If we can cook it, you can cook it!

The Daily Meal just published my latest Travel Story…Miami here I come…

The Daily Meal just published my latest Travel Story…Miami here I come…

An Argentine Chef Brings Uruguayan Cuisine to the Latin American Capital of Miami

Staff Writer
Nano Crespo brings the best of South America to EAST, Miami
Chef Nano Crespo. Photo Credit EAST Miami
For as long as he can remember, Nano Crespo has worked in the kitchen — first at his grandmother’s side at home in Buenos Aires and then in restaurant kitchens starting at the ripe old age of 16. “I grew up around a kitchen,” Crespo says from his perch at Quinto La Huella, his Uruguayan restaurant in the stunning EAST, Miami hotel. Now his kitchen revolves around the parilla he has created in its center. The wood fire oven blazes with logs he selected because it was closest to that used at the restaurant’s namesake, the famed beachfront Parador La Huella in Jose Ignacio on Uruguay’s Atlantic coast. The parrilla turns out perfectly cooked fish, beef, chicken, and lamb.
While he was growing up in Buenos Aires in an enormous family whose roots lay in Spain and Italy, Crespo’s grandmother was an extraordinary cook. For Crespo, as for many Argentines, the family home’s brick-built parrilla provided an education in grilling meat. But his grandmother’s passion for paella and pasta making is her lifetime lesson to Crespo. His father shared the family passion for food. He was a partner in a restaurant called La Higuera (“The Fig Tree”) in the San Isidro neighborhood, and Nano was there night after night. He was just 16 years old when he enrolled at IAG, the Argentine Institute of Gastronomy, where he completed two years of a three-year program.
Crespo came to the United States in 1997. In California, he perfected his skills in Italian cuisine at Cecconi’s in West Hollywood. And it was there that he adopted the farm-to-table ethos that colors everything he does. He joined the Soho House team and opened their restaurants in West Hollywood, Toronto, and Chicago. From there, he was drafted by Swire Hotels to develop Quinto La Huella from the ground up.
Echoing the use of wood in the Parila, the bar uses it as a design motif.

The chef has a huge respect for Uruguayan ingredients and explains that because all of Uruguay lies near the sea, it incorporates seafood in its grill menus in a way that’s not seen in the land of beef, Argentina. All his seafood offerings are from the wild and all are sustainable and caught in Florida waters. For his meats, he both imports grass- and grain-fed products from Uruguay and uses local Florida beef. And the wood that fires his ovens is white and red oak and hickory sourced from northern Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi.

The Restaurant also serves as the Hotel’s Breakfast spot.

Crespo gives credit to famed Argentine chef Francis Mallman for the unique style of cooking at Quinto La Huella. Mallmann was a classically trained chef serving French food at his restaurants in Argentina and Uruguay, when he was invited to cook in Germany. He decided to serve a meal cooked the way he had seen gauchos and Indians cook growing up in Patagonia. He came home and began to cook over wood fires. He uses fire in all its forms, from flame to hot ashes. Like Mallmann, Crespo likes to cook with a chapa, also known as a plancha. He uses “the cross” to cook meats for an extended period of time. But the chef’s extensive menu of 46 items includes many dishes which never see the parilla at all. That was the biggest challenge: introducing the whole concept of Quinta La Huella, with its extensive selection of seafood, to an audience in Miami which had no idea what Uruguayan cooking was all about.


EAST, Miami

The chef’s absolute favorite menu item is a dish that is the top seller both at Parador La Huella and at his restaurant: pesca a la parrilla, which is most often red snapper. Asked whether he ever cooks at home, the chef admits that on one of his two days off, he always cooks at either lunch or dinner. And his favorite thing to cook: the stews he used to make in the dead of winter in Chicago. The one thing he doesn’t miss: the dead of winter in Chicago.

Quinto La Huella is located on the fifth floor of EAST, Miami at 788 Brickell Plaza, Miami, Florida. For reservations, email the restaurant or telephone them at 786-805-4646.

2 thoughts on “The Daily Meal just published my latest Travel Story…Miami here I come…”

  • congratulations Monte – the world deserves to know about you, your wonderful writing and your delicious recipes – thx for your e-mails..i ‘m always happy when i see one in my inbox!
    carry on!

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