Chef Pablo Zitzmann on communicating culture through food, leading teams, developing community

Pablo Zitzmann (of No Name Chinese and the forthcoming Alcalde) joins Mike and Nick in the patio at Ariete to talk about his own journey to food and how he fell in love with Asian cuisine growing up in Colombia.

Pablo and Mike discuss the communication of culture through cooking, leading teams, dealing with burnout, and the development of Miami's food community.


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Pablo Zitzmann: What's up?

Nicolás Jiménez: Uh Huh. I like what's up. What's up?

Pablo Zitzmann: I like the short rib croquetas.

Michael Beltran: Qué bolá

Nicolás Jiménez: Very good.

Michael Beltran: It's whatever, dog.

Nicolás Jiménez: It's whatever, dog.

Nicolás Jiménez: All right.

Michael Beltran: Qué bolá

Nicolás Jiménez: Qué bolá, one, two, one, two, qué bolá.

Nicolás Jiménez: Welcome to episode, I think 6. But don't quote me on that.

Michael Beltran: Maybe

Nicolás Jiménez: Of Pan Con Podcast, and as Carluuba likes to say, "Se acabó el pan." I'm Nick Jimenez. I am here with Mike Beltran. Say hello to the people.

Michael Beltran: Hi everyone. My name is Mike Beltran. And today we're here with my good friend, fantastic chef and one of my favorite food and beverage individuals in the entire south Florida. Pablo Zitzmann. Say hello to the people.

Pablo Zitzmann: (01:00) Hola. ¿Qué pasa parseros? All good?

Michael Beltran: That's good. Well thanks for being on the show.

Pablo Zitzmann: No, thank you for bringing me a chef. This is awesome.

Michael Beltran: I think it's, um, I think this is going to be a good time. We're recording on Memorial Day. Let's tell the people where we are. We are on the patio of Ariete on a beautiful day smoking a couple of cigars,

Nicolás Jiménez: Hence the heavy breathing and waterfall sound effects we have going in the background.

Michael Beltran: It's good. I think it's very tranquil. I think it's nice. So chef, I want to really dive into a lot of things.

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah.

Michael Beltran: But before we dive into the lot of things, I want you to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and what got you here to this table today with us just talking about a food and beverage.

Pablo Zitzmann: All right. Uh, I mean it's a pretty long story. Um, I am second generation German Colombian. I have been living in the States for the past 13 years now. Born and raised in Colombia. I'm a mix of a lot of cultures. From my mom's side, my grandma was Mexican. From my dad's side, my dad is German. My grandpa was German. So definitely, you know, that multicultural thing has been, you know, I've been around that for my whole life. And, you know, I cook, I'm a cook. I've been doing this for the past 14, 15 years now. Um, and I have a really, really deep love for Asian cuisine, especially Japanese. I love everything about Japanese culture. And I think that that love for Japanese culture started when I was a little kid. My Dad used to take me to like really small Teppanyaki and Sushi restaurants in Colombia every time that I had a weekend with my dad. That's pretty much it. I went to advertising and design a school in Colombia and in three months after that, I was done with it. My mom sat me down one day and she was like, "Hey man, you've been working in a Mexican restaurant every single summer. Why don't you try cooking school?" I gave it a try. I loved it. I did that for two years. And then the day after my graduation I jumped in a plane and I came over here to the States to live with my dad.

Michael Beltran: Wow.

Pablo Zitzmann: (03:30) Almost 13 years later here and here I am.

Michael Beltran: It's interesting what you said that you are a cook. Yeah. I like that is one of the several things that I love about you is that you say that you are a cook. Just like I tell people all the time. I remember there was, um, some guy was trolling me on Instagram and you know how much I love those. And like, he was just like, you're an entitled sandwich cook. And I go, well, thank you so much for the compliment of calling me a crook. I very much appreciate that. And I think a lot of times,

Pablo Zitzmann: El muchacho de las fritas.

Michael Beltran: I think that's a good one for a lot of like younger chefs to really embrace being called a cook because that is, I mean, there's a huge sign of respect there when you call someone to cook and to be a good cook is huge. I think it's as big if not bigger than saying, you know, I'm a chef or I'm this and that being a good cook. Um, and I pride myself being able to walk on any line of being able to cook because I am first and foremost a cook. So, um, so now the last 13 years, how long you've been cooking in like the South Florida market?

Pablo Zitzmann: Um, I think that out of the 14 years of experience or so that I have, I think that, uh, I don't know, maybe eight, nine, I came here and when I came here I came with a student visa so I couldn't work in a lot of places. And I met, I met this girl, her name is Leticia.

Michael Beltran: Yeah. She's married to a prudent, no,

Pablo Zitzmann: I have no idea. I haven't, I haven't spoken with Leti in a minute now man.

Michael Beltran: She's from Mexico, right?

