leche coconut, corn, vegan orange, gluten-free yuca and chocolate cakes passion fruit mousse and ice cream. After dessert, we have ’smores around the fire pit for the kids. Regina’s Farm/Fazendinha da Regina eventually became a welcoming place for people to gather, and to raise funds for the church and to help the needy in our community.

Our preparation starts on Tuesday, to allow for more flavor through slow cooking, and continues through the week. On Saturday, when we usually hold our feasts, we are up by 5:30 a.m. to buy fresh sugarcane, collard greens and corn from the markets in Miami. Because South Florida has such a diversity of people, culture and flavors from all over the world, I can find all the ingredients I need. And now I hear people speaking Portuguese when I’m shopping.

At Regina’s Farm, locals and tourists sit around tables, celebrating life, having long conversations with family, friends and strangers, sharing precious moments that transport them to a place that warms the hearts. When I see the joy of the children running safely around the yard, and people eating the cheese bread, listening to the music, drinking wine, sugarcane juice or Brazilian coffee, all while the smell of burning wood floats through the air, my heart rejoices. It would not have been possible if I had not been welcomed by this paradise. Florida inspired me, loved me, accepted and adopted me. It is a place to make your dreams come true.

After Rodrigues opened up her home to visitors from around the world to get a taste of Brazil through her outdoor home-cooked feasts, the waitlist grew as long as two years for a reservation. In 2017, Miami New Times voted Regina’s Farm the best new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Find your own Florida stories.

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What a Coconut Can Teach You

In summer 1993, I moved to South Florida. I was 15, and the first thing I remembered after getting off the plane was the weather. We never had humidity like this in San Francisco. The way it rained was crazy: dark clouds roaring in, followed by a five-minute torrential downpour and then gone. Sometimes it rained on one side of the street and not the other. I had so much animosity about being in South Florida, I planned to take off as soon as I graduated from high school.

One of the reasons my mother, who is Trinidadian-Chinese, wanted to move to South Florida was to be closer to the Caribbean, where she grew up. She had also remarried, with my Jamaican stepfather, and they were able to buy a house. Homeowners in the region need to buy a machete to cut the coconuts down, because there are coconut trees everywhere. As a fat, young, mixed kid coming from the city, I had no interest in getting involved. I didn’t want to climb a sticky tree with these things dropping on my head, and I didn’t want to cut off my damn thumb. But then you learn — and you put a straw in it right away or throw it in the freezer, and you drink that cold coconut water. And once you get that, you can continue cracking it on the pavement and use part of the husk as a spoon and scrape all the jelly inside to eat. It's a magical thing.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida.

These things make you a Floridian. You go from jeans to shorts, sweaters to tank tops and T-shirts, sneakers and boots to sandals. You put on some Gregory Isaacs while you prepare your green sauce, a basic condiment for Trinidadian recipes. We were immersed in a culture in which we were seeing people of all walks of life — Latin Caribbean, Afro Caribbean, Haitian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban. All of these little things calm you down a little bit, and you begin to relax.

My initial love for cooking began as a child in the Bay Area. On Saturdays, instead of cartoons, I watched Martin Yan on his TV show, “Yan Can Cook.” Back then, I was a latchkey kid and cooked a lot for myself. But it was more about sustenance. Once we moved, my mom prepared a lot of our meals. It was Caribbean food all the time because she could get dasheen, or taro leaves, for callaloo breadfruit bacalao salt fish Johnny cakes, a fried flatbread and green or ripe plantains. It’s soulful food, and it made me start to look at the whole picture.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida. The connection of food, land and culture is everywhere. It's in the lush landscape, as you walk on the streets past mango, lychee and papaya trees. People throw seeds in their backyards and grow plants like Scotch bonnet peppers. Or you go down to Little Haiti in Miami, and there are roosters and chickens. The ocean provides beautiful fishing. Florida molded me to focus on my dream and cook my culture. It took a long time to get here, but I think that's why I ultimately ended up staying: the diversity of culture and the elements of nature and what those lend to my cooking style and philosophy.

In 2019, Balloo launched T. Balloo Hospitality Group and Balloo Restaurant in Miami. This year, he was nominated for Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation. He was also the chef-founder of Sugarcane, which earned him the 2010 Eater Miami Chef of the Year award.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More


Postcards From Florida

Two celebrated chefs share how they came to South Florida, and why they stayed. This is the second in a series of short stories by notable Floridians.

I arrived in Florida in 1992 with my husband, Eddy, and our 4-year-old son, Caio. Our cousin had invited us for just a visit, but we fell in love with America and decided to stay. Eddy got a job at a church, and Fort Lauderdale has been our home since. We chose to live in the cozy Sailboat Bend neighborhood, in a small but charming house with an enormous backyard planted with oak and palm trees. The next year, our son, Matthew, was born. There weren’t many other Brazilians in Fort Lauderdale, and I didn’t know anyone else who spoke Portuguese. I was homesick and wanted to go back. I didn’t realize how much I would end up loving Florida.

I became a bus driver at a private school, later joining its cafeteria as a cook, helping to feed about 900 diners every day. The work taught me how to prepare meals for large groups, and it inspired me. I thought to myself that one day I could cook for a lot of people and make them happy.

I asked Eddy to build an outdoor wood stove, like the one my parents had on our small farm when I was growing up in the mountains of Minas Gerais. That was just the start. After that came the chicken coop, a rabbit cave, a swing for the kids, a choo-choo train and picnic tables. Eddy finished my dream, even before I had finished dreaming. I also became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze. All of it brings a contagious happiness.

I became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze.

We began entertaining our friends from church, making hearty soups and stews on the stove from my family’s Northern Brazilian recipes: oxtail, canja (chicken stew), sweet corn with cloves and coconut milk. After a friend posted about it on social media, I got 1,000 friend requests. The meals grew bigger: shrimp and fish, bacon and corn, and sweet peanut butter and coconut soups. Mashed yuca with jerky made with cheese, heavy cream and a hearty Brazilian butter. Feijão tropeiro, a classic dish of bacon and sausage mixed with pinto beans, onion, green onions, garlic and cilantro. Farofa, made from toasted cassava flour. Chicken and okra, the most traditional dish from my state. Baby back ribs. Fresh red snapper slow-cooked with onions, peppers, coconut milk and cilantro. Corn grits. We finished dinner with a table of sweets: tapioca flan dulce de leche coconut, corn, vegan orange, gluten-free yuca and chocolate cakes passion fruit mousse and ice cream. After dessert, we have ’smores around the fire pit for the kids. Regina’s Farm/Fazendinha da Regina eventually became a welcoming place for people to gather, and to raise funds for the church and to help the needy in our community.

Our preparation starts on Tuesday, to allow for more flavor through slow cooking, and continues through the week. On Saturday, when we usually hold our feasts, we are up by 5:30 a.m. to buy fresh sugarcane, collard greens and corn from the markets in Miami. Because South Florida has such a diversity of people, culture and flavors from all over the world, I can find all the ingredients I need. And now I hear people speaking Portuguese when I’m shopping.

At Regina’s Farm, locals and tourists sit around tables, celebrating life, having long conversations with family, friends and strangers, sharing precious moments that transport them to a place that warms the hearts. When I see the joy of the children running safely around the yard, and people eating the cheese bread, listening to the music, drinking wine, sugarcane juice or Brazilian coffee, all while the smell of burning wood floats through the air, my heart rejoices. It would not have been possible if I had not been welcomed by this paradise. Florida inspired me, loved me, accepted and adopted me. It is a place to make your dreams come true.

