Though classic drinks such as the old fashioned may once have reigned in the stately bars of Miami's art-deco hotels, today a high-energy club scene pushes bartenders to pour higher volumes of more sophisticated drinks—and yes, style counts. After slinging drinks in nightlife hot spots including the Clevelander South Beach, Gordon Eagerton launched Elite Bartending School to prepare cocktail craftsmen for today's Miami, eschewing outmoded techniques and rarely ordered drinks to focus on about 120 of South Beach's most-wanted libations.
Eagerton and his fellow instructors run the state-licensed school within Club Play, a 10,000-square-foot South Beach nightclub with three bars, eight wells, and six computer terminals, enabling hands-on practice for all levels of mixologists, from beginners to full-time professionals. The school supports its alumni by posting full-time job leads every week, and the quality of education has earned Elite Bartending School honors in Miami New Times’ Talk of the Town for three years running.
To its modern-day students, Mariano Moreno Culinary Institute looks much different today than when it debuted in Buenos Aires in 1963. Back then, the institute was simply called the Mariano Moreno Institute and it only offered journalism courses—the first school to do so in the Argentinean capital. That’s why its founder chose Mariano Moreno, the creator of Buenos Aires’ first newspaper, as the school’s namesake. The school eventually immigrated to Miami, where its instructors teach cooking instead of writing, and also has locations in Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela. They stick mostly to European cuisine—especially French, Italian, and Spanish—as well as regional American fare. Their curriculum includes certification courses in the culinary arts and patisserie and baking, as well as myriad cooking and baking classes for the general public.
The Miami branch of the Società Dante Alighieri was founded in 1997, more than a century after the society was founded in Rome. Its aim is to celebrate Italian culture and serve as a social hub for Italians. Working in tandem with its principle partner, the Consulate General of Italy in Miami, the society hosts language courses—including Italian, Portuguese, and Latin—and doles out PLIDA Italian proficiency exams and certificates. In addition, they offer cooking and wine classes that teach students how to concoct regional Italian specialties and appreciate the differences between Italian wine and tomato sauce served in wineglasses.
Chef Reni Alves has always found herself amid the freshest foods. She grew up on a lush farm in Brazil before making her way to Johnson & Wales University to earn a culinary degree. Now, as head of Chef Reni Alves Catering, she puts her motto?"Make it happen"?into action by fusing fresh ingredients into multicultural spreads that feed parties big and small. At events, her food stations dish out everything from Moroccan tuna skewers to twice-baked truffle skin potatoes, and roving servers circulate trays of appetizers and general life advice.
In addition to her catering services, Chef Reni also shares her expertise during cooking classes, which mix a laid-back vibe with gourmet cuisine instruction. Participants learn to craft entrees and desserts in the style of Reni's cooking, producing family dinners that they can recreate at home.
Maria T. Cummins was already an established chef when she moved to Miami and began teaching an after-school cooking program for children. Struck by how little her students knew about nutrition, she founded The Real Food Academy?formerly Cooking With Kids Miami?to instill healthy eating habits in her young apprentices. Here, she and her fellow skilled instructors lead classes and activities based around one simple philosophy: "we don't change the dish, we change the ingredients." During group sessions, birthday parties, and camps, Chef Maria and her team teach youngsters how to choose and prepare more nutritious, "real" foods, ensuring they avoid meals that are high in preservatives, chemicals, and plastic grapes. Non-edible offerings, such as spa days and kid-centric Zumba classes, promote healthy lifestyles.
A lot of liquid flows through a lot of beer gardens in the world, but very few of them can say pour enough beer to fill an actual pool. O.k., so the bartenders at Lou’s haven’t actually tried to fill their beer garden’s pool with beer. Still, the dozen taps and 30 bottled varieties on hand run with the stuff, dispensing craft brews in enough varieties to make the prospect of jumping into the swimming hole seem a little more feasible.
Inside the kitchen, Lou himself boasts the titles of both owner and chef, and he spends just as much time crafting his farm-to-table menu as he does curating the beer collection. He pairs his beverages with delicious creations such as New Zealand lamb, seared and served in the same cast iron skillet along with a side of bourbon and mountain honey-roasted squash. Lou’s eccentric palate and staggering panoply of brews has even earned his bacchanalian pleasure dome a nod from Esquire Magazine, which calls it one of 2012's Best Bars in America.