Pablo Zitzmann: No, she's Brazilian actually. Wrong, run lengthy. So she, she was, she was working for Slow Foods and for Common Threads and uh, in order for me to keep my visa going and everything go in before I got, you know, like, you know, residence and all that stuff, I had just to, you know, do anything. So I went to a cooking school in Doral, which was really bad and that's where I met Leticia and we kind of hit it off right away and she started putting me in places. Every time that somebody needed, you know, a hand doing a South Beach Food and Wine event, I was there. One of the scariest moments of my career was doing a South Beach Food and Wine Festival with David Voulet. It's crazy, uh, so much intensity. And she took me there and it was just like, you know, doing small things here and there. She was trying to connect me with a lot of people and I ended up, um, volunteering for Common Threats with a chef Art Smith and chef Michelle Bernstein.

Michael Beltran: Cool.

Pablo Zitzmann: And it was a beautiful thing, man. He was just like something that I've never done before and I think that, you know, giving back is extremely important. And that also led, you know, to some other things happening. So I ended up, um, working as a line cook at Sra. Martinez.

Michael Beltran: Oh, very cool.

Pablo Zitzmann: And being a guy just fresh off the boat, I did'nt know what, you know, a James Beard award was, I didn't know what any of the amazing things that happened over here and all those recognitions. And I just came in thinking that it was just going to be another regular restaurant and it was not. Really, really awesome smart kitchen. Uh, pretty intense ...

Michael Beltran: Beautiful restaurant. I remember that restaurant vividly. I actually spent a birthday there, I mean, a long time ago. I still have a lot of really good memories about that restaurant and how much I really love the food there.

Pablo Zitzmann: (07:09) No everything, everything was amazing from, you know, from the small plates to. You know, rabo encendido pasta. She was doing like this beautiful rabo encendido pasta with trophy pasta and mascarpone cheese. I still, I still remember that. And that was pretty much my introduction to restaurants here in Miami. And then after that I went on the Asian route. And I think that pretty much everything that I've done or everyone that I've worked here in the states, it's been mainly Asian. And you know, it's great. I think that it's weird to be Colombian and just, you know, like doing only Asian food, but you know, it also comes with where I come from. You know, like I was telling you before, I used to eat a lot of Asian food when I was a little kid. So besides the Colombian food and you know, the things that we were eating at home that was something that, you know, I was really comfortable eating.

Michael Beltran: Interesting. You know, we should give a big shout out to Michelle Bernstein being one of the OGs in south Florida and really like changing the game out here. I didn't know that you worked there. I really loved that restaurant. It's interesting that you did stuff with Common Threads, because I just met Art Smith. I did a thing here with Danny Serfer and Michelle Bernstein and Art Smith. It was like their happy hour they did, like their anniversary and they did it here. It was very cool. Very cool experience. I think there's a lot to be said about giving back, 100 percent. So tell me a little bit more about that Japanese food influence in Colombia because I'm not super familiar with that at all.

Pablo Zitzmann: I mean, there was a big migration of Japanese people to Bogotá where I'm from probably like 25, 30 years ago. And there was a lot of small restaurants popping up everywhere. And my dad was an artist, he was a photographer, so he was always taking pictures of restaurants and he was doing, you know, a lot of works for small restaurants and every time that he, you know, met a chef or every time that he had a really, you know, cool little spot that he wanted to show me, he used to take me over there. I was eight, nine, 10 years old, and I was, you know, eating sushi and just like eating weird shit. And I remember I used to get picked on at school, because I used to bring like little bags of dried shrimp and dried fish and stuff like that on my lunch box. But I was really into it since I was a little kid, you know, and my dad being the artist that he was and just like really into film and photography and painting and stuff, he exposed me to a lot of those things. So I think that right there, I kind of grew up with that affinity of liking Asian culture and just everything in general was so mystical and so like different from me, you know? Um, cause on my mom's side, you know, my abuelos, they used to live in the countryside. They had a beautiful house over there and it was a completely different contrast. So it was pretty interesting to be exposed to that when I was a little kid.

Michael Beltran: Do you remember like a moment from when you were a kid that you said like, "This food is like super impactful to me?" Like, was there a meal or a moment or maybe like a dish that you recall being very significant even to you today?

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah, and it's not Asian at all. My dad used to do like every now and then, he used to do a lot of dinners out at his place and he did this crazy thing. One day he did a mango ceviche. Uh, he's a of a cook dude. And, uh, we have in Colombia, in the coast of Colombia, we have this small little shrimp called a chipi chipi, just like a really, really small, almost mussel like thing. And he did arroz con chipi chipi and ceviche de mango. And I still remember that day, man. And that was to me, like I was sitting on his house, he had a beautiful big house over there and I was eating that and I was like, "Man, my dad should open a restaurant in this house." And everything just started playing on my head, how will the restaurant be? And you know, what kind of food we'll be serving. And it was just like, I was just dreaming about that. And when I was, when I was having that, that was a really like heavy turning point for me.

Michael Beltran: That's amazing.

Nicolás Jiménez: Arroz con chipi chipi has gotta be like an instant top five dish name for me.

Michael Beltran: I like, I want to eat that now. Just based off of the name.

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah, arroz con chipi chipi. Delicious.

Michael Beltran: So now that we've, we've talked a little bit about where you come from, tell me what you have planned now because we just had a long conversation on the phone a couple of days ago and you are planning something new.

