As a native of Mexico, Chef Andres Parlange strives to bring the authentic flavors of his native country daily to visitors of Cantina Beach located at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne on a daily basis. Parlange, who has served as Chef de Cuisine at this location for nearly five years, injects his culinary passion into every dish while incorporating the freshest ingredients—many locally sourced.
Latin Beat caught up with Chef Parlange to talk about how his career path led him to South Florida, his experience working with Catherine Zeta-Jones, and some of his favorite local hot spots.
How did your culinary career begin?
"I was taught by my grandmother, my aunts, and other family members in Mexico from a young age. I'm from Chiapas in the South of Mexico, 13 miles from the border of Guatemala. This area is known as a rich agriculture state where they have a lot of pineapple, papaya, limes, coffee, tobacco, and cotton.
While living in Mexico City, I decided to go to culinary school. After graduation I did my internship at the Ritz Carlton Cancun and when that was over they hired me. I worked under Spanish chef Jordi Vallès who encouraged me to expand outside of Mexico.
Since then I've worked at locations in Washington D.C., Georgia, Malaysia, Naples and Miami Beach in Florida, and Boston. My first Chef de Cuisine position has been here at the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne and we're one of the only authentic Mexican restaurants in the company. It’s been a great journey.”
During your time in Malaysia you cooked for Catherine Zeta-Jones. How did that opportunity come about?
"I had a really nice experience working with Catherine Zeta-Jones. I was very fortunate that while I was doing an internship at the Ritz Carlton Kuala Lampur, she requested a western chef. A few of us there submitted our resumes and I was so happy to find out that I was the one who was selected.”
“She was such a nice person to work for albeit a little intimidating; as you can imagine she is very beautiful, well spoken, and enjoys a very healthy diet."
Does your menu at the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne change seasonally?
"No it doesn’t change seasonally. We have lots of specials and at least two events a month. Here at this location we have a lot of guests that come back on a yearly basis and they want to see their favorites on the menu. So we try not to change it up too much. Items that sell the most remain on our menu and things that aren't so popular are updated or replaced."
When you’re not working, where do you like to go eat?
“Locally I like going to Michael Genuine's, they make their own beer and they do a lot of their own local farming. Rusty Pelican right here in Key Biscayne is a place I like to visit. It has spectacular views and I am friends with their chef Michael Gilligan. I like the Mandolin and Sugar Cane in Midtown and I had a great time at the opening of the World of Beers there too. One of my current favorites is MOMI Ramen in Brickell. It's open 24 hours a day and the food is just spectacular.”
The Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne is located at 455 Grand Bay Drive. For reservations call 1 (800) 542-8680.