Cristian Cuevas, Executive Chef, BTW
As executive chef at BTW (Burger Taco Whiskey), Cristian Cuevas has infused his culinary background and extensive experience as a member of the 50 Eggs family into the menu of classic street food at the South Beach destination. Cristian started out with 50 Eggs as a line cook and then sous chef at Yardbird before helping open Khong River House as chef de cuisine. Prior to taking the helm at BTW, Cristian also served as the chef de cuisine at Swine Southern Table & Bar.
Chef Cuevas also has some exceptional experience working with some of the culinary world’s biggest stars, including time in the New York kitchens of Dan Barber’s Blue Hill, Charlie Palmer’s Aureole, and George Mendes’s Aldea, as well as in Miami with Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Gotham Steak, and Pubbelly.
Cristian is a native of Buffalo, New York, raised in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management from the University of Puerto Rico and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
What are the staple ingredients in your pantry?
Spanish Olive Oil, Kosher Salt, and Espelette Pepper.
If you had to pick one food item to best describe yourself, what would it be and why?
A chicharron: spicy, salty and crisp.
Who is your biggest culinary inspiration?
The Chef de Cuisine at Blue Hill, Trevor Kunk. He gave me my first job out of culinary school and taught me the true values of the kitchen: discipline, loyalty, sacrifice, passion and hard work. Trevor taught me how to cook, but, more importantly, he taught me the foundation of becoming a great chef and I have carried those ideals with me in my career ever since.
Other than your own, what’s your favorite restaurant in Miami right now?
I love Yakko-San on 163rd Street. They have the best Japanese food in Miami, very comparable to New York City.
Describe the BTW menu in three words.
Burger, Taco, Whiskey. Just Kidding. Comfort, American, Unpretentious.
If you could only have burgers, tacos, or whiskey for the rest of your life, which would you choose and why?
I would definitely choose a burger because it incorporates all the food groups into one great bite: meat, cheese, vegetables and bread.
You are a native of Puerto Rico, but are cooking very American food at BTW. How do you merge the two styles?
There is so much American influence in Puerto Rico, all of my mentors are on the American food scene. It’s almost like being bilingual because I know both cuisines very well and am able to integrate flavors and techniques from each into my cooking.
What are your favorite and least favorite food trends right now?
My favorite trend right now is high-quality, quick service, although that never goes out of style! Also, using fresh ingredients and serving food at good price points.
My least favorite is the tapas style or small plates style; I miss a la carte!
What is your favorite thing about living in Miami?
The Miami culture really allows me to feel at home. I really feel like the network of chefs in our community is like a family. I go out to eat and I always feel as if I am in a local neighborhood spot.
You’ll be participating at FLIPANY’s Chefs Up Front event on September 18th. Why did you decide to get involved and what can diners expect from you?
This is a great charity that I stand behind, and on top of that, the event style is a very cool concept. For me, the idea of departing from the typical restaurant setting and cooking for a small, intimate group is extremely gratifying; that’s my passion and that is what I get out of bed for each day!
Guests should expect awesome, seasonal ingredients and sublime culinary technique because the ingredients and technique go hand-in-hand. That is what I am about and that is what I hope my guests will experience.