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah. Well until a few weeks ago I was operating and running on him Chinese restaurant in South Miami.

Michael Beltran: Which was a great, and one of my favorite restaurants.

Pablo Zitzmann: Thank you. That's awesome man. That's awesome to hear, especially from you. I've been playing around with the idea of a Colombian restaurant for a minute now. It's been, it's been in my head for a minute. And everything actually started, you know, getting to know you a little bit more and get into no Nando and Valerie from Itamae. And just like, seeing everyone here in Miami, kind of going back to the roots. You know, cause I mean you're American Cuban, correct.

Michael Beltran: Yup. Born in Hialeah.

Pablo Zitzmann: I am Colombian, 100 percent Colombian, but I've been doing, you know, something completely out of the things that I grew up with and then seeing Valerie and Nando doing their Nikkei and you know, the heavy Peruvian food.

Michael Beltran: So sorry to cut you off. But that's Val and Nando Chang from Itamae, that they're actually opening up the B-Side now. They're incredibly talented and incredible people. They work with their pops, Papa Chang and, uh, if you want some stellar food in south Florida, visit Itamae for sure.

Pablo Zitzmann: I think, I think that that's every time, every time that I go over there, I leave inspired man. You know, it's like these guys do the most simple, crazy shit, but it's so smart and so fresh and so delicious that

Michael Beltran: Soulful as well.

Pablo Zitzmann: It's crazy. You know? So I saw that and you know, some other people just doing the things that they grew up with and I was like, "Hey, I'm Colombian." And you know, I mean, no offense to anybody, but you know, the state of Colombian food here in Miami, it's not what the other cuisines are getting to.

Michael Beltran: Tell me what you mean by that.

Pablo Zitzmann: I don't know, man. I mean, I think that lots of Colombian restaurants just do general Colombian food and usually, we're known for junk food, right? The hotdogs with, you know, pineapple sauce, crushed papitas and quail eggs and salsa rosada. I mean it's, it's delicious, but ...

Michael Beltran: There's nothing wrong with that stuff.

Michael Beltran: Absolutely not. But there's, there's more than that. There's more than, you know, we use a lot of, you know, potatoes, we use a lot of different starches, cassava, you know, things like that that you do not find on a restaurant, on a Colombian restaurant, but you find on a Colombian household.

Michael Beltran: Why do you think that is?

Pablo Zitzmann: Um, I don't know, man. I think that there hasn't been a Colombian food revolution over here, you know, or, or, or maybe the people that are exposed to Colombian food are just exposed to those, to those things?

Michael Beltran: (15:06) Well, if I may, I think that, and in a lot of it has to, is in the world of Cuban food as well. So like Cuban food, people always boil it down to arroz, frijoles, maduros and it's always, you know, I'd say eight times out of 10, like poorly executed, right? Because it's like feeding to the masses. And it's really, it's catering to someone that wants to pay a certain price for food. And I don't know if there's enough people that have, have like their heart strings attached to it. You know, and I would say the same thing for yourself and Colombian food. You know, like Colombian food for a lot of people could be, you know, they're just trying to appeal to the masses to try to make money and try to fill, you know, put butts in the seats. But are they really trying to say a story? Are they trying to tell you about their experience? And like for me being, you know, American Cuban, I want to tell a story with my food a little bit more than just, you know, then just, you know, Cook what people think is regular Cuban food, you know?

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah. And I think, and I think that people, people think that, you know, Colombian food is that, I mean, there's nothing wrong with it because it's delicious, but I a really fast and cheap kind of food. And I don't think that somebody will sit down and on at a nice restaurant with a beautiful story and, you know, a cook behind the restaurant trying to tell his own story, his own Colombian food, and they're not gonna want to pay a good price for that.

Michael Beltran: It's proven. I mean, there's people out there like poo hole, you know what I mean? They're, they're telling a story about Mexico that was never told before. Alex Atala too. He's telling a story that was never told about Brazil before and everyone, he says it very openly in his Chef's Table. Like, you know, people expected a certain thing from my type of cuisine, but I wanted to change that. And I think for people like yourself and myself, we want to tell a story that people, you know, maybe they're not totally comfortable with. And I'm okay with that. You know, like, I'm okay with making people a little uncomfortable, you know.

Pablo Zitzmann: It's good because at the end of the day, you know, it kind of forces them to think a little bit of outside of the box and really get to know the story of not only the Colombian or the Brazilian or the Mexican or the Cuban food, but actually the story of the person that's behind there cooking. You know, and to me, when this whole thing about this pop up, uh, came to mind, um, I started to do a lot of soul searching and I started to do a lot of, uh, who am I as not as a cook, but as a person, as a husband, as a father of two beautiful children. And what does it kind of messaged that I want to give to people with, with my food. Um, and then one of the biggest, one of the biggest things for me was, and one of the most important things is trying to find the right name. I used to ride horses when I was a little kid en la finca. And there was this beautiful white, big horse, that his name was Alcalde. That means mayor in Spanish. And I was like, that's it. I finally,