After Rodrigues opened up her home to visitors from around the world to get a taste of Brazil through her outdoor home-cooked feasts, the waitlist grew as long as two years for a reservation. In 2017, Miami New Times voted Regina’s Farm the best new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More

What a Coconut Can Teach You

In summer 1993, I moved to South Florida. I was 15, and the first thing I remembered after getting off the plane was the weather. We never had humidity like this in San Francisco. The way it rained was crazy: dark clouds roaring in, followed by a five-minute torrential downpour and then gone. Sometimes it rained on one side of the street and not the other. I had so much animosity about being in South Florida, I planned to take off as soon as I graduated from high school.

One of the reasons my mother, who is Trinidadian-Chinese, wanted to move to South Florida was to be closer to the Caribbean, where she grew up. She had also remarried, with my Jamaican stepfather, and they were able to buy a house. Homeowners in the region need to buy a machete to cut the coconuts down, because there are coconut trees everywhere. As a fat, young, mixed kid coming from the city, I had no interest in getting involved. I didn’t want to climb a sticky tree with these things dropping on my head, and I didn’t want to cut off my damn thumb. But then you learn — and you put a straw in it right away or throw it in the freezer, and you drink that cold coconut water. And once you get that, you can continue cracking it on the pavement and use part of the husk as a spoon and scrape all the jelly inside to eat. It's a magical thing.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida.

These things make you a Floridian. You go from jeans to shorts, sweaters to tank tops and T-shirts, sneakers and boots to sandals. You put on some Gregory Isaacs while you prepare your green sauce, a basic condiment for Trinidadian recipes. We were immersed in a culture in which we were seeing people of all walks of life — Latin Caribbean, Afro Caribbean, Haitian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban. All of these little things calm you down a little bit, and you begin to relax.

My initial love for cooking began as a child in the Bay Area. On Saturdays, instead of cartoons, I watched Martin Yan on his TV show, “Yan Can Cook.” Back then, I was a latchkey kid and cooked a lot for myself. But it was more about sustenance. Once we moved, my mom prepared a lot of our meals. It was Caribbean food all the time because she could get dasheen, or taro leaves, for callaloo breadfruit bacalao salt fish Johnny cakes, a fried flatbread and green or ripe plantains. It’s soulful food, and it made me start to look at the whole picture.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida. The connection of food, land and culture is everywhere. It's in the lush landscape, as you walk on the streets past mango, lychee and papaya trees. People throw seeds in their backyards and grow plants like Scotch bonnet peppers. Or you go down to Little Haiti in Miami, and there are roosters and chickens. The ocean provides beautiful fishing. Florida molded me to focus on my dream and cook my culture. It took a long time to get here, but I think that's why I ultimately ended up staying: the diversity of culture and the elements of nature and what those lend to my cooking style and philosophy.

In 2019, Balloo launched T. Balloo Hospitality Group and Balloo Restaurant in Miami. This year, he was nominated for Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation. He was also the chef-founder of Sugarcane, which earned him the 2010 Eater Miami Chef of the Year award.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More


Postcards From Florida

Two celebrated chefs share how they came to South Florida, and why they stayed. This is the second in a series of short stories by notable Floridians.

I arrived in Florida in 1992 with my husband, Eddy, and our 4-year-old son, Caio. Our cousin had invited us for just a visit, but we fell in love with America and decided to stay. Eddy got a job at a church, and Fort Lauderdale has been our home since. We chose to live in the cozy Sailboat Bend neighborhood, in a small but charming house with an enormous backyard planted with oak and palm trees. The next year, our son, Matthew, was born. There weren’t many other Brazilians in Fort Lauderdale, and I didn’t know anyone else who spoke Portuguese. I was homesick and wanted to go back. I didn’t realize how much I would end up loving Florida.

I became a bus driver at a private school, later joining its cafeteria as a cook, helping to feed about 900 diners every day. The work taught me how to prepare meals for large groups, and it inspired me. I thought to myself that one day I could cook for a lot of people and make them happy.

I asked Eddy to build an outdoor wood stove, like the one my parents had on our small farm when I was growing up in the mountains of Minas Gerais. That was just the start. After that came the chicken coop, a rabbit cave, a swing for the kids, a choo-choo train and picnic tables. Eddy finished my dream, even before I had finished dreaming. I also became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze. All of it brings a contagious happiness.

I became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze.

We began entertaining our friends from church, making hearty soups and stews on the stove from my family’s Northern Brazilian recipes: oxtail, canja (chicken stew), sweet corn with cloves and coconut milk. After a friend posted about it on social media, I got 1,000 friend requests. The meals grew bigger: shrimp and fish, bacon and corn, and sweet peanut butter and coconut soups. Mashed yuca with jerky made with cheese, heavy cream and a hearty Brazilian butter. Feijão tropeiro, a classic dish of bacon and sausage mixed with pinto beans, onion, green onions, garlic and cilantro. Farofa, made from toasted cassava flour. Chicken and okra, the most traditional dish from my state. Baby back ribs. Fresh red snapper slow-cooked with onions, peppers, coconut milk and cilantro. Corn grits. We finished dinner with a table of sweets: tapioca flan dulce de leche coconut, corn, vegan orange, gluten-free yuca and chocolate cakes passion fruit mousse and ice cream. After dessert, we have ’smores around the fire pit for the kids. Regina’s Farm/Fazendinha da Regina eventually became a welcoming place for people to gather, and to raise funds for the church and to help the needy in our community.

Our preparation starts on Tuesday, to allow for more flavor through slow cooking, and continues through the week. On Saturday, when we usually hold our feasts, we are up by 5:30 a.m. to buy fresh sugarcane, collard greens and corn from the markets in Miami. Because South Florida has such a diversity of people, culture and flavors from all over the world, I can find all the ingredients I need. And now I hear people speaking Portuguese when I’m shopping.

At Regina’s Farm, locals and tourists sit around tables, celebrating life, having long conversations with family, friends and strangers, sharing precious moments that transport them to a place that warms the hearts. When I see the joy of the children running safely around the yard, and people eating the cheese bread, listening to the music, drinking wine, sugarcane juice or Brazilian coffee, all while the smell of burning wood floats through the air, my heart rejoices. It would not have been possible if I had not been welcomed by this paradise. Florida inspired me, loved me, accepted and adopted me. It is a place to make your dreams come true.

After Rodrigues opened up her home to visitors from around the world to get a taste of Brazil through her outdoor home-cooked feasts, the waitlist grew as long as two years for a reservation. In 2017, Miami New Times voted Regina’s Farm the best new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More

What a Coconut Can Teach You

In summer 1993, I moved to South Florida. I was 15, and the first thing I remembered after getting off the plane was the weather. We never had humidity like this in San Francisco. The way it rained was crazy: dark clouds roaring in, followed by a five-minute torrential downpour and then gone. Sometimes it rained on one side of the street and not the other. I had so much animosity about being in South Florida, I planned to take off as soon as I graduated from high school.

One of the reasons my mother, who is Trinidadian-Chinese, wanted to move to South Florida was to be closer to the Caribbean, where she grew up. She had also remarried, with my Jamaican stepfather, and they were able to buy a house. Homeowners in the region need to buy a machete to cut the coconuts down, because there are coconut trees everywhere. As a fat, young, mixed kid coming from the city, I had no interest in getting involved. I didn’t want to climb a sticky tree with these things dropping on my head, and I didn’t want to cut off my damn thumb. But then you learn — and you put a straw in it right away or throw it in the freezer, and you drink that cold coconut water. And once you get that, you can continue cracking it on the pavement and use part of the husk as a spoon and scrape all the jelly inside to eat. It's a magical thing.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida.

