Wednesday night’s monthly meeting of the US Green Building Council Miami branch combined virtually all of my passions – urban Miami, real estate, green building, sustainability & environmental consciousness, great food, and bubbly champagne. We met at the Miami Culinary Institute, located at 415 NE 2 AV in downtown Miami, for a short presentation by Chef John Richards, director of MCI. While we sipped our champagne, Chef John talked about the history and purpose of the Miami Culinary Institute.
MCI is part of Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus and was designed by Atkins North America. “A model of sustainability and urban stewardship, Miami Dade College’s eight-story Miami Culinary Institute has achieved LEED Gold certification. Atkins’ environmentally conscious approach to the building’s design included unique features such as rainwater harvesting, greywater harvesting from dishwashers, recycled solid composting for the institute’s vegetable gardens, low-consumption plumbing fixtures, and numerous recycled-content material selections—including high-end finishes.”
In addition to programs for degree-seeking MDC students and professional development courses for those in the industry, MCI also offers a wide variety of classes for anyone interested in improving their culinary skills, and that is what we did last night. Breaking into groups of four, each group prepared one course of the dinner that we ultimately enjoyed eating. With much laughter , my group learned how to prepare poached pear with champagne sabayon. Between separating the egg yolks with our hands and having a whisking race to finish the sauce, hilarity was the prime ingredient. (Did I mention we were sipping on champagne?)
With lessons and supervision provided by the ever-patient Chef Travis Jameson Starwalt, we also learned how MCI sources much of their food locally (within 350 miles), as well as minimizing, recycling and/or composting the waste. Many of the greens are grown in MCI’s on-site garden, while the delicious pork tenderloins came from Niman Ranch – described by Chef Travis as “a farm co-op that is raising and treating their animals with the utmost care and respect!”
The Miami Culinary Institute is also home to Tuyo, an award winning fusion restaurant on the top floor overlooking downtown Miami and the bay. Tuyo’ vision statement includes “embracing farm-to-table and sustainability practices that safeguard the health of the people and the planet.”
From the design of the structure to its on-going operation; from the Tuyo restaurant to the chefs teaching classes – the passion driving those involved with the Miami Culinary Institute was neatly expressed by Chef Travis when he told me, “It’s up to our generation to lead the charge in the war against commercialization and convenience.”