Name: Timon Balloo
Title: Executive chef/partner
Location: Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill, 3252 NE First Ave., Miami, 786-3693-0353, SugarcaneRawBarGrill.com
Time at this location: Three years
Style of food prepared: Global small plates
Background: Balloo was honored as a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation in 2011 and as a nominee for Food & Wine magazine's The People's Best New Chef in 2011.
Balloo grew up in the California Bay area until he relocated to South Florida with his mother when he was 15 years old.
"I became interested in food when I was young. My family is Asian and Trinidadian, so growing up I would always have food from that region, whether it was wok stir fry or goat curry," he says.
Balloo attended Johnson & Wales University and cooked in Brussels, Belgium, before returning to Miami for stints at Chef Allen's, Azul, La Broche and Sushisamba.
"I'm fortunate to have garnered partnership in my current restaurant, Sugarcane, so it's a dream come true, and I work hard to maintain the consistency of the product we give the customers," says Balloo, who enjoys spending time with his wife, Marissa Balloo, and their 4-year-old daughter.
Q: What do you do differently at Sugarcane that is unique to other restaurants where you've worked?
A: It's actually more casual than the fine-dining restaurant culture I've worked in the past but with the same mindset.
Q: What are your two favorite dishes on the menu?
A: The bone marrow with cheek marmalade and country bread ($16) because it represents classic, old-world bistro fare. The duck and waffles with mustard maple syrup and duck egg ($18) are pure representation of my classical French training mixed with urban upbringing.
Q: What do you eat when you're not cooking?
A: A lot of Asian food, everything from Vietnamese pho to Thai noodles to Chinese dim sum.
Q: What's your most memorable meal?
A: I've had quite a few, but one of my favorites was at a small tapas restaurant in San Sebastián, Spain, eating a beautifully braised pig ear on top of a pureé of root vegetables with the local dried fruit.
Q: Who are your mentors?
A: I've had many, and each one has their own special contribution to my style of food, from Kris Wessel to his use of indigenous Florida ingredients and local product to Michelle Bernstein and her passion for bold use of flavors.
Q: If you weren't a chef, what do you think you'd be doing?
A: I'd be in the finance field. Love the numbers.
Q: What's your career goal?
A: To never stop learning, continue growing as a chef, opening more restaurants, expanding my culinary repertoire and cooking good food for good people.