Michael Beltran: I remember you telling me that story and he'd like it stuck with me for a while and I thought about it a lot after we spoke and just how to me, and obviously I know you, but even just hearing that story, I want to eat your food more now. You know, like the connection to a person's persona and their story through food ... It pulls on my heartstrings and I'm going to say that a lot and something that we spoke about before we started as like community communicating culture through food. Yeah. And a lot of that has to do with your story, with your culture and your connection with your culture. So I remember when ... and you posted something about it on your Instagram made me even more excited because I've eaten your food several times and I love your food, but I'm even more excited now because I want to learn more about Pablo and your story and kind of like the things that kind of make you tick. I think that's something that you really get to see in someone like this on a scale of like Miami, uh, someone like Niven. Niven Patel of Ghee in Dadeland and the Design District.

Pablo Zitzmann: My all-time favorite restaurant, man.

Michael Beltran: And I mean he's, he's really ... He changed the kind of conversation about Indian food 100 percent. And that's only because he wanted to say his story and his, his relationship with food. And that's why I think on top of the food being incredible, uh, and him being an incredible human being and his family being so involved ...

Pablo Zitzmann: (20:05) They're amazing.

Michael Beltran: It's just, you know, it attracted people so much more because it's not just, you know, chicken tikka masala. You know, it's more. And I think now on, when you look at Miami as a, as a lie, as a landscape culinarily, uh, and as a community now we have more people doing that. And that's why we're not just Miami and we just don't have mojitos you know.

Pablo Zitzmann: It's great. It's like, okay, what are Miami is best restaurants. People ask and you know, a lot of people might say, you know, different things, but at the end of the day, you open up the conversation to say, Hey, you know, of Miami's best restaurants is a, it's an Indian restaurant rub by chef Niven and Shavani and you walk into the restaurant and you see, she ran his dad and you see, yeah, the whole family. And the other day, my kid, we were having dinner over there and my kid was sleeping on a chair that belonged to Niven's great great grandfather or something like that, you know? And it's like, that is, to me, I'm in and I've been living over here, you're only 13 years. But to me that it's a speaks about what Miami is. You know, and having those kinds of people kind of like opening the conversation, you know, chef NIven with Ghee, you with Chug's, which is amazing. Again, the guys from Itamae and more restaurants kind of made me think like, okay, I think that there's room for a really good Colombian restaurant that tells a story of, you know, Pablo Zitzmann, and you know, my wife. My wife, she's from Chile but her mom's Colombian. And they used to have an arepa factory in Chile. You know, so yes, we're going to have, you know, amazing I'd epos and things like that.

Michael Beltran: That's exciting.

Pablo Zitzmann: When, when I started typing and I was texting you, when I posted that on Instagram, I felt I felt something on my stomach and I just felt like this really weird excitement of, "Okay, I gotta make this happen now." I haven't had something that exciting happening in my life and a long time, career wise. So yeah, I mean, that's in the works right now. What I'm doing is I'm just like writing down as much as I can. Cooking as much as I can, testing things out, asking questions, asking myself a lot of questions and just like planning what's going to be the next step for Alcalde. That is going to be something that, you know, I'm going to really dive into and create something that's really special for us. No apologies. You know, my food, my Colombian food, what I grew up with, my music, my, you know,

Michael Beltran: Unapologetic. I think that's a good way to put it because we as culinary professionals, we have a responsibility to, you know, cater to our guests, right? But there's a certain part of that too that we need to be honest to ourselves. And the reason why I say that is the more honest you are with your own kind of journey, the better you will be to your guests and for their experience. Because you're more connected to it. I think the world of food, there's several different layers of it. There's the chain restaurants that cater to the masses. There's fast food, there's chef-driven, there's upscale casual, there's casual, there's so many different types. But really when you put a name behind a restaurant and you say that this is going to be my story, you know, we have a responsibility to our guests to really, to tell them that story and to not just be like, well, you know, yeah, we don't have French fries. You know what I mean? Like

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah, we don't have ketchup, sorry.

Michael Beltran: Right. Like, you know, like at Chugs, we don't have French fries, you know, and, and people have

Pablo Zitzmann: When you have those papitas, you don't need French fries, man.

Michael Beltran: Right. That's also true. But you know, plenty of people ask for French fries. And I'm like, yeah, we don't have French fries. Yeah. It's just, it's just one of those things. And I don't know. And I feel like that matters so much to your mission. And I think if you stand by your mission and your journey, what you envision more, then I think people will react to a better.

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah. And, and I, and I think that one of the things that made no named Chinese so special, it was the fact that we were trying to do the same thing, you know? Um, I mean, I didn't grow up eating Chinese food. I have no Chinese heritage whatsoever. I had experience with working in those kinds of restaurants and I had the blessing to, you know, working and traveling throughout China. But when it came to open No Name Chinese, I wanted to respect to technique and I wanted to respect the heritage, heritage and, and, and, and, and the meaning of everything. So I didn't want it to do just like, oh, I know that Chinese restaurant that is just, I hate that word, but like fusioning things and just mixing things up. I was doing on traditional food, but respecting everything as much as I could. Because at the end of the day, I think that know named Chinese opened the conversation to myself that if I was able to respect that and stand behind it and feel it like it's my own because at the end of the day he was my brainchild, There's no reason why I can do that with my own culture.