These things make you a Floridian. You go from jeans to shorts, sweaters to tank tops and T-shirts, sneakers and boots to sandals. You put on some Gregory Isaacs while you prepare your green sauce, a basic condiment for Trinidadian recipes. We were immersed in a culture in which we were seeing people of all walks of life — Latin Caribbean, Afro Caribbean, Haitian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban. All of these little things calm you down a little bit, and you begin to relax.

My initial love for cooking began as a child in the Bay Area. On Saturdays, instead of cartoons, I watched Martin Yan on his TV show, “Yan Can Cook.” Back then, I was a latchkey kid and cooked a lot for myself. But it was more about sustenance. Once we moved, my mom prepared a lot of our meals. It was Caribbean food all the time because she could get dasheen, or taro leaves, for callaloo breadfruit bacalao salt fish Johnny cakes, a fried flatbread and green or ripe plantains. It’s soulful food, and it made me start to look at the whole picture.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida. The connection of food, land and culture is everywhere. It's in the lush landscape, as you walk on the streets past mango, lychee and papaya trees. People throw seeds in their backyards and grow plants like Scotch bonnet peppers. Or you go down to Little Haiti in Miami, and there are roosters and chickens. The ocean provides beautiful fishing. Florida molded me to focus on my dream and cook my culture. It took a long time to get here, but I think that's why I ultimately ended up staying: the diversity of culture and the elements of nature and what those lend to my cooking style and philosophy.

In 2019, Balloo launched T. Balloo Hospitality Group and Balloo Restaurant in Miami. This year, he was nominated for Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation. He was also the chef-founder of Sugarcane, which earned him the 2010 Eater Miami Chef of the Year award.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More


Postcards From Florida

Two celebrated chefs share how they came to South Florida, and why they stayed. This is the second in a series of short stories by notable Floridians.

I arrived in Florida in 1992 with my husband, Eddy, and our 4-year-old son, Caio. Our cousin had invited us for just a visit, but we fell in love with America and decided to stay. Eddy got a job at a church, and Fort Lauderdale has been our home since. We chose to live in the cozy Sailboat Bend neighborhood, in a small but charming house with an enormous backyard planted with oak and palm trees. The next year, our son, Matthew, was born. There weren’t many other Brazilians in Fort Lauderdale, and I didn’t know anyone else who spoke Portuguese. I was homesick and wanted to go back. I didn’t realize how much I would end up loving Florida.

I became a bus driver at a private school, later joining its cafeteria as a cook, helping to feed about 900 diners every day. The work taught me how to prepare meals for large groups, and it inspired me. I thought to myself that one day I could cook for a lot of people and make them happy.

I asked Eddy to build an outdoor wood stove, like the one my parents had on our small farm when I was growing up in the mountains of Minas Gerais. That was just the start. After that came the chicken coop, a rabbit cave, a swing for the kids, a choo-choo train and picnic tables. Eddy finished my dream, even before I had finished dreaming. I also became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze. All of it brings a contagious happiness.

I became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze.

We began entertaining our friends from church, making hearty soups and stews on the stove from my family’s Northern Brazilian recipes: oxtail, canja (chicken stew), sweet corn with cloves and coconut milk. After a friend posted about it on social media, I got 1,000 friend requests. The meals grew bigger: shrimp and fish, bacon and corn, and sweet peanut butter and coconut soups. Mashed yuca with jerky made with cheese, heavy cream and a hearty Brazilian butter. Feijão tropeiro, a classic dish of bacon and sausage mixed with pinto beans, onion, green onions, garlic and cilantro. Farofa, made from toasted cassava flour. Chicken and okra, the most traditional dish from my state. Baby back ribs. Fresh red snapper slow-cooked with onions, peppers, coconut milk and cilantro. Corn grits. We finished dinner with a table of sweets: tapioca flan dulce de leche coconut, corn, vegan orange, gluten-free yuca and chocolate cakes passion fruit mousse and ice cream. After dessert, we have ’smores around the fire pit for the kids. Regina’s Farm/Fazendinha da Regina eventually became a welcoming place for people to gather, and to raise funds for the church and to help the needy in our community.

Our preparation starts on Tuesday, to allow for more flavor through slow cooking, and continues through the week. On Saturday, when we usually hold our feasts, we are up by 5:30 a.m. to buy fresh sugarcane, collard greens and corn from the markets in Miami. Because South Florida has such a diversity of people, culture and flavors from all over the world, I can find all the ingredients I need. And now I hear people speaking Portuguese when I’m shopping.

At Regina’s Farm, locals and tourists sit around tables, celebrating life, having long conversations with family, friends and strangers, sharing precious moments that transport them to a place that warms the hearts. When I see the joy of the children running safely around the yard, and people eating the cheese bread, listening to the music, drinking wine, sugarcane juice or Brazilian coffee, all while the smell of burning wood floats through the air, my heart rejoices. It would not have been possible if I had not been welcomed by this paradise. Florida inspired me, loved me, accepted and adopted me. It is a place to make your dreams come true.

After Rodrigues opened up her home to visitors from around the world to get a taste of Brazil through her outdoor home-cooked feasts, the waitlist grew as long as two years for a reservation. In 2017, Miami New Times voted Regina’s Farm the best new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More

What a Coconut Can Teach You

In summer 1993, I moved to South Florida. I was 15, and the first thing I remembered after getting off the plane was the weather. We never had humidity like this in San Francisco. The way it rained was crazy: dark clouds roaring in, followed by a five-minute torrential downpour and then gone. Sometimes it rained on one side of the street and not the other. I had so much animosity about being in South Florida, I planned to take off as soon as I graduated from high school.

One of the reasons my mother, who is Trinidadian-Chinese, wanted to move to South Florida was to be closer to the Caribbean, where she grew up. She had also remarried, with my Jamaican stepfather, and they were able to buy a house. Homeowners in the region need to buy a machete to cut the coconuts down, because there are coconut trees everywhere. As a fat, young, mixed kid coming from the city, I had no interest in getting involved. I didn’t want to climb a sticky tree with these things dropping on my head, and I didn’t want to cut off my damn thumb. But then you learn — and you put a straw in it right away or throw it in the freezer, and you drink that cold coconut water. And once you get that, you can continue cracking it on the pavement and use part of the husk as a spoon and scrape all the jelly inside to eat. It's a magical thing.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida.

These things make you a Floridian. You go from jeans to shorts, sweaters to tank tops and T-shirts, sneakers and boots to sandals. You put on some Gregory Isaacs while you prepare your green sauce, a basic condiment for Trinidadian recipes. We were immersed in a culture in which we were seeing people of all walks of life — Latin Caribbean, Afro Caribbean, Haitian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban. All of these little things calm you down a little bit, and you begin to relax.

My initial love for cooking began as a child in the Bay Area. On Saturdays, instead of cartoons, I watched Martin Yan on his TV show, “Yan Can Cook.” Back then, I was a latchkey kid and cooked a lot for myself. But it was more about sustenance. Once we moved, my mom prepared a lot of our meals. It was Caribbean food all the time because she could get dasheen, or taro leaves, for callaloo breadfruit bacalao salt fish Johnny cakes, a fried flatbread and green or ripe plantains. It’s soulful food, and it made me start to look at the whole picture.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida. The connection of food, land and culture is everywhere. It's in the lush landscape, as you walk on the streets past mango, lychee and papaya trees. People throw seeds in their backyards and grow plants like Scotch bonnet peppers. Or you go down to Little Haiti in Miami, and there are roosters and chickens. The ocean provides beautiful fishing. Florida molded me to focus on my dream and cook my culture. It took a long time to get here, but I think that's why I ultimately ended up staying: the diversity of culture and the elements of nature and what those lend to my cooking style and philosophy.

