Q&A with Chef Alex Lotero

Confession: I’m typically not into restaurant collaboration dinners, although I often find myself attending this one and that one. Most seem to overpromise and underdeliver. Naturally, I’ve become skeptical of them all. It makes total sense, of course, that I then surprised myself by booking one midweek, at a place I’d never been, featuring a chef I’d never heard of nor met. And I loved it. The courses were executed with the utmost precision, and delivered surprising flavor profiles unlike any I’ve found in Miami. Color me impressed.

Photo by @strikeanywhere30

Photo by @strikeanywhere30

Meet Alex Lotero

From the City of Angels to the Magic City, Lotero moved to Kendall at the age of five and grew up as a typical Miamian “chico” in his era. He recalls, “Dickies, Reebok classics, Polo shirts, and gold in my mouth.” One of these remains. Ultimately, he graduated from Miami Sunset Senior High. Immediately after graduation, he left for basic training and remained in the army infantry for four and a half years, including a 15-month deployment to Iraq. Upon returning home, he attended Johnson & Wales and within the first month, got his first job at the former South Beach restaurant, Wish. Other stints followed at some of South Florida’s best spots: Meat Market, The Federal, MC Kitchen, and Alter.

Cooking at Wish exposed him to the world of fine dining, and it’s also where he fell in love with the finesse, attention to detail, and effort it takes (although he loves open fire cookery just as much).

What are your favorite ingredients/products?

I really enjoy working with meat. I love to work on charcuterie. Anything related to that really gets me going. With that said, my mood and feelings at the moment dictate what I work with a lot.

What have been some of your most memorable career experiences?

I would say it was being asked to go to NYC and do a private dinner for a veteran’s organization, FitOps. It was really special to me to give back to veterans. Another memorable career experience was doing my first pop-up dinner. It was stepping into the unknown; I kind of like that.

And the lowest points?

I would have to say my last few months at Alter were very low, nothing to do with the restaurant, I was just at a point where I wasn’t fulfilled or satisfied with cooking, at that time and place in my life. 

What keeps you going?

Being relentless. Believing in what I do with the utmost conviction, wanting to succeed, and accomplishing things my way.  

Photo by @strikeanywhere30

Photo by @strikeanywhere30

Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to?

I can honestly say, I do not have a true mentor, sadly. There are some people I look up to in this industry. One being Brandon Baltzley, whom I had the pleasure of working for, for a short time, in Boston. I also really admire chef Brian Polcyn, he is one of the top charcuterie chefs. I love anything Noma, and/or anything with the Nordic aesthetic, visually and conceptually. 

How do you feel about our local dining scene?

I feel there’s a lot more Miami can bring to the table, after spending time in Boston and NYC. I’ve yet to have a meal here that has been transcendent like the ones I’ve had in the aforementioned cities. But I love it here and support it. I want to be a part of the growth of this city. I think Miami is getting better and better and we are entering an exciting time.

What is your immediate goal?

Execute the third “Elevated Dining Experience.” This is one is going to be the best one yet.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In all honesty, I don’t know. I do know I’ll be cooking. At this point, I’m riding the wave, enjoying the journey, and seeing where these pop-ups take me. As long as I can continue to pursue my passion and purpose, that being cooking and feeding others, respectively, and make a sustainable living, I’ll be happy. If it comes in the form of a restaurant, or as a private chef, or with the pop-ups, we’ll see.

What is something we would be surprised to learn about you?

I spent 13 months working/living in Qatar. I also have a startup charcuterie label called Batemans Meats. Currently, I have a pork bacon, duck bacon, and country ham.

As you know, I attended and really enjoyed the first Ice Cream Dinner Experience. Tell me more about how the concept came about. 

Thank you! It was a great pleasure cooking for you and your husband. Well, Daniel (Levine of Dasher & Crank) and I have been collaborating together since my first Elevated Dining Experience. So, after a few collabs I told him how cool it would be to do an entire dinner centered around ice cream. He loved the idea and from there we started conceptualizing it. He knows everything there is to know about ice cream and suggested we should explore the vertical of ice cream (i.e., all the forms of ice cream: sorbets, gelatos, custards, Philly style, etc.)

Do you have others in mind for 2020?

Yes, I want to have the third “Elevated Dining Experience.” I would like to revisit the “Adventures in Coffee” with Imperial Moto again (maybe like an anniversary edition), and I want to have a Charcuterie Series. 

Any advice for young cooks starting their careers?

Yes, keep your head down, toe the line, listen, and always do more. 

Do you think Miami is a good candidate for a Michelin Guide? 

I would say yes, despite being “behind” the other big food cities in this country (i.e., NYC, SF, LA, Chicago). It would be nice to see that here. I think it would raise the bar. Not to mention, I’ll have the opportunity to earn a star too, lol. 

Do you have any favorite restaurants in South Florida?

It’s funny I don’t go out to eat often, and when I do, I crave simple food. I can always crush a burger and my go to is The Blues Burgers. If I want an experience, Alter never disappoints me. I also have been to Boia De twice and was beyond happy with it. I love what those guys are bringing. Aside from that, there aren’t too many meals I’ve had in Miami that have been transcendent for me to call it a favorite. Unrelated to South Florida, two of the best meals I’ve had in my life were at Momofuko Ko and Ribelle, in NYC and Boston, respectively.

Any weird food predilections?

Not sure, does liking blood sausage a lot count? I also can put mayo on just about anything.

I have to agree. This gal loves mayo on everything too! Don’t @ me, people!

The next twelve-course Ice Cream Dinner Experience with cocktail pairings will take place on December 19th, 2019.  If it’s anything like the last one, guests are in for a treat!

Visit the EVENT PAGE for more information.

Chef Alex Lotero
Instagram: @Patrick.bateman86