For Miranda, it was a calling. “In high school, I skipped gym for home economics and cooking classes. I cooked competitively. I baked and sold cakes to people in my mother’s office. At home, I experimented with different national cuisines and recipes. My grandmother frowned on me for going outside of tradition and always said I could do better, but that was just her pushing me. Those times with her in the garden, the kitchen. and around the table left me with a deep and lasting appreciation for culinary arts and tradition.”
Liberata passed away in his junior year of high school. Following graduation, Miranda relocated to Orlando with his parents. Drawn by the school’s business-oriented curriculum, he enrolled at the North Miami branch of Johnson & Wales University. En route to his associate degree, he earned a coveted internship at Azul, the restaurant opened inside the five-star, five-diamond Mandarin Oriental, Miami hotel by James Beard-winner and Johnson & Wales alumna Michelle Bernstein.
“Azul was the benchmark of Miami’s culinary future,” said Miranda, one of only five students chosen from dozens of qualified applicants. Following “an amazing year at Azul,” he planned on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management at Florida International University (FIU). To support himself, he stepped away from the kitchen. “Cooking full-time while pursuing my studies would have been too stressful, so I focused ” on retail. My friends claimed it was lucrative, part time work with minimal pressure.”
After a series of odd jobs, he applied for a sales position in men’s clothing at the Bloomingdale’s in Aventura, north of Miami. It was a detour that put his career on the fast track, when his resume got him hired instead to run the demonstration kitchen in the housewares department. First it was curious seniors and mall joggers, but Miranda soon attracted a following, and with entrepreneurial flair, got maximum juice from the year-long gig. “I routinely brought in guest chefs, including my instructors and even Michelle Bernstein, and developed recipes around different kitchen product lines. And, I started making valuable connections.”
Those contacts included Jonathan Wright, a bright young British chef who had worked with Gordon Ramsay and was then executive chef at the Setai Miami Beach, another luxurious bellwether of Miami’s emerging high-end dining scene. Leaving FIU behind, Miranda joined Wright’s Michelin-starred team and over the next seven years, rose from junior sous chef to chef de cuisine. Along the way, he also found a new direction for his craft. “Focused on Pan-Asian cuisine, we regularly flew in chefs from around Asia, including China, India, Malaysia, and Thailand. Having all those styles under one roof taught me so much and only deepened my interest in pursuing Asian cuisine.”