Source: New York Times
The last week in July was an especially stressful one for Niven Patel, and for Floridians in general.
It began with Mr. Patel’s decision to permanently close one of two locations of Ghee Indian Kitchen, the Miami-area restaurant that brought the chef national acclaim. The week ended with South Florida bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Isaias, just as the state recorded its fourth straight day of record reported deaths from Covid-19.
In the midst of all of this — while still adjusting to having become a father to twin daughters in June — Mr. Patel was busy with final preparations for the opening of a new restaurant called Mamey. Doing so in a pandemic, he conceded, is “pretty insane.”
Mr. Patel, 36, is one of Miami’s best-known and promising young chefs — in May, Food & Wine magazine anointed him one of the country’s 10 Best New Chefs. At a time when many high-end restaurateurs are putting their careers and businesses on pause in the face of spiraling health and economic crises, Mr. Patel is forging ahead — in his quiet, cautious way — with Mamey, in an attempt to salvage what was shaping up to be a banner year.
The new restaurant, which opened last Wednesday in Coral Gables, serves food and drinks only for takeout, delivery and limited outdoor dining, in keeping with Miami-Dade County’s ban on indoor service. But even with those restrictions, Mr. Patel was eager to act.
“It’s honestly been very mentally refreshing, to get into the kitchen and start creating new dishes that we’ve envisioned now for a year and a half,” he said. “Where at Ghee it’s been about survival, this is new.”
Mr. Patel has had big plans. Mamey, which takes its name from a fruit popular in Latin America and South Florida, was originally scheduled to open in the spring, along with another restaurant, Orno, both of them in Paseo de la Riviera, a new development in Coral Gables that includes apartments and the THesis Hotel.
The openings were put on hold in March, when city and county officials shut down Miami-area restaurants; so was that of a permanent location for Erba, a pasta restaurant owned by Mr. Patel that had a popular run as a pop-up in 2019. The photo shoot for a Food & Wine article on the top chefs was also in March — a day after Mr. Patel laid off all 64 of his employees. “It’s why I’m not smiling,” he said.
Two of those workers were farmers who tended to Rancho Patel, the two-acre farm that surrounds his family’s house in Homestead, about 30 miles south of Coral Gables. Weeds have since taken over the swath of tilled land in the backyard where he grew produce and herbs for Ghee Indian Kitchen.
“We can do some serious damage with this plot,” Mr. Patel said as he kicked at rocks in the soil one evening. He recently hired Roberto Grossman, a farmer in Homestead, to revive Rancho Patel. “We just need to put some love back into it.”