A graduate of Miami Senior High, Chef Juan Loaisiga brings a passion for Florida’s freshest ingredients to his current position as Chef de Cuisine at the Traymore Restaurant and Bar at COMO Metropolitan, Miami Beach. Born in Nicaragua, the young chef got his first taste of the culinary arts working beside his mother in their family kitchen. Bolstered by her enthusiasm, he spent most of his spare time helping out in the family restaurant before departing for culinary school at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu.
Taking his formal training as a chef to heart, Loaisiga got his start on tony Grove Isle where he first served as an intern at Gibraltar, a spectacular waterfront eatery specializing in seafood. Learning the art of selecting, butchering and preparing Florida’s pristine daily catch led to the young chef’s advancement during the three and a half years he worked on the line. In January 2014, he moved on to serve under Executive Chef Jonathan Lane who launched The Traymore Restaurant and Bar at COMO Metropolitan on Miami Beach.
Tackling the responsibilities for the inaugural U.S. property of COMO Hotels and Resorts proved an important step in Chef Loaisiga’s development as he moved from Line Cook to Sous Chef and ultimately took over as Chef de Cuisine earlier this year. A popular destination for locals and travelers, The Traymore has garnered a reputation as a world class seafood restaurant in the heart of South Beach. He notes with pride that, “our menu is completely influenced by Florida. We are a seafood restaurant, so we use as much of the local ingredients and fish as we can at all times. I ensure everything is seasonal and the freshest possible.”
Fish and shellfish are sourced from small fisheries in Florida and each dish is served less than 24 hours after it was caught. Focusing upon reliable, sustainable sources, Loaisiga’s menu keeps things simple and flavorful. Crisply fried mahi mahi is topped with a celeriac remoulade, tarragon and caper mayonnaise. Whole roast fish of the day gets a bright squeeze of lemon, a hint of marjoram and some briny capers. Cedar plank roasted local fish pairs perfectly with eggplant and fennel, napped in a toasted pine nut sauce. A few entrees for landlubbers include tender chicken roast in a tagine with preserved lemon and a perfectly grilled prime beef filet paired with roast potatoes in a porcini mushroom truffle Madiera sauce.
Focusing upon the day to day operations of a restaurant that serves from 7am until 11pm requires a measure of purpose and maturity. Chef Loaisiga runs his team with a sense of calm and poise that belies his young age. South Beach Magazine spent some time getting to know Loaisiga who assured us that at The Traymore, “everything is made with the utmost attention to detail and we cook all our dishes with a lot of love.”
Please share your impressions living and working as a chef in Miami.
It’s hard work being a chef in Miami, but very rewarding. There’s a lot of talented competition and everyone these days seems to be a critic, so you have to be on top of your game. Widespread consumer commentary on social media can either be a major advantage or very detrimental towards the success of a restaurant. Culinary standards are being raised every month, especially with the multiple restaurants continuously opening. It’s an exciting time to be in South Florida as a chef.
What is your favorite thing about being a chef in Miami right now?
I love the diversity this region brings to the food scene. With the visitors increasingly coming from all four corners of the world to Miami, it brings even bigger challenges to deliver something people can relate to. I feel my flavor combinations and creativity are more widely appreciated than ever before.
Grilled octopus is served with roast red peppers, kalamata olives, golden potatoes and salsa verde
If you hadn’t decided to become a chef, what would you be doing?
I’ve always wanted to be in the culinary industry, so I’ve never really thought of doing anything else.
What do you think the Miami food scene needs most and what would you like to see go away?
The food scene in Miami needs more locally sourced dishes with ingredients that are native to Florida. I feel there is still too much produce and products that are imported or harvested from distant regions and sometimes abroad. This affects the quality and freshness of the final plate.
The one thing I would like to see less of is people who think they are food experts and feel they are qualified to broadcast their opinion on what should be improved.
When you’re not at work, where do you like to dine in South Florida?
My favorite place to dine is at home, without question. You cannot beat a home cooked meal.
When you are cooking at home (for yourself or your friends & family), what’s your go-to dish?
Barbeque Salmon. Seafood on the grill is the best!
What are the dishes you remember most from your childhood or as a younger chef, and how do those flavors influence your menu at the restaurant today?
I remember the vegetable dishes that were considered obscure in my younger years as an adolescent and when I started cooking. Now I am more experienced in the kitchen. I enjoy experimenting with vegetables and making the flavors burst next to a great piece of meat or fish and with the variety of sauces I love to make. I want people to relate to every dish placed in front of them
How has cooking in Florida changed or inspired you as a chef? Do you find your menu is influenced by the produce available in Florida?
It’s always important to be one step ahead of the new trend and predict what people are looking for next. There are so many creative chefs who are admired for their foresight and innovation, and that is what the best chefs have to strive toward – reinvention. Our menu at The Traymore Restaurant and Bar is completely influenced by Florida. We are a seafood restaurant, so we use as much of the local ingredients and fish as we can at all times. I ensure everything is seasonal and the freshest possible.
What’s one thing you want diners to know about the menu at your restaurant – perhaps your favorite dish, an unexpected entree or the inspiration behind one of the dishes you decided to include on the menu?
I want our guests to know we are a local restaurant for them to experience the local tastes and flavors of the region. Everything is made with the utmost attention to detail and we cook all our dishes with a lot of love. Our snapper and duck entrees are new to the dinner menu and are becoming a huge favorite with returning patrons.
The Traymore Restaurant and Bar at COMO Metropolitan, Miami Beach serves seven days a week. Breakfast, 7am – 11am, Lunch 11am – 3:30pm, Dinner 6pm – 11pm. A tapas menu is also served from 11am – 6pm.