In 2019, Balloo launched T. Balloo Hospitality Group and Balloo Restaurant in Miami. This year, he was nominated for Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation. He was also the chef-founder of Sugarcane, which earned him the 2010 Eater Miami Chef of the Year award.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More


Postcards From Florida

Two celebrated chefs share how they came to South Florida, and why they stayed. This is the second in a series of short stories by notable Floridians.

I arrived in Florida in 1992 with my husband, Eddy, and our 4-year-old son, Caio. Our cousin had invited us for just a visit, but we fell in love with America and decided to stay. Eddy got a job at a church, and Fort Lauderdale has been our home since. We chose to live in the cozy Sailboat Bend neighborhood, in a small but charming house with an enormous backyard planted with oak and palm trees. The next year, our son, Matthew, was born. There weren’t many other Brazilians in Fort Lauderdale, and I didn’t know anyone else who spoke Portuguese. I was homesick and wanted to go back. I didn’t realize how much I would end up loving Florida.

I became a bus driver at a private school, later joining its cafeteria as a cook, helping to feed about 900 diners every day. The work taught me how to prepare meals for large groups, and it inspired me. I thought to myself that one day I could cook for a lot of people and make them happy.

I asked Eddy to build an outdoor wood stove, like the one my parents had on our small farm when I was growing up in the mountains of Minas Gerais. That was just the start. After that came the chicken coop, a rabbit cave, a swing for the kids, a choo-choo train and picnic tables. Eddy finished my dream, even before I had finished dreaming. I also became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze. All of it brings a contagious happiness.

I became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze.

We began entertaining our friends from church, making hearty soups and stews on the stove from my family’s Northern Brazilian recipes: oxtail, canja (chicken stew), sweet corn with cloves and coconut milk. After a friend posted about it on social media, I got 1,000 friend requests. The meals grew bigger: shrimp and fish, bacon and corn, and sweet peanut butter and coconut soups. Mashed yuca with jerky made with cheese, heavy cream and a hearty Brazilian butter. Feijão tropeiro, a classic dish of bacon and sausage mixed with pinto beans, onion, green onions, garlic and cilantro. Farofa, made from toasted cassava flour. Chicken and okra, the most traditional dish from my state. Baby back ribs. Fresh red snapper slow-cooked with onions, peppers, coconut milk and cilantro. Corn grits. We finished dinner with a table of sweets: tapioca flan dulce de leche coconut, corn, vegan orange, gluten-free yuca and chocolate cakes passion fruit mousse and ice cream. After dessert, we have ’smores around the fire pit for the kids. Regina’s Farm/Fazendinha da Regina eventually became a welcoming place for people to gather, and to raise funds for the church and to help the needy in our community.

Our preparation starts on Tuesday, to allow for more flavor through slow cooking, and continues through the week. On Saturday, when we usually hold our feasts, we are up by 5:30 a.m. to buy fresh sugarcane, collard greens and corn from the markets in Miami. Because South Florida has such a diversity of people, culture and flavors from all over the world, I can find all the ingredients I need. And now I hear people speaking Portuguese when I’m shopping.

At Regina’s Farm, locals and tourists sit around tables, celebrating life, having long conversations with family, friends and strangers, sharing precious moments that transport them to a place that warms the hearts. When I see the joy of the children running safely around the yard, and people eating the cheese bread, listening to the music, drinking wine, sugarcane juice or Brazilian coffee, all while the smell of burning wood floats through the air, my heart rejoices. It would not have been possible if I had not been welcomed by this paradise. Florida inspired me, loved me, accepted and adopted me. It is a place to make your dreams come true.

After Rodrigues opened up her home to visitors from around the world to get a taste of Brazil through her outdoor home-cooked feasts, the waitlist grew as long as two years for a reservation. In 2017, Miami New Times voted Regina’s Farm the best new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

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What a Coconut Can Teach You

In summer 1993, I moved to South Florida. I was 15, and the first thing I remembered after getting off the plane was the weather. We never had humidity like this in San Francisco. The way it rained was crazy: dark clouds roaring in, followed by a five-minute torrential downpour and then gone. Sometimes it rained on one side of the street and not the other. I had so much animosity about being in South Florida, I planned to take off as soon as I graduated from high school.

One of the reasons my mother, who is Trinidadian-Chinese, wanted to move to South Florida was to be closer to the Caribbean, where she grew up. She had also remarried, with my Jamaican stepfather, and they were able to buy a house. Homeowners in the region need to buy a machete to cut the coconuts down, because there are coconut trees everywhere. As a fat, young, mixed kid coming from the city, I had no interest in getting involved. I didn’t want to climb a sticky tree with these things dropping on my head, and I didn’t want to cut off my damn thumb. But then you learn — and you put a straw in it right away or throw it in the freezer, and you drink that cold coconut water. And once you get that, you can continue cracking it on the pavement and use part of the husk as a spoon and scrape all the jelly inside to eat. It's a magical thing.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida.

These things make you a Floridian. You go from jeans to shorts, sweaters to tank tops and T-shirts, sneakers and boots to sandals. You put on some Gregory Isaacs while you prepare your green sauce, a basic condiment for Trinidadian recipes. We were immersed in a culture in which we were seeing people of all walks of life — Latin Caribbean, Afro Caribbean, Haitian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban. All of these little things calm you down a little bit, and you begin to relax.

My initial love for cooking began as a child in the Bay Area. On Saturdays, instead of cartoons, I watched Martin Yan on his TV show, “Yan Can Cook.” Back then, I was a latchkey kid and cooked a lot for myself. But it was more about sustenance. Once we moved, my mom prepared a lot of our meals. It was Caribbean food all the time because she could get dasheen, or taro leaves, for callaloo breadfruit bacalao salt fish Johnny cakes, a fried flatbread and green or ripe plantains. It’s soulful food, and it made me start to look at the whole picture.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida. The connection of food, land and culture is everywhere. It's in the lush landscape, as you walk on the streets past mango, lychee and papaya trees. People throw seeds in their backyards and grow plants like Scotch bonnet peppers. Or you go down to Little Haiti in Miami, and there are roosters and chickens. The ocean provides beautiful fishing. Florida molded me to focus on my dream and cook my culture. It took a long time to get here, but I think that's why I ultimately ended up staying: the diversity of culture and the elements of nature and what those lend to my cooking style and philosophy.

In 2019, Balloo launched T. Balloo Hospitality Group and Balloo Restaurant in Miami. This year, he was nominated for Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation. He was also the chef-founder of Sugarcane, which earned him the 2010 Eater Miami Chef of the Year award.

Find your own Florida stories.

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Postcards From Florida

Two celebrated chefs share how they came to South Florida, and why they stayed. This is the second in a series of short stories by notable Floridians.

I arrived in Florida in 1992 with my husband, Eddy, and our 4-year-old son, Caio. Our cousin had invited us for just a visit, but we fell in love with America and decided to stay. Eddy got a job at a church, and Fort Lauderdale has been our home since. We chose to live in the cozy Sailboat Bend neighborhood, in a small but charming house with an enormous backyard planted with oak and palm trees. The next year, our son, Matthew, was born. There weren’t many other Brazilians in Fort Lauderdale, and I didn’t know anyone else who spoke Portuguese. I was homesick and wanted to go back. I didn’t realize how much I would end up loving Florida.

I became a bus driver at a private school, later joining its cafeteria as a cook, helping to feed about 900 diners every day. The work taught me how to prepare meals for large groups, and it inspired me. I thought to myself that one day I could cook for a lot of people and make them happy.

I asked Eddy to build an outdoor wood stove, like the one my parents had on our small farm when I was growing up in the mountains of Minas Gerais. That was just the start. After that came the chicken coop, a rabbit cave, a swing for the kids, a choo-choo train and picnic tables. Eddy finished my dream, even before I had finished dreaming. I also became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze. All of it brings a contagious happiness.

