If most restaurateurs based business names on childhood nicknames, you'd have a ton of job fairs dedicated to kitchen staff. In Albert Cabrera's case, however, a lifelong quirk can whet appetites.
Cabrera's brainchild, Bread + Butter, lives at the forefront of Miami's unique culinary renaissance by fusing the carefree charm of Cuba's mambo era with the modish slant of the modern American gastropub.
Located in the heart of Coral Gables, the locale fits in well with the region's cultural fabric. The chalkboard wall along the entrance, which boasts vintage grayscale photographs and a handwritten excerpt of a famous Jose Marti poem, sits across from a bar area bolstered by reclaimed wood.
Together with the penchant for subway tile, exposed ceiling and DIY dangling light bulbs, it's an urban rustic genre mash of Little Havana kitsch and Brooklyn chic - not unlike the fusion son montuno you may hear blasting through the floor speakers.
But as with any great restaurant, the decor is only the first course. While B+B's menu is anchored by stalwart Cuban dishes, it’s also garnished by the kinds of twists that define intelligent kitchens. Bone marrow meets ropa vieja, fried smelt is made tame with furikake and garlic aioli and even the traditional Cuban 'frita' burger has been subverted, marked by its inclusion of napa cabbage kimchi and sriracha ketchup.
Oh, and then there are the liquid nitrogen shakes, of course.
On a more personal level, B+B is the culmination of a more than a decade's worth of career lessons for Cabrera. And like so many gifted chefs before him, he's immersed himself in techniques of alta cocina and come full circle to embrace his heritage. "It was important to create something inspired by family because Cubans are very family oriented," says Cabrera.
Cabrera's offering to the city's palate isn't just another Cuban restaurant. He's reviving a cuisine that's often formulaic in light of it's classicism, abiding by a very contemporary remix ethos that helps update the cult of rice and beans. And not to mention, whether you're a creative in your 20s or you spend most of your time swapping cards with the city's chief influencers, no one ever has qualms about another spot for Cuban coffee.
We wanted to merge an authentic Cuban cafeteria with a gastropub, bringing those two cultures together.
When Albert Cabrera was young, he'd often join his parents on their visits to Cuba. They stayed at his aunt's farm where he'd devour entire loaves of bread with butter for breakfast. And since Cubans are rather quick to appoint nicknames, the moniker 'Pan con Mantequilla' (or Bread and Butter) just kind of stuck.
So while some chefs can't wait to splatter their names on the front door of a restaurant, Cabrera hopes to help define a city's evolving palate, not just torward a personal mission.
It took the Miami native nearly two decades to reach this point, however. Having received no formal culinary education, the young Cabrera spent time on a jaunt around the US and across the pond before accepting a position at Baleen under Robbin Haas in the mid '90s. He moved on to chef Norman Van Aken's Norman a few years later, and received significant teachings in the techniques of alta cocina during a short stint at Sergi Arola's La Broche.
By the time Cabrera took on the executive chef position at Karu and Y, his gastronomic IQ was worthy of numerous accolades. The restaurant’s run was short lived, however, and after its premature closure, the chef worked with Cook Restaurants, V&E Restaurant Group and STK in various capacities before running the kitchen at his first Gables spot, The Local, in 2011.
So what’s the difference this time around? Bread + Butter is entirely Cabrera’s baby – from branding and concept to the menu, and even décor oversight. Cabrera is wisely embracing his own Cuban-American roots to subvert the cult of rice and beans, a sense of conventionality that symbolically goes beyond just a culinary reference in Miami.
Cabrera aims to channel family ties with Bread + Butter, hence the black and white photographs on the wall along the entrance. And since Cubans are notoriously inclusive when delegating familial titles – any Miamian knows that saying someone is your cousin doesn’t necessarily mean blood relative – Cabrera et al. invite you to swing by and reserve your spot in the family portrait.