Michael Beltran: (25:52) Of course. I want to talk a little bit about, um, cause you mentioned No Name and I ate there several times over the last few months. And a topic that we've talked about a little bit is leadership. And I am an early eater. I like to eat at restaurants early, so I always happen to get there when you were in the middle of the pre shift. So I think I was there for three pre shifts. I was lucky enough to be able to just sit and be a fly on the wall and um, talking about leadership and the one thing I did notice the most was from the front of the house, back of the house to the entire team respected you like no other. And you know, when we were just friends, I wanted to know more about you because that, that was something that I respected a lot because being a leader in the restaurant world or in any kind of profession is huge. Because you have to know how to manage your staff and how to nurture your talent the best. You know, sadly No Name is no longer and I felt very fortunate to be there for the last pre shift of no name.

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah, that was hard.

Michael Beltran: I'm a very emotional guy. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm very passionate and emotional about a lot of stuff. But I got emotional for everyone there and it was because you as a leader, I felt how much you cared and I felt how much they cared. So I just ... your thoughts on leadership, you know, if you could talk about them a little bit.

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah. I mean, I don't have the story of ... I worked around great people, but I don't have the story about somebody mentoring me. Um, you know, I think that I was actually thinking about that today and it's like ... I learned a lot of things from a lot of people just by seeing really bad people doing really that shit.

Michael Beltran: Man, that is such a great fucking point.

Pablo Zitzmann: You know, and, uh, I, I like to call it like the anti-mentor. Like I was just seeing things that like, why is this guy even doing this? Or how is this guy getting away with talking to people like that?

Michael Beltran: Right.

Pablo Zitzmann: Or, you know, like, why is this guy never around? Things that we see in the restaurant industry in general. So I really never had somebody sitting down and actually telling me like, "Hey, this is the way that you got to do shit." I actually looked at a lot of things and learn from seeing people around me fucking shit up and just basically I didn't want to be that person, you know? I think that I started realizing that and I started seeing that when I, when I opened up the Edition hotel for John Georges. Beautiful property and I had a team of 70 people under.

Michael Beltran: How many now?

Pablo Zitzmann: 70.

Michael Beltran: Seven-zero? Fuck.

Pablo Zitzmann: Basically, I was the guy in charge of the production of the whole hotel, you know, so my kitchen was a commissary kitchen doing everything for the other restaurants. It was really stressful. I had so many different personalities around me, man, and ages and cultures. I had Hatian women, Jamaican women, you know, really awesome Indian dudes, Colombians. We had J-1s that were students who came in with a J-1 visa. Filipinos, Argentenians and Spaniards. And I just learned everything from everybody, man.

Michael Beltran: Right.

Pablo Zitzmann: And one of the things that I really learned was to listen to people and opening the doors to people. I'm talking this because I am, I am in the industry and the role of the chef, sometimes people are afraid of the chef and if somebody breaks a sauce or burns a chicken or you know, forgets how to prep something they're afraid of being yelled at. So when people are afraid they make mistakes and they hide them, right. And you close the doors to a lot of things. So you know, kind of like learning and learning how to let people trust you and open your doors too, and you know, like accepting that you're human and you make mistakes too. And just like, being a human being, man. Don't be a dick. That's, that's the only thing, you know? I think that that is, that was to me the big change. And I think that that kind of planted the seed for what we were going to be doing at No Name Chinese without me even knowing it. Because 50 percent of the staff that I had at No Name Chinese, they came from the hotel.

Michael Beltran: (30:58) Wow.

Pablo Zitzmann: They came with me and they stayed in the restaurant from the moment that I opened the doors until the moment that I closed.

Michael Beltran: Which says a lot about you, huh?

Pablo Zitzmann: Thank you. So it was more like we're a team and this is not public project. It's all of our project and everyone cares about the house the same way that I do, but it comes with a greater responsibility that having that trust from every single person in the room, um, you just need to be at your 100 percent at all times.

Michael Beltran: Yeah. There's a couple of things I always like to remind people. One is that a kitchen — a good kitchen — is a family.

Pablo Zitzmann: Completely.

Michael Beltran: A good restaurant is a family. I definitely fall victim to the fact of ... This is a quote I've used a couple of times already ... is to be a shepherd and not a viking. And I'm definitely a victim of being a viking sometimes because I'm just so over-the-top intense. But it's, "How do you nurture talent?"

Pablo Zitzmann: That's important.

Michael Beltran: How do you nurture people? And the other thing that I always tell people is, you know, when they reference things as my restaurant, I tell them "It's our restaurant." This is our restaurant.

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah, absolutely.