I became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze.

We began entertaining our friends from church, making hearty soups and stews on the stove from my family’s Northern Brazilian recipes: oxtail, canja (chicken stew), sweet corn with cloves and coconut milk. After a friend posted about it on social media, I got 1,000 friend requests. The meals grew bigger: shrimp and fish, bacon and corn, and sweet peanut butter and coconut soups. Mashed yuca with jerky made with cheese, heavy cream and a hearty Brazilian butter. Feijão tropeiro, a classic dish of bacon and sausage mixed with pinto beans, onion, green onions, garlic and cilantro. Farofa, made from toasted cassava flour. Chicken and okra, the most traditional dish from my state. Baby back ribs. Fresh red snapper slow-cooked with onions, peppers, coconut milk and cilantro. Corn grits. We finished dinner with a table of sweets: tapioca flan dulce de leche coconut, corn, vegan orange, gluten-free yuca and chocolate cakes passion fruit mousse and ice cream. After dessert, we have ’smores around the fire pit for the kids. Regina’s Farm/Fazendinha da Regina eventually became a welcoming place for people to gather, and to raise funds for the church and to help the needy in our community.

Our preparation starts on Tuesday, to allow for more flavor through slow cooking, and continues through the week. On Saturday, when we usually hold our feasts, we are up by 5:30 a.m. to buy fresh sugarcane, collard greens and corn from the markets in Miami. Because South Florida has such a diversity of people, culture and flavors from all over the world, I can find all the ingredients I need. And now I hear people speaking Portuguese when I’m shopping.

At Regina’s Farm, locals and tourists sit around tables, celebrating life, having long conversations with family, friends and strangers, sharing precious moments that transport them to a place that warms the hearts. When I see the joy of the children running safely around the yard, and people eating the cheese bread, listening to the music, drinking wine, sugarcane juice or Brazilian coffee, all while the smell of burning wood floats through the air, my heart rejoices. It would not have been possible if I had not been welcomed by this paradise. Florida inspired me, loved me, accepted and adopted me. It is a place to make your dreams come true.

After Rodrigues opened up her home to visitors from around the world to get a taste of Brazil through her outdoor home-cooked feasts, the waitlist grew as long as two years for a reservation. In 2017, Miami New Times voted Regina’s Farm the best new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More

What a Coconut Can Teach You

In summer 1993, I moved to South Florida. I was 15, and the first thing I remembered after getting off the plane was the weather. We never had humidity like this in San Francisco. The way it rained was crazy: dark clouds roaring in, followed by a five-minute torrential downpour and then gone. Sometimes it rained on one side of the street and not the other. I had so much animosity about being in South Florida, I planned to take off as soon as I graduated from high school.

One of the reasons my mother, who is Trinidadian-Chinese, wanted to move to South Florida was to be closer to the Caribbean, where she grew up. She had also remarried, with my Jamaican stepfather, and they were able to buy a house. Homeowners in the region need to buy a machete to cut the coconuts down, because there are coconut trees everywhere. As a fat, young, mixed kid coming from the city, I had no interest in getting involved. I didn’t want to climb a sticky tree with these things dropping on my head, and I didn’t want to cut off my damn thumb. But then you learn — and you put a straw in it right away or throw it in the freezer, and you drink that cold coconut water. And once you get that, you can continue cracking it on the pavement and use part of the husk as a spoon and scrape all the jelly inside to eat. It's a magical thing.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida.

These things make you a Floridian. You go from jeans to shorts, sweaters to tank tops and T-shirts, sneakers and boots to sandals. You put on some Gregory Isaacs while you prepare your green sauce, a basic condiment for Trinidadian recipes. We were immersed in a culture in which we were seeing people of all walks of life — Latin Caribbean, Afro Caribbean, Haitian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban. All of these little things calm you down a little bit, and you begin to relax.

My initial love for cooking began as a child in the Bay Area. On Saturdays, instead of cartoons, I watched Martin Yan on his TV show, “Yan Can Cook.” Back then, I was a latchkey kid and cooked a lot for myself. But it was more about sustenance. Once we moved, my mom prepared a lot of our meals. It was Caribbean food all the time because she could get dasheen, or taro leaves, for callaloo breadfruit bacalao salt fish Johnny cakes, a fried flatbread and green or ripe plantains. It’s soulful food, and it made me start to look at the whole picture.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida. The connection of food, land and culture is everywhere. It's in the lush landscape, as you walk on the streets past mango, lychee and papaya trees. People throw seeds in their backyards and grow plants like Scotch bonnet peppers. Or you go down to Little Haiti in Miami, and there are roosters and chickens. The ocean provides beautiful fishing. Florida molded me to focus on my dream and cook my culture. It took a long time to get here, but I think that's why I ultimately ended up staying: the diversity of culture and the elements of nature and what those lend to my cooking style and philosophy.

In 2019, Balloo launched T. Balloo Hospitality Group and Balloo Restaurant in Miami. This year, he was nominated for Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation. He was also the chef-founder of Sugarcane, which earned him the 2010 Eater Miami Chef of the Year award.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More


Postcards From Florida

Two celebrated chefs share how they came to South Florida, and why they stayed. This is the second in a series of short stories by notable Floridians.

I arrived in Florida in 1992 with my husband, Eddy, and our 4-year-old son, Caio. Our cousin had invited us for just a visit, but we fell in love with America and decided to stay. Eddy got a job at a church, and Fort Lauderdale has been our home since. We chose to live in the cozy Sailboat Bend neighborhood, in a small but charming house with an enormous backyard planted with oak and palm trees. The next year, our son, Matthew, was born. There weren’t many other Brazilians in Fort Lauderdale, and I didn’t know anyone else who spoke Portuguese. I was homesick and wanted to go back. I didn’t realize how much I would end up loving Florida.

I became a bus driver at a private school, later joining its cafeteria as a cook, helping to feed about 900 diners every day. The work taught me how to prepare meals for large groups, and it inspired me. I thought to myself that one day I could cook for a lot of people and make them happy.

I asked Eddy to build an outdoor wood stove, like the one my parents had on our small farm when I was growing up in the mountains of Minas Gerais. That was just the start. After that came the chicken coop, a rabbit cave, a swing for the kids, a choo-choo train and picnic tables. Eddy finished my dream, even before I had finished dreaming. I also became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze. All of it brings a contagious happiness.

I became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze.

We began entertaining our friends from church, making hearty soups and stews on the stove from my family’s Northern Brazilian recipes: oxtail, canja (chicken stew), sweet corn with cloves and coconut milk. After a friend posted about it on social media, I got 1,000 friend requests. The meals grew bigger: shrimp and fish, bacon and corn, and sweet peanut butter and coconut soups. Mashed yuca with jerky made with cheese, heavy cream and a hearty Brazilian butter. Feijão tropeiro, a classic dish of bacon and sausage mixed with pinto beans, onion, green onions, garlic and cilantro. Farofa, made from toasted cassava flour. Chicken and okra, the most traditional dish from my state. Baby back ribs. Fresh red snapper slow-cooked with onions, peppers, coconut milk and cilantro. Corn grits. We finished dinner with a table of sweets: tapioca flan dulce de leche coconut, corn, vegan orange, gluten-free yuca and chocolate cakes passion fruit mousse and ice cream. After dessert, we have ’smores around the fire pit for the kids. Regina’s Farm/Fazendinha da Regina eventually became a welcoming place for people to gather, and to raise funds for the church and to help the needy in our community.

