Santiago “Santi” Cardona is a name you might not know, but you should. As a writer (see Miami Culinary Tours, Haute Dining), baker (check him out on Instagram and at Buttercream Cupcakes & Coffee), and restaurant industry veteran (having worked at Lokal and Kush), he’s pretty much a renaissance man of the Miami food scene. Most importantly, however, Santi is just an all around nice guy and we couldn’t be more thrilled to share some insights into his background and Miami food picks with you in this month’s #FoodieFriends interview. May also happens to be Santi’s birthday month so be sure to wish him a happy belated!
We recently met up with Santi at one of his favorite restaurants, Proof Pizza & Pasta, to try some of their most popular dishes (Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Oxtail Pizza, Angel Hair Pasta with Crab, Salted Caramel Pretzel Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich) and to get to know him a little better. Here’s what we learned…
What is your favorite thing about Miami?
Miami is where I grew up. It has made me the person I am today by teaching me about cultural acceptance, whether it be through food, music, or architecture. There are only a few places in the world that are such a magnet for a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities, and it makes me happy to be able to call one of them home.
Which Miami neighborhood best personifies you?
I’m a huge fan of The Grove. I wouldn’t say that it has my favorite restaurants in the city, but the atmosphere you can find in that community is unlike anything other neighborhoods in Miami offer. The fact that most restaurants are dog-friendly is a huge plus for me, and I find myself constantly going to Lokal and Taurus, some of my regular spots. Besides, I foresee a massive Coconut Grove revival within the next few years.
Other than Miami, what foodie city would you like to live in?
Can I give two answers for this one? I find Chicago to be the most food-friendly city in America. Not trying to knock New York off the throne, but there’s something about Chicago that is just inviting in a way that I haven’t experienced anywhere else. On top of that, Chicago has regional food that no one in the country has been able to replicate. Good Deep Dish, Italian Beef, or Chicago style Hot Dogs outside of Chicago? Yea, it doesn’t exist.
My second pick goes to Buenos Aires. I recently took a trip there and was blown away by how perfectly it manages to extrude South American and European culture (and cuisine) simultaneously. And I still stand by my notion that I have never had a better steak in my life.
How did you get into blogging?
That’s actually a pretty funny question. I may be one of the only #FoodieFriends that doesn’t have their own blog per se. In fact, I freelance both for Miami Culinary Tours and HauteDining, which allows me to go to food-related events and meet wonderful people such as Mitch and Mel. I may start doing my own thing in the future…
How do you stay informed about the Miami food scene?
Working for Miami Culinary Tours and HauteDining thankfully gives me access to abundant press releases and information regarding the Miami food scene. Anything I can’t find through them I find through fellow bloggers such as Mitch and Mel, Miami Food Pug, BurgerBeast, RandoMiami, and CaviarChronicles. Yes, I just gave some shout-outs.
What is your foodie motto?
People who love to eat are always the best people. -Julia Child
What are some of your non-food-related hobbies?
I’m actually an avid long distance runner. I find myself running 6 to 8 miles five times a week, which helps offset all the food I eat. Besides that, I’m extremely passionate about music and have a pretty good vinyl collection.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Traveling and eating. Whenever I travel, I base my itinerary entirely off food destinations. I try to travel various times a year, which has taken me to cities like Chicago, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Osaka, and Hanoi.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I’m dreadfully bad at dancing. I’m determined to learn one day.
If you only could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Either fried chicken or burgers. Or donuts. Or pizza. Do you really expect me to choose just one?
Who is your favorite chef and why?
Sean Brock. His dedication to preserving Southern culture and cuisine is not only inspiring, but also essential to remembering our American history. I had the pleasure of dining at Husk last time I was in Nashville and was blown away by how he presents humble dishes such as Biscuits and Gravy, Shrimp and Grits, and A Plate of Vegetables.
What food trend are you most into right now and what food trend would you most like to go away?
I can never get enough of the craft beer scene. It seems to be very popular and I’ve been a fan for years. I went to FIU for Hospitality Management and did my internship at Lokal and Kush, where Matt Kuscher and Dave Rodriguez mentored me about what good beer is and where to find it. I can never thank them enough.
I really want Juice Cleanses to stop. I just don’t understand why people would want to willingly deprive themselves of food. Besides, a person undergoing these “cleanses” gets easily irritable.
Do you cook? If so, what’s your favorite dish to prepare?
I actually cook a lot. I make a mean burger, which is something I learned how to do during my internship at Lokal. Still, I would consider myself more of a baker. I bake various times a week, much to the detriment of my family. They are constantly blaming me for expanding waistlines, although they happily eat everything once it comes out of the oven.
Cheers to our #FoodieFriends and their own great adventure around our city!