Although South Florida may be a late bloomer when it comes to a lot of trends, we do catch up eventually. And sometimes, as with our food scene, the evolution is exponential. The past year or so has seen the culinary scene evolve more rapidly than Honey Boo Boo's heartbeat on go-go juice. From food-truck politics to hot new eateries, there's a lot going on in our own backyard.
Helping to lead the way into this new era of edibles are more than a few groundbreakers in Broward and Palm Beach. To get some insight into what's happening locally, we spoke with Robb Muise, the man behind the newly formed Food Truck Alliance; Oakland Park Mayor Anne Sallee; and Kapow! Noodle Bar executive chef Caleb Holman.
Mayor Anne E. Sallee has been on the leading edge of Oakland Park development efforts for almost a decade. And during her tenure as mayor (which kicked off in March 2012), she's served as champion for the cause of transforming the city into a leading culinary destination. With the addition of a new brewery, the striking down of the city's blue laws, and negotiations for the introduction of a culinary school, it's full speed ahead.
Before putting down roots in Oakland Park, Sallee lived in 21 cities across the world, working as a paralegal and in various other professions. She calls herself "a jack of all trades and master of a few" and says her family instilled in her a love of cooking. This passion for the culinary arts has helped fuel her interest in transforming Oakland Park.
"I envision instead of going to wine country for a girls' weekend, coming to Oakland Park, staying in a boutique hotel, taking a winetasting class, leaning how to cook a new dish -- going home with a wonderful experience that you have for the rest of your life," Sallee says.
As part of Community Redevelopment Agency (CDA) efforts to refurbish a blighted area of downtown, the city hired Redevelopment Management Associates (RMA). After a good long look, the RMA folks suggested going the foodie route, citing the city's great restaurants and economic opportunities.
Since then, the city's been gung-ho as far as turning vision into reality. The Funky Buddha Brewery is loosely scheduled to open by St. Patrick's Day, and Sallee thinks its arrival will begin to bring it all together.
"I think as soon as the Funky Buddha opens, things are going to start to pop. I think everyone's waiting for someone to take that first step. Developers and people are starting to ask questions; they're coming in to explore and look at the properties. We're right on the verge of this whole thing just blossoming."
Additionally, the city recently ended its Sunday-morning "blue laws," which prohibited the sale of alcohol between 7 a.m. and noon on Sundays. Prompted by local businesses that show live soccer, rugby, or cricket games from other time zones, the city repealed the old-school legislation. Now visiting diners can sip a bloody mary with their bacon and eggs.
The city is also in the process of negotiating to bring in a culinary school, and it's identified as a potential stop on a planned expansion of Tri-Rail service, which would make the city even more accessible.
Sallee gives credit to lots of other people who have been involved in this project from the start. "It really has been the work of a whole lot of people working together," she says.
When Sallee's tenure ends in March (it's a rolling position from year to year), she plans to stay on in full force, helping the city reach new culinary heights: "I will be a very active resident."
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