Our preparation starts on Tuesday, to allow for more flavor through slow cooking, and continues through the week. On Saturday, when we usually hold our feasts, we are up by 5:30 a.m. to buy fresh sugarcane, collard greens and corn from the markets in Miami. Because South Florida has such a diversity of people, culture and flavors from all over the world, I can find all the ingredients I need. And now I hear people speaking Portuguese when I’m shopping.

At Regina’s Farm, locals and tourists sit around tables, celebrating life, having long conversations with family, friends and strangers, sharing precious moments that transport them to a place that warms the hearts. When I see the joy of the children running safely around the yard, and people eating the cheese bread, listening to the music, drinking wine, sugarcane juice or Brazilian coffee, all while the smell of burning wood floats through the air, my heart rejoices. It would not have been possible if I had not been welcomed by this paradise. Florida inspired me, loved me, accepted and adopted me. It is a place to make your dreams come true.

After Rodrigues opened up her home to visitors from around the world to get a taste of Brazil through her outdoor home-cooked feasts, the waitlist grew as long as two years for a reservation. In 2017, Miami New Times voted Regina’s Farm the best new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More

What a Coconut Can Teach You

In summer 1993, I moved to South Florida. I was 15, and the first thing I remembered after getting off the plane was the weather. We never had humidity like this in San Francisco. The way it rained was crazy: dark clouds roaring in, followed by a five-minute torrential downpour and then gone. Sometimes it rained on one side of the street and not the other. I had so much animosity about being in South Florida, I planned to take off as soon as I graduated from high school.

One of the reasons my mother, who is Trinidadian-Chinese, wanted to move to South Florida was to be closer to the Caribbean, where she grew up. She had also remarried, with my Jamaican stepfather, and they were able to buy a house. Homeowners in the region need to buy a machete to cut the coconuts down, because there are coconut trees everywhere. As a fat, young, mixed kid coming from the city, I had no interest in getting involved. I didn’t want to climb a sticky tree with these things dropping on my head, and I didn’t want to cut off my damn thumb. But then you learn — and you put a straw in it right away or throw it in the freezer, and you drink that cold coconut water. And once you get that, you can continue cracking it on the pavement and use part of the husk as a spoon and scrape all the jelly inside to eat. It's a magical thing.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida.

These things make you a Floridian. You go from jeans to shorts, sweaters to tank tops and T-shirts, sneakers and boots to sandals. You put on some Gregory Isaacs while you prepare your green sauce, a basic condiment for Trinidadian recipes. We were immersed in a culture in which we were seeing people of all walks of life — Latin Caribbean, Afro Caribbean, Haitian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban. All of these little things calm you down a little bit, and you begin to relax.

My initial love for cooking began as a child in the Bay Area. On Saturdays, instead of cartoons, I watched Martin Yan on his TV show, “Yan Can Cook.” Back then, I was a latchkey kid and cooked a lot for myself. But it was more about sustenance. Once we moved, my mom prepared a lot of our meals. It was Caribbean food all the time because she could get dasheen, or taro leaves, for callaloo breadfruit bacalao salt fish Johnny cakes, a fried flatbread and green or ripe plantains. It’s soulful food, and it made me start to look at the whole picture.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida. The connection of food, land and culture is everywhere. It's in the lush landscape, as you walk on the streets past mango, lychee and papaya trees. People throw seeds in their backyards and grow plants like Scotch bonnet peppers. Or you go down to Little Haiti in Miami, and there are roosters and chickens. The ocean provides beautiful fishing. Florida molded me to focus on my dream and cook my culture. It took a long time to get here, but I think that's why I ultimately ended up staying: the diversity of culture and the elements of nature and what those lend to my cooking style and philosophy.

In 2019, Balloo launched T. Balloo Hospitality Group and Balloo Restaurant in Miami. This year, he was nominated for Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation. He was also the chef-founder of Sugarcane, which earned him the 2010 Eater Miami Chef of the Year award.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More


Postcards From Florida

Two celebrated chefs share how they came to South Florida, and why they stayed. This is the second in a series of short stories by notable Floridians.

I arrived in Florida in 1992 with my husband, Eddy, and our 4-year-old son, Caio. Our cousin had invited us for just a visit, but we fell in love with America and decided to stay. Eddy got a job at a church, and Fort Lauderdale has been our home since. We chose to live in the cozy Sailboat Bend neighborhood, in a small but charming house with an enormous backyard planted with oak and palm trees. The next year, our son, Matthew, was born. There weren’t many other Brazilians in Fort Lauderdale, and I didn’t know anyone else who spoke Portuguese. I was homesick and wanted to go back. I didn’t realize how much I would end up loving Florida.

I became a bus driver at a private school, later joining its cafeteria as a cook, helping to feed about 900 diners every day. The work taught me how to prepare meals for large groups, and it inspired me. I thought to myself that one day I could cook for a lot of people and make them happy.

I asked Eddy to build an outdoor wood stove, like the one my parents had on our small farm when I was growing up in the mountains of Minas Gerais. That was just the start. After that came the chicken coop, a rabbit cave, a swing for the kids, a choo-choo train and picnic tables. Eddy finished my dream, even before I had finished dreaming. I also became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze. All of it brings a contagious happiness.

I became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze.

We began entertaining our friends from church, making hearty soups and stews on the stove from my family’s Northern Brazilian recipes: oxtail, canja (chicken stew), sweet corn with cloves and coconut milk. After a friend posted about it on social media, I got 1,000 friend requests. The meals grew bigger: shrimp and fish, bacon and corn, and sweet peanut butter and coconut soups. Mashed yuca with jerky made with cheese, heavy cream and a hearty Brazilian butter. Feijão tropeiro, a classic dish of bacon and sausage mixed with pinto beans, onion, green onions, garlic and cilantro. Farofa, made from toasted cassava flour. Chicken and okra, the most traditional dish from my state. Baby back ribs. Fresh red snapper slow-cooked with onions, peppers, coconut milk and cilantro. Corn grits. We finished dinner with a table of sweets: tapioca flan dulce de leche coconut, corn, vegan orange, gluten-free yuca and chocolate cakes passion fruit mousse and ice cream. After dessert, we have ’smores around the fire pit for the kids. Regina’s Farm/Fazendinha da Regina eventually became a welcoming place for people to gather, and to raise funds for the church and to help the needy in our community.

Our preparation starts on Tuesday, to allow for more flavor through slow cooking, and continues through the week. On Saturday, when we usually hold our feasts, we are up by 5:30 a.m. to buy fresh sugarcane, collard greens and corn from the markets in Miami. Because South Florida has such a diversity of people, culture and flavors from all over the world, I can find all the ingredients I need. And now I hear people speaking Portuguese when I’m shopping.

At Regina’s Farm, locals and tourists sit around tables, celebrating life, having long conversations with family, friends and strangers, sharing precious moments that transport them to a place that warms the hearts. When I see the joy of the children running safely around the yard, and people eating the cheese bread, listening to the music, drinking wine, sugarcane juice or Brazilian coffee, all while the smell of burning wood floats through the air, my heart rejoices. It would not have been possible if I had not been welcomed by this paradise. Florida inspired me, loved me, accepted and adopted me. It is a place to make your dreams come true.

After Rodrigues opened up her home to visitors from around the world to get a taste of Brazil through her outdoor home-cooked feasts, the waitlist grew as long as two years for a reservation. In 2017, Miami New Times voted Regina’s Farm the best new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More

What a Coconut Can Teach You

In summer 1993, I moved to South Florida. I was 15, and the first thing I remembered after getting off the plane was the weather. We never had humidity like this in San Francisco. The way it rained was crazy: dark clouds roaring in, followed by a five-minute torrential downpour and then gone. Sometimes it rained on one side of the street and not the other. I had so much animosity about being in South Florida, I planned to take off as soon as I graduated from high school.

