I was born and raised in Miami with a Cuban father and a Guatemalan mother. I entered the food industry at 20, starting as a busser at @eating_house , thanks to my cousin’s help. One day, there was a no-call no-show in the kitchen, and I stepped in for assistance. However, I later became a server, making good money but feeling unfulfilled. The kitchen called me back, facing challenges, but determined to grow, I decided to stay one year and see where it took me.

Looking for growth, I applied to @gheemiami , an Indian staple in the city; I started as a cook at the fryer station, unsure of my skills with spices and flavor combinations. The Chef’s mother-in-law mentored me, pushing me to improve. Her guidance helped me develop my skills, and I realized the importance of pace and intensity in a kitchen.

After a while, I realized I couldn’t stay comfortable; I needed to keep improving. So, I moved to @itamaeao , a renowned Nikkei chef counter, where consistency and quality were the standards. There, doubt never entered the picture – there was only one way to do things: the right way.

Later, while helping to manage a new concept, I met Tam, who hosted Vietnamese pop-up dinners. We quickly became close friends, and when the opportunity to open @tam.tam.mia arose, he offered me the Sous Chef position. I learned to manage people and my time efficiently, creating a supportive kitchen environment and hosting my own pop-up (@isabelsmiami ) on the last Sunday of the Month. But let’s be honest: ten years in this industry have taught me that mistakes are inevitable, and if more chefs took the time to mentor instead of belittling, the industry would be a better place, and talent would flourish.

I believe Miami is evolving, with passionate individuals driving change and creativity. We’re breaking through, following our unique path, independent of other cities. It’s an exciting time when creatives are coming together to inspire the next generation.