Michael Beltran: Us together are going to make this special. Cause I cannot do this on my own and nor would I ever claim to do or want to do it on my own. It's irresponsible of me to say I can do this shit on my own. And you know, for me, I'm fortunate enough that I've had two people with me along for this ride for the last three and a half years in Gio Fesser and Matt Hawkins that are like the backbones of Ariete and now the backbones of the Ark Hospitality Group as a whole. ... It's to put aside your own ego and say like, you know, "This isn't just my show. It's our show. This is us doing this together." Now, truth be told, not everyone buys into that. You know, and part of being a good leader is to weed out the bad apples.

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah. I agree with you in the weeding all the bad apples, but at the same time, it's like, you know, every single person that is going to walk through the door, they want something in return, right? It's like every single employee comes in. They want something besides just the paycheck. They're trying to get something out of you. If it's learning how to do the most delicious frita or croqueta or, you know, learning how to do a really awesome dumpling or just collecting a paycheck, you know? But for me it was just like learning how to work with every single individuals' qualities, getting to know them to see where they're going to succeed at. And to me, my growth as a cook and my growth as a parent and as a business operator, I guess, it's developing people, you know? You know, just developing people. Uh, that to me it's more important because at the end of the day, if you start developing people and you start helping them out and you start showing them the things that they're looking for, your team, who's going to get stronger, your food is going to be more tasty and you're going to have a little bit more freedom to branch out and keep evolving yourself. You know? And I kind of struggle with that because I'm a workaholic. I was the one, you know, opening and closing the restaurant. I was the one wanting to work the line every day and prep every single thing and just break down every single fish until I realized that I was burning myself out. And, uh, and it was a really dark place for me.

Michael Beltran: (35:09) Oh yeah.

Pablo Zitzmann: You know, I think that the last six months of an of the restaurant and Noname Chinese personally for me, it was really, really, really low point. Because I had a lot of struggles within myself of, you know, kind of finding my own voice. And I was giving my 100 percent to everybody, but I was not giving anything to myself and I just got caught up in that, you know, tornado of busy restaurant and events and things happening and a baby happened and, you know, life happens and it's just like, I was not being able to kind of find a north. And one of the biggest things for us was, my sous chef, my right hand Paola, her mom passed away. And that put a really, really big toll on everybody. And when she left the restaurant because she needed to go and take care of her family business, it really hurt everybody, man.

Michael Beltran: Sure.

Pablo Zitzmann: It was a really, really tough place. And we got out of it and right when we were getting out of it and right when we were getting back on our feet, we had to close on the restaurant. But the most beautiful thing for me, the most positive thing that I got out of the restaurant was whenever I was having one-on-one conversations with every employee. I just didn't want to say, "Guys, we're closing on the restaurant. Thank you." Whenever I was talking with every single team member, they were like, "Chef, we're here until the last, the last minute, man. You and the restaurant and everyone around has helped us so much that we want to give you guys back." So the last service was a really weird service. Lots of emotions, but I took a time between tears and between emotions and between anxiety to smell the roses, you know? And appreciate and see the beautiful things that all of us we created around that restaurant. And seeing you when you're in your fiancee sitting down and enjoying the food and then seeing chef Niven over there and then seeing everyone in Miami coming to us one last time. It was really rough, but he was extremely beautiful and every single employee noticed that. And every single person left with a big smile on their face. And to me that was... Still to this day, the love that we received was just immeasurable.

Michael Beltran: Yeah, it was, like I said, even for me, very emotional. One, because I care about you and your staff and just, you know, the entirety of the community here. Really is growing to a place that I remember when I was a younger cook and people were like, you know, "Miami has no community. There is no food community. There's no this, there's no that." Well really what that falls on is people making it a community. And something that the people around here have done is to make it a community and to care about each other. Like people ask me where to go to eat. I mean, yeah, I'll mention Ariete and Chug's. But I'll mention, you know, I mentioned No Name and I would mention Ghee and I would mention stands [inaudible] name. And I would mention, you know, Itamae. I would mention all these places that are just right now what I think so important to like the foundation of our community. And you saw it on the last day of No Name, which was, it's not bullshit. It's not just people talking shit. It's real.

Pablo Zitzmann: No. And I get choked up about that. Still like until today, you know, I kind of think about that and I get extremely emotional. It was when I had to do the post the day that we were closing that morning, the amount of phone calls and the amount of text messages and you know, like emails and stuff that everyone was being so supportive and so amazing. It was just like, you know, incredible. But kind of going back to what you were saying about the community. I remember years ago ...

Michael Beltran: All right, so let's try to get my brain back into the conversation. So I guess we're just kind of like, recapping, you know, the community aspect of Miami and really talking about how the culinary community or the food and beverage community of Miami has really start to, I think to take shape in. A lot of that has to do with, you know, a younger generation taking the lead that was put together by people like Michelle Bernstein and Norman Van Akens and Ellen Susser and Douglas Rodríguez. And you know, to another extent to the Michael Schwartzes ...

Pablo Zitzmann: By the way, I had Douglas Rodriguez's Cuban sandwich yesterday at Duck, Duck Goose. Holy Shit.

Michael Beltran: Was that the one that's like wrapped?

Pablo Zitzmann: No, it was just like small bite. Oh my God.

Michael Beltran: But was it wrapped in like a filo dough?