One of the reasons my mother, who is Trinidadian-Chinese, wanted to move to South Florida was to be closer to the Caribbean, where she grew up. She had also remarried, with my Jamaican stepfather, and they were able to buy a house. Homeowners in the region need to buy a machete to cut the coconuts down, because there are coconut trees everywhere. As a fat, young, mixed kid coming from the city, I had no interest in getting involved. I didn’t want to climb a sticky tree with these things dropping on my head, and I didn’t want to cut off my damn thumb. But then you learn — and you put a straw in it right away or throw it in the freezer, and you drink that cold coconut water. And once you get that, you can continue cracking it on the pavement and use part of the husk as a spoon and scrape all the jelly inside to eat. It's a magical thing.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida.

These things make you a Floridian. You go from jeans to shorts, sweaters to tank tops and T-shirts, sneakers and boots to sandals. You put on some Gregory Isaacs while you prepare your green sauce, a basic condiment for Trinidadian recipes. We were immersed in a culture in which we were seeing people of all walks of life — Latin Caribbean, Afro Caribbean, Haitian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban. All of these little things calm you down a little bit, and you begin to relax.

My initial love for cooking began as a child in the Bay Area. On Saturdays, instead of cartoons, I watched Martin Yan on his TV show, “Yan Can Cook.” Back then, I was a latchkey kid and cooked a lot for myself. But it was more about sustenance. Once we moved, my mom prepared a lot of our meals. It was Caribbean food all the time because she could get dasheen, or taro leaves, for callaloo breadfruit bacalao salt fish Johnny cakes, a fried flatbread and green or ripe plantains. It’s soulful food, and it made me start to look at the whole picture.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida. The connection of food, land and culture is everywhere. It's in the lush landscape, as you walk on the streets past mango, lychee and papaya trees. People throw seeds in their backyards and grow plants like Scotch bonnet peppers. Or you go down to Little Haiti in Miami, and there are roosters and chickens. The ocean provides beautiful fishing. Florida molded me to focus on my dream and cook my culture. It took a long time to get here, but I think that's why I ultimately ended up staying: the diversity of culture and the elements of nature and what those lend to my cooking style and philosophy.

In 2019, Balloo launched T. Balloo Hospitality Group and Balloo Restaurant in Miami. This year, he was nominated for Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation. He was also the chef-founder of Sugarcane, which earned him the 2010 Eater Miami Chef of the Year award.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More


Postcards From Florida

Two celebrated chefs share how they came to South Florida, and why they stayed. This is the second in a series of short stories by notable Floridians.

I arrived in Florida in 1992 with my husband, Eddy, and our 4-year-old son, Caio. Our cousin had invited us for just a visit, but we fell in love with America and decided to stay. Eddy got a job at a church, and Fort Lauderdale has been our home since. We chose to live in the cozy Sailboat Bend neighborhood, in a small but charming house with an enormous backyard planted with oak and palm trees. The next year, our son, Matthew, was born. There weren’t many other Brazilians in Fort Lauderdale, and I didn’t know anyone else who spoke Portuguese. I was homesick and wanted to go back. I didn’t realize how much I would end up loving Florida.

I became a bus driver at a private school, later joining its cafeteria as a cook, helping to feed about 900 diners every day. The work taught me how to prepare meals for large groups, and it inspired me. I thought to myself that one day I could cook for a lot of people and make them happy.

I asked Eddy to build an outdoor wood stove, like the one my parents had on our small farm when I was growing up in the mountains of Minas Gerais. That was just the start. After that came the chicken coop, a rabbit cave, a swing for the kids, a choo-choo train and picnic tables. Eddy finished my dream, even before I had finished dreaming. I also became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze. All of it brings a contagious happiness.

I became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze.

We began entertaining our friends from church, making hearty soups and stews on the stove from my family’s Northern Brazilian recipes: oxtail, canja (chicken stew), sweet corn with cloves and coconut milk. After a friend posted about it on social media, I got 1,000 friend requests. The meals grew bigger: shrimp and fish, bacon and corn, and sweet peanut butter and coconut soups. Mashed yuca with jerky made with cheese, heavy cream and a hearty Brazilian butter. Feijão tropeiro, a classic dish of bacon and sausage mixed with pinto beans, onion, green onions, garlic and cilantro. Farofa, made from toasted cassava flour. Chicken and okra, the most traditional dish from my state. Baby back ribs. Fresh red snapper slow-cooked with onions, peppers, coconut milk and cilantro. Corn grits. We finished dinner with a table of sweets: tapioca flan dulce de leche coconut, corn, vegan orange, gluten-free yuca and chocolate cakes passion fruit mousse and ice cream. After dessert, we have ’smores around the fire pit for the kids. Regina’s Farm/Fazendinha da Regina eventually became a welcoming place for people to gather, and to raise funds for the church and to help the needy in our community.

Our preparation starts on Tuesday, to allow for more flavor through slow cooking, and continues through the week. On Saturday, when we usually hold our feasts, we are up by 5:30 a.m. to buy fresh sugarcane, collard greens and corn from the markets in Miami. Because South Florida has such a diversity of people, culture and flavors from all over the world, I can find all the ingredients I need. And now I hear people speaking Portuguese when I’m shopping.

At Regina’s Farm, locals and tourists sit around tables, celebrating life, having long conversations with family, friends and strangers, sharing precious moments that transport them to a place that warms the hearts. When I see the joy of the children running safely around the yard, and people eating the cheese bread, listening to the music, drinking wine, sugarcane juice or Brazilian coffee, all while the smell of burning wood floats through the air, my heart rejoices. It would not have been possible if I had not been welcomed by this paradise. Florida inspired me, loved me, accepted and adopted me. It is a place to make your dreams come true.

After Rodrigues opened up her home to visitors from around the world to get a taste of Brazil through her outdoor home-cooked feasts, the waitlist grew as long as two years for a reservation. In 2017, Miami New Times voted Regina’s Farm the best new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

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What a Coconut Can Teach You

In summer 1993, I moved to South Florida. I was 15, and the first thing I remembered after getting off the plane was the weather. We never had humidity like this in San Francisco. The way it rained was crazy: dark clouds roaring in, followed by a five-minute torrential downpour and then gone. Sometimes it rained on one side of the street and not the other. I had so much animosity about being in South Florida, I planned to take off as soon as I graduated from high school.

One of the reasons my mother, who is Trinidadian-Chinese, wanted to move to South Florida was to be closer to the Caribbean, where she grew up. She had also remarried, with my Jamaican stepfather, and they were able to buy a house. Homeowners in the region need to buy a machete to cut the coconuts down, because there are coconut trees everywhere. As a fat, young, mixed kid coming from the city, I had no interest in getting involved. I didn’t want to climb a sticky tree with these things dropping on my head, and I didn’t want to cut off my damn thumb. But then you learn — and you put a straw in it right away or throw it in the freezer, and you drink that cold coconut water. And once you get that, you can continue cracking it on the pavement and use part of the husk as a spoon and scrape all the jelly inside to eat. It's a magical thing.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida.

These things make you a Floridian. You go from jeans to shorts, sweaters to tank tops and T-shirts, sneakers and boots to sandals. You put on some Gregory Isaacs while you prepare your green sauce, a basic condiment for Trinidadian recipes. We were immersed in a culture in which we were seeing people of all walks of life — Latin Caribbean, Afro Caribbean, Haitian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban. All of these little things calm you down a little bit, and you begin to relax.

