Chef Niven Patel is closely identified with the cooking of Florida, his home state. Knowing what a strong influence he is on Miami’s dining scene, one might forget just how extensive his culinary background is. After culinary school, he worked with chef Dean Max in Fort Lauderdale, then took a six-month sabbatical to travel around Italy seeking inspiration and picking up further culinary skills along the way. It was on that trip his strong identity with farm-to-table cooking was forged.
On his return to the U.S., Patel worked in Baltimore before being recruited as executive chef at Islamorada’s Cheeca Lodge and Spa. He reunited with Dean Max to create a restaurant in the Cayman Islands, where he met Michael Schwartz who talked him in to returning to Miami to be chef de cuisine at Schwartz’s flagship, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink. After a stint at Schwartz’s lamentably short-lived Cypress Room, Patel struck out on his own, establishing his own farm in Homestead to supply the produce so central to his cooking style.
Today, Niven Patel has an eclectic portfolio of restaurants, including Ghee that celebrates his Indian heritage and Erba, an Italian-inspired produce-centric restaurant, both in the Dadeland area. Opening just about as you are reading this are more restaurants including Mamey, a gastrobar situated in the new Coral Gables’ THesis Hotel. All of Patel’s restaurants (and his course at our VeritageMiami brunch) focus on the produce he grows at his farm Rancho Patel.