Pablo Zitzmann: No.

Michael Beltran: Oh, cause he does one like that. It's like a Cuban sandwich, like on a stick. That he does in like almost like a terrine mold. And then he presses and then he cuts them and then you wraps them in filo and then he fries them.

Pablo Zitzmann: It was like that, but he was not wrapped.

Michael Beltran: Ah, it's delicious.

Pablo Zitzmann: Delicious. Yeah.

Michael Beltran: Yeah. The guys a G. He's like one of the OG. Him and Norman, Michelle and Cindy from Ortanique. They really like paved the way for us and really set the groundwork for us to say, "Hey, here's this community and let's continue to bring it up."

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah. And I remember I added you on Facebook I don't know how many years ago. And you, without even knowing, you started to open a lot of conversations and you were saying a lot of things that a lot of us, we thought about but we didn't, you know, want to say them. And sometimes I was reading the stuff that you were writing on Facebook and I was like, "Holy shit. I mean, he's saying the truth, but it's like damn," you know? And you know, I wanna give you props because you were one of the first ones after that wave of the OGs to kind of like say, "Hey, you know, we're here, we want to be heard and we want to do the things that we want to do. And this is, you know, this is the new Miami," just like Andy's doing right now.

Nicolás Jiménez: I'm just going to jump in a second. As a food industry outsider here, what are some examples of the sort of thing that you're talking about and what is it that you think stops other people from saying the things that Mike was saying?

Pablo Zitzmann: I mean he was just, you know, talking general things about the restaurant life and the customers and just like in general, like kitchen life. But the way that he was saying it, he was just like so raw and so direct and so like straight to the point that he was just like, you know, awesome to read and to hear the things that Michael was saying because some of us were thinking of those things, but we didn't had either than means or you know, the necessary guts to say those things I guess. Um, but yeah, you know, thank you for that man, because that without knowing has helped a lot of people in the city to kind of find their own voice.

Michael Beltran: I appreciate that. It's humbling that people actually listen to my tirades. I think, you know, I don't know if it's that people were or are fearful of saying things cause it's kind of like what we mentioned earlier about staff being scared to fuck something up. I think to an extent people are worried about causing a rip tide.

Pablo Zitzmann: Absolutely. I think that's what it is.

Michael Beltran: Because of being accepted and being from Miami, born and raised, if you don't accept me or my thoughts for what I am, then I don't really necessarily want to be your friend or I don't necessarily like ... I will give you the opportunity to let's sit down and discuss things because I'm always open to a discussion and saying, "Hey, tell me why it is you think that, you know, tell me why you think that X city is better than we are because I don't, I don't think so." I think every city is important and special in their own way. And I think right now, like we've said a couple of times, we have an opportunity to continue to write our story and to be a part of that. And you know, the Changs, yourself, Niven, you know, there's so many people.

Pablo Zitzmann: Behind the restaurants, there's also a renaissance of the artists and the photographers and you know, the graffiti artists and, you know, you see so many people like collaborating with restaurants and doing a lot of things around the F&B industry that they're not necessarily F&B related, but everything is kind of tying together. And I'm seeing for the first time since I've lived in the city, how much the younger people are actually taking means on their hands and making shit happen. It's great. You know, it's amazing to see those things.

Michael Beltran: (45:10) It's impressive because the identity grows more every day. Yeah. The identity of the city grows more every day. And I think a lot of it has to do with one simple fact. As technology grows, what we lose the most is the conversation between people. Yeah. And one of the last real places to have that conversation between people is at the dinner table.

Pablo Zitzmann: That's 100%.

Michael Beltran: And we help with that. The chef, the cook the hospitality professional, the "us" as an institution are helping with keeping that alive, which is just sitting down and talking to someone and spending time with someone you care about. Now, that's not the only time you could do that. But it is one of the last true steps that we have in everyday life that is real and it's raw and it's realistic. Like cooking dinner for someone you care about means so much. And we do it for hundreds of people on a daily basis. And I think, you know, that's why the identity as a city grows more because people say it all the time. Chicago, New York, LA, all those places ... they've all been around a lot longer than we have. Miami is a super young city and we're still very young, so it's a very exciting time. And thank you for the kind words. I appreciate that. I do think that I had the opportunity to work alongside people that encouraged me to, you know, have my own voice.

Pablo Zitzmann: You have to speak up, man.

Michael Beltran: You know, and to also my business partners, uh, cause I could not open businesses on my own. My business partners were very supportive in like, you know, we want you to be you and who you are. And that's good because I would never want it any other way and I couldn't operate any other, any other climate. Because having a voice is what made Anthony Bourdain so special. Apart from him being very eloquent in the way that he spoke and very intellectual and very like just cultural, I mean Bordain ate and respected cultures from around the world...

Pablo Zitzmann: The impact of Bourdain had in the world...

Michael Beltran: But that's what made him so special. If he wasn't scared to tell you what the fuck he thought. No. And it's the same thing with like Dave Macmillan. Like, he doesn't give a fuck. David Chang, you know, these are juggernauts on a worldwide perspective. But that's what made them so special. You know, that they weren't scared to voice their own opinion. You know, and whether you like it or not, people are listening and you could disagree and people could disagree with us. I don't care. Disagree, but that's okay. It's healthy to disagree.

