Venoy Rogers III is a newbie to the Miami Beach culinary scene, which makes him a perfect fit for Miami Spice. The Foot Network “Chef Wanted’’ winner three months ago brought what he calls his “New American Fusion Cuisine’’ to Essensia Restaurant at the posh Palms Hotel & Spa, where he is executive chef, so Miami Spice is sort of Rogers’ “Welcome to Miami’’ moment. It’s an opportunity for him to get to know the Miami cuisine culture and for Miam foodies to get know him.
So far, so good. Rogers’ Miami Spice lunch ($23) and dinner ($39) for among the more eclectic and satisfying of the event, which goes through Sept. 30. It helps, of course, that Essensia overlooks a 750 square-foot herb garden and beyond that, the hotel’s pool and South Beach itself, but with his Miami Spice and regular menus, Rogers is showing way he has quickly made a name for himself among SoFla chefs.
Not bad for a guy – the son of a Marine – who was raised in San Diego and Oklahoma City. Rogers came to Miami by way of San Diego, where he was executive sous chef and interim executive chef at W San Diego.
“A lot of chefs share the same style of cooking and influences,’’ Rogers said. “I bring a little bit more of my Southern California days – Mexican and Baja cuisine.’’
Given that, it’s no surprise that Rogers’ Miami Spice lunch menu features Baja Fish Tacos, most of the time featuring grouper.
“I love the flavor of grouper and the fattiness and flakiness you get out of it,’’ Rogers said. “Even a little two ounce piece can be delicious when it’s done right.’’
Rogers’ inspirations, however, aren’t just Left Coast specific and each item on the Miami Spice lunch and dinner is exclusive to that menu, meaning they’re not on the regular Essensia menus.
“I take my inspiration from anywhere and everywhere,’’ he said. “In Miami, it’s not hard to find inspiration from the people and even the weather. It gets me thinking of something cool and refreshing.’’
In that regard, the Spinach and Grilled Watermelon Salad on the Miami Spice is a must. For a dinner entrée,’ the Angus Beef Short Rib with a red wine braise has outstanding flavor. If you’re looking for something a bit less traditional, try the Cauliflower “Steak’’ with garden herbs and sweet potato fettuccine.
“We cut the cauliflower almost like a steak (about one-and-half-inches thick) and steam it,’’ Rogers said. “Then we cover it with garden herbs and olive oil, seer it and serve it with a yellow bell pepper and chimichurri sauce.’’
Even if you’re not a fan of cauliflower, the taste and flavor will surprise you.
But that’s sort of what Rogers is there to do at Essensia – surprise you with flavors and inspiration.
And he doesn’t disappoint.