My initial love for cooking began as a child in the Bay Area. On Saturdays, instead of cartoons, I watched Martin Yan on his TV show, “Yan Can Cook.” Back then, I was a latchkey kid and cooked a lot for myself. But it was more about sustenance. Once we moved, my mom prepared a lot of our meals. It was Caribbean food all the time because she could get dasheen, or taro leaves, for callaloo breadfruit bacalao salt fish Johnny cakes, a fried flatbread and green or ripe plantains. It’s soulful food, and it made me start to look at the whole picture.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida. The connection of food, land and culture is everywhere. It's in the lush landscape, as you walk on the streets past mango, lychee and papaya trees. People throw seeds in their backyards and grow plants like Scotch bonnet peppers. Or you go down to Little Haiti in Miami, and there are roosters and chickens. The ocean provides beautiful fishing. Florida molded me to focus on my dream and cook my culture. It took a long time to get here, but I think that's why I ultimately ended up staying: the diversity of culture and the elements of nature and what those lend to my cooking style and philosophy.

In 2019, Balloo launched T. Balloo Hospitality Group and Balloo Restaurant in Miami. This year, he was nominated for Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation. He was also the chef-founder of Sugarcane, which earned him the 2010 Eater Miami Chef of the Year award.

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Postcards From Florida

Two celebrated chefs share how they came to South Florida, and why they stayed. This is the second in a series of short stories by notable Floridians.

I arrived in Florida in 1992 with my husband, Eddy, and our 4-year-old son, Caio. Our cousin had invited us for just a visit, but we fell in love with America and decided to stay. Eddy got a job at a church, and Fort Lauderdale has been our home since. We chose to live in the cozy Sailboat Bend neighborhood, in a small but charming house with an enormous backyard planted with oak and palm trees. The next year, our son, Matthew, was born. There weren’t many other Brazilians in Fort Lauderdale, and I didn’t know anyone else who spoke Portuguese. I was homesick and wanted to go back. I didn’t realize how much I would end up loving Florida.

I became a bus driver at a private school, later joining its cafeteria as a cook, helping to feed about 900 diners every day. The work taught me how to prepare meals for large groups, and it inspired me. I thought to myself that one day I could cook for a lot of people and make them happy.

I asked Eddy to build an outdoor wood stove, like the one my parents had on our small farm when I was growing up in the mountains of Minas Gerais. That was just the start. After that came the chicken coop, a rabbit cave, a swing for the kids, a choo-choo train and picnic tables. Eddy finished my dream, even before I had finished dreaming. I also became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze. All of it brings a contagious happiness.

I became captivated by the white-sand beaches and warm waters, the sun and the hot weather, the way the palm trees sway in the evening breeze.

We began entertaining our friends from church, making hearty soups and stews on the stove from my family’s Northern Brazilian recipes: oxtail, canja (chicken stew), sweet corn with cloves and coconut milk. After a friend posted about it on social media, I got 1,000 friend requests. The meals grew bigger: shrimp and fish, bacon and corn, and sweet peanut butter and coconut soups. Mashed yuca with jerky made with cheese, heavy cream and a hearty Brazilian butter. Feijão tropeiro, a classic dish of bacon and sausage mixed with pinto beans, onion, green onions, garlic and cilantro. Farofa, made from toasted cassava flour. Chicken and okra, the most traditional dish from my state. Baby back ribs. Fresh red snapper slow-cooked with onions, peppers, coconut milk and cilantro. Corn grits. We finished dinner with a table of sweets: tapioca flan dulce de leche coconut, corn, vegan orange, gluten-free yuca and chocolate cakes passion fruit mousse and ice cream. After dessert, we have ’smores around the fire pit for the kids. Regina’s Farm/Fazendinha da Regina eventually became a welcoming place for people to gather, and to raise funds for the church and to help the needy in our community.

Our preparation starts on Tuesday, to allow for more flavor through slow cooking, and continues through the week. On Saturday, when we usually hold our feasts, we are up by 5:30 a.m. to buy fresh sugarcane, collard greens and corn from the markets in Miami. Because South Florida has such a diversity of people, culture and flavors from all over the world, I can find all the ingredients I need. And now I hear people speaking Portuguese when I’m shopping.

At Regina’s Farm, locals and tourists sit around tables, celebrating life, having long conversations with family, friends and strangers, sharing precious moments that transport them to a place that warms the hearts. When I see the joy of the children running safely around the yard, and people eating the cheese bread, listening to the music, drinking wine, sugarcane juice or Brazilian coffee, all while the smell of burning wood floats through the air, my heart rejoices. It would not have been possible if I had not been welcomed by this paradise. Florida inspired me, loved me, accepted and adopted me. It is a place to make your dreams come true.

After Rodrigues opened up her home to visitors from around the world to get a taste of Brazil through her outdoor home-cooked feasts, the waitlist grew as long as two years for a reservation. In 2017, Miami New Times voted Regina’s Farm the best new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More

What a Coconut Can Teach You

In summer 1993, I moved to South Florida. I was 15, and the first thing I remembered after getting off the plane was the weather. We never had humidity like this in San Francisco. The way it rained was crazy: dark clouds roaring in, followed by a five-minute torrential downpour and then gone. Sometimes it rained on one side of the street and not the other. I had so much animosity about being in South Florida, I planned to take off as soon as I graduated from high school.

One of the reasons my mother, who is Trinidadian-Chinese, wanted to move to South Florida was to be closer to the Caribbean, where she grew up. She had also remarried, with my Jamaican stepfather, and they were able to buy a house. Homeowners in the region need to buy a machete to cut the coconuts down, because there are coconut trees everywhere. As a fat, young, mixed kid coming from the city, I had no interest in getting involved. I didn’t want to climb a sticky tree with these things dropping on my head, and I didn’t want to cut off my damn thumb. But then you learn — and you put a straw in it right away or throw it in the freezer, and you drink that cold coconut water. And once you get that, you can continue cracking it on the pavement and use part of the husk as a spoon and scrape all the jelly inside to eat. It's a magical thing.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida.

These things make you a Floridian. You go from jeans to shorts, sweaters to tank tops and T-shirts, sneakers and boots to sandals. You put on some Gregory Isaacs while you prepare your green sauce, a basic condiment for Trinidadian recipes. We were immersed in a culture in which we were seeing people of all walks of life — Latin Caribbean, Afro Caribbean, Haitian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban. All of these little things calm you down a little bit, and you begin to relax.

My initial love for cooking began as a child in the Bay Area. On Saturdays, instead of cartoons, I watched Martin Yan on his TV show, “Yan Can Cook.” Back then, I was a latchkey kid and cooked a lot for myself. But it was more about sustenance. Once we moved, my mom prepared a lot of our meals. It was Caribbean food all the time because she could get dasheen, or taro leaves, for callaloo breadfruit bacalao salt fish Johnny cakes, a fried flatbread and green or ripe plantains. It’s soulful food, and it made me start to look at the whole picture.

Cooking had felt like an unattainable career, but it finally made sense in South Florida. The connection of food, land and culture is everywhere. It's in the lush landscape, as you walk on the streets past mango, lychee and papaya trees. People throw seeds in their backyards and grow plants like Scotch bonnet peppers. Or you go down to Little Haiti in Miami, and there are roosters and chickens. The ocean provides beautiful fishing. Florida molded me to focus on my dream and cook my culture. It took a long time to get here, but I think that's why I ultimately ended up staying: the diversity of culture and the elements of nature and what those lend to my cooking style and philosophy.

In 2019, Balloo launched T. Balloo Hospitality Group and Balloo Restaurant in Miami. This year, he was nominated for Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation. He was also the chef-founder of Sugarcane, which earned him the 2010 Eater Miami Chef of the Year award.

Find your own Florida stories.

Learn More


Watch the video: 2010 James Beard Awards Highlights Video (January 2022).