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah. To respectfully disagree. Right? It's extremely important. And opening conversations and saying, hey, you know, I, again, I respectfully disagree with your point of view, but I want to hear the reasons why you think this way. And, uh, I generally want to hear why you think that we should be doing this or I mean, everyone has opened up the conversation, the influencer thing and in Miami right now, that's a really big kind of conversation. And without going too much like in depth from that, it's like, you know, there's pros and cons. There's people that love them. There's people that hate them. There's amazing influencers. And maybe they don't even know that they're influencing that much, but they became like a really pivotal part of the growth of Miami. You know, Geoffrey and Diane, Miami Food Pug.

Michael Beltran: Oh, they're incredible,

Pablo Zitzmann: You know? They play a big role in what's happening in the city right now. And they're head-down and they support you, you know? But then there's other people that teach us want to show up to your restaurant and get a free meal. And they don't talk to you, they don't say thank you, they don't come back.

Michael Beltran: They don't tip.

Pablo Zitzmann: They don't tip. And then when you're rolling out a new menu, they want to go back in because "It's the new menu. We want to taste it first. We want to be part of it first." And I think a point is going to come where that needs to stop.

Michael Beltran: I think the truest statement of them all is that every guest that visits you on a daily basis is an influencer.

Pablo Zitzmann: Yes, absolutely.

Michael Beltran: Whether they have a hundred followers, 10,000 followers, 1 million followers, it does not matter. They will influence in their own way, someone else yet to come or to not come to a restaurant.

Pablo Zitzmann: There's a statistic that says that ... something like if somebody has a really good experience at your restaurant, they would tell five people. If somebody has a really bad bad experience at your restaurant, they will tell 10 people.

Michael Beltran: Oh yeah.

Pablo Zitzmann: So impact of those things is, it's a measurable.

Michael Beltran: A hundred percent. So I think we'll, we'll leave it there. Pablo, thank you so much for your time, man.

Pablo Zitzmann: Thank you guys.

Nicolás Jiménez: Let's plug Pablo things.

Michael Beltran: We want to plug stuff. This is the plugging portion of the podcast. Shameless plugs.

Pablo Zitzmann: Hell yeah.

Michael Beltran: When can we hope to see a popup or something of that nature from you?

Pablo Zitzmann: July.

Michael Beltran: That is incredible. I am excited.

Nicolás Jiménez: Where should people be to get notifications? Like should they follow you personally?

Pablo Zitzmann: Right now, my Instagram, @zixmann. Right now I'm still in the works of a lot of things. I want to make sure that I take my time to do it right and do something that, you know, that's going to be something special. But I think that, you know, the last week of July, I think that we're going to be ready to do that. I don't know a place yet. But it's happening. It's definitely happening.

Michael Beltran: I'm excited.

Pablo Zitzmann: Yeah, man.

Michael Beltran: I will be there.

Nicolás Jiménez: Mike, you want to plug yourself?

Michael Beltran: (51:37) Yeah, I mean, you know, Ariete seven days a week, Chug's seven days a week, Leña seven days a week. Come visit us. Chugs you know, we have our first a happy hour activation this Thursday with Nightlife Brewing.

Pablo Zitzmann: Johnny's Barbecue.

Nicolás Jiménez: Although by the time people hear that, that'll have happened,

Michael Beltran: Right. So we're going to be doing activations regularly. Happy hour is every day. We just started our collaboration with the Johnny's Barbecue every Sunday at Taurus, which is incredible Maryland style pit beef. It is incredibly delicious. We're also rolling out a new bar program at Ariete, which is going to be exciting and soon we will be announcing our new corporate pastry chef, which is going to be exciting. This person is exciting. I'm excited for all the exciting things we will be doing. And I can't contain my excitement. So do you have any plugs for you, sir?

Nicolás Jiménez: I'm just going to say that people should go to There's a bunch of those social media icon things in the corner. You can follow us all over the place. And check out this podcast and past episodes at

Michael Beltran: Right. What else can you find us?

Nicolás Jiménez: We're on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Uh, I was about to get us on Google plus, but that's dead. Yeah, really careful when you say that. Um, uh, but yeah, so [inaudible] podcast on all the things. Uh, and then we're going to be ... at the time that we're recording this, none of it's live, but we're going to be on Google Play Music, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Soundcloud and anywhere that we can get it.

Michael Beltran: We're global. We're all over the place.

Nicolás Jiménez: Super worldwide.

Michael Beltran: You can listen to us wherever. I'm sorry about that. Pablo, thanks again.

Pablo Zitzmann: Thank you guys. This was pretty awesome.

Michael Beltran: Bye everyone. Damn it.

Nicolás Antonio Jiménez is the founder of DADE. When he's not working on this site, he's the senior editor of Cigar Snob Magazine, an internationally distributed lifestyle magazine.
Nick is also a Miami native, Cuban-American, and graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.