Chef Allen Susser is synonymous with Florida cuisine. And true to his food philosophy of creating restaurants and relationships that endure and get better over time, he has once again proven that it’s not just longevity, but creativity that sets you a part in today’s culinary scene. Susser’s latest creation, The Farm-to-Table Dinner Series hosted at The Café at Books & Books | Adrienne Arsht Center, has grown as organically as the food he’s been serving fans that have adored and supported him for more than thirty years.
What started out as a 15-person Chef’s Table amidst the Arsht Center Farmer’s Market, has blossomed into a Monday night staple event that includes a five-course vegetarian dinner now hosting upwards of 50 guests. Meals are served family-style, at 6:30pm and reservations are accepted, but walk-ins are welcome as well.
“As the concept became more popular, I decided to create month-long themes to not just work with what was seasonal, but to also allow myself the ability to get creative and not repeat flavors and techniques,” said Chef Allen Susser.
Food themes in past months have included everything from Green is Good, a take on how southern staples like collard greens are prepared in Asheville, Memphis, New Orleans and Savannah, to Garden of Asia a spin on rich flavors coming out of Japan, Thailand and South Korea. For the month of May, guests will feast on A Taste of Rome, including ancient grains such as faro and barley as well as Roman sauces and cooking methods.
Chef Allen has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with Miami’s beloved bookstore, Books & Books. Originally taped to revamp The Café at the Coral Gables location, he has since had an influence in on Lincoln Road, The Arsht Center and a handful of other Books & Books establishments.
“The way Mitchell Kaplan cares about books is the way I care about food,” he said. Like-minded in their integration of community and charity into their business models, both yearn to take care of people and create atmospheres that enrich and bring people together. He treats each Books & Books Café location as its own entity and shared some insights on where his inspiration comes from.
The Café in the Gables is very much centered around the Gables community, hosting numerous event events throughout the year. The food on the menu is comfort-driven and Susser often times take inspiration from books or visiting authors. The Lincoln Road location caters to an international tourist crowd and Susser wants diners to experience a taste Florida, specifically a nibble of Miami. The menu is more approachable and representative of a local haunt, ensuring that visitors leave with hometown flavors near and dear to their hearts. At Arsht, the concept is more sustainable and offers up fare to theatergoers as well as locals in the downtown area. The Café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is a foothold in the community as the community develops around it.
So what’s next for Chef Allen?
Continuing to be creative is the name of the game for this culinary superstar. In addition to his thriving consultancy company that helps budding restaurateurs with everything from concept and menu creation to financials and staffing, he is hoping to bring the Farm-to-Table Dinner Series concept to Coral Gables this summer. Also on his plate, stone-ground, homemade chocolate grown from his very own cacao trees on his 30-acre organic farm at Jade Mountain, St. Lucia’s leading luxury resort. Right now the chocolate is only available at the resort, but a website is coming soon, offering Susserites an opportunity to purchase his choclately confections online – yum!
There is no doubting the impact Chef Allen has had on the culinary world. We’re just proud to call him ‘ours’ and can’t wait to see where his creative instincts lead us next…chocolate pop-up shop anyone??