It’s a hot Friday in Miami’s booming Brickell neighborhood, and the DJ-driven happy hour is in full swing at S Bar, the stylish street-level bar and lounge at the new SLS LUX Brickell Hotel & Residences (805 South Miami Avenue, Miami. Tel: 305-455-2982. www.slslux.com).
Opened in June 2018, the 57-story tower, its base skirted in a massive colorstriped mural, is the latest Miami flag in LA-based SBE Entertainment Group’s (sbe, for short) expanding global luxury lifestyle hospitality empire.
I’m weekending here to interview Denevin Miranda, executive chef in charge of food & beverage at the property, including the star dining attraction, Katsuya (www.slshotels.com/lux-brickell/dining). Adjacent to S Bar, it’s the 14th location to date of the sbe partner restaurant from Japanese-born, LA-based master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi.
Before experiencing this highly regarded modern sushi and robata temple, I spent an hour with Miranda in the tower’s scenic 9th-floor outdoor garden oasis. Crisp in his chef’s whites and cutting a sculpted figure (he’s devoted to fitness and healthy living), the personable 32-year-old, who has 93,000-plus followers on his Instagram account (@fitchefsobe), shared the poignant roots of his career journey.
Like so many future culinary stars, inspiration began at home, from his mother’s mother, Liberata David. Starting darkly long before he was born, his is anything but a common origin story. “My grandfather owned apartment buildings and farmland in Tarlac City, north of Manila in the Philippines,” said Miranda. “Tending the farms one day, he was murdered by bandits.”
In the wake of her husband’s demise, Liberata, “a born entrepreneur,” sold the farms and opened a small restaurant. “By then,” recalled Miranda, “her grown children, led by my uncle, had begun emigrating to New York, settling on Long Island. “She was the last to come over, along with my mother, then a teenager, who later married my father, a Filipino from Queens, N.Y.”
Born in 1986, Miranda deeply bonded with Liberata, who lived with the family and immersed him in Filipino traditions. “My most beautiful childhood memories are of her,” he said. “She had a green thumb, cultivating exotic fruits and vegetables in our backyard instead of trekking to the Asian markets in Queens or Manhattan. In the kitchen, she made everything from scratch. For coconut milk, she jerry-rigged a stool with a metal hook and grated coconuts by hand, wringing the milk through cheesecloth. And she was always inviting people to the house and putting on a spread. Bringing people together over food is an integral part of Filipino culture.”