The inaugural Miami Gardens Wine & Food Experience, presented by the City of Miami Gardens Councilwoman Lisa C. Davis, took place November 14 at the Miami Gardens Municipal Complex. Four chefs — Chef Myriam Charles, Chef Ali Francois, Chef Alain Lemaire, and Chef Troy Tingling — faced off, competing for the title Master Chef!

Who cooked what? Chef Lemaire dished up Pancetta and Onion Stuffed Pork Loin Medallions, served with Crispy Potato Chips tossed in Shaved Parmesan, Bok Choy Chimichuri and a Jack Daniel’s Honey sauce. Chef Tingling brought to the stage Jerk Pan Seared Scallops with Roasted Truffle Bok Choy & Bacon Creole Sauce. Who walked away with the title? Unfortunately, the weather.

Get to know these knife-wielding kitchen samurais as they share the beginning of their culinary journeys, the foods that comfort them at the end of the day, and give pointers to those looking to explore the field of culinary arts. Stay tuned for the 2016 #MGWFEXP.

Meet the Contenders

Chef Myriam Charles
Chef Myriam Charles

Chef Myriam Charles

Chef Mimi’s has over 15 years of culinary experience. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in 2004, she joined the Greenbrier’s Apprenticeship Program where she had the opportunity to work under Chef Timmins, CMC and Chef Richard Rosendale, CMC. In November of 2009 she was the first African-American woman to graduate from the program. A few years later, her passion for creating would help her launch her own custom cake business, Lux Cakery. She’s had the opportunity to make wedding cakes for celebrities, such as Amar’e Stoudemire, whose cake was featured in Essence magazine.

How did your journey and love of food begin?

My journey began at a young age. I come a family that was always cooking and baking. I remember my mother sitting,  letting me lick the bowl and spatula after she was done placing the cake in the oven. Even though my love of food began early on, I didn’t realize the extent until I decided to go to culinary school.

How would you describe your culinary style/cuisine?

My training and foundation is classical french. As the years have gone by I have tried to remain versatile as possible. If I had to describe my style, I would have to say classic French with Caribbean a twist.

In terms of stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, do you have a favorite?

Comfort Haitian food: cornmeal (mais moulin) with black bean sauce and salted cod and eggplant legume. Yummyee!!

Being a huge fan of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods, what would you say is one of the strangest foods you’ve ever eaten? Are you an adventurous eater?

Before I answer this question, I would like to apologize to all foodies out there. As much as I love food, I can honestly say I’m not too adventurous. I will try something more than once, because I just want to make sure I don’t like it. I’ve tried sea urchin and I say that I’m not a fan. Will I try it again? Maybe one day, but for now its not a favorite.

What influence, if any, does your nationality play in your dishes?

I love this question. It has a definite impact. When I’m creating dishes or new desserts I try to tie in my nationality some way. It may be in the garnish, a sauce or incorporating Haitian rhum. I mix classic Haitian flavors and introduce them with a twist — for example, kremas tres leches with mango puree.

What advice do you have for any aspiring foodies in the kitchen?

Do not be afraid to try flavor combinations, you won’t know if it works unless you try it. Every time I cook, I learn something new about the food and myself. Just keep cooking.


Chef Ali Francois
Chef Ali Francois

Chef Ali Francois

In 2012, Chef Ali Francois earned his culinary arts education from Le Cordon Bleu and has since become an established personal and executive chef. His talent for preparing personalized dining experiences and catering to client’s specified needs has provided opportunities to work with some prominent South Florida organizations, including the Miami Heat. He served as private chef to Miami Heat player Norris Cole, followed by providing his culinary ability to multiple professional league athletes including NFL players Antrelle Rolle, Frank Gore, Denzel Perrymen and Phillip Dorsett.

How did your journey and love of food begin?

My culinary journey was very unconventional. I didn’t grow up with a passion for cooking like most chefs. Even though my father was a Chef, my passion was music. As I got older I pursued a career in music and when that didn’t pan out, I decided to enroll in culinary because cooking allowed me to be just as creative and that’s when my passion grew.

How would you describe your culinary style/cuisine?

My style is very adaptive yet Caribbean. I explore all types of cuisines and put my Caribbean flair on majority of my dishes. Flavor is EVERYTHING to me. A nice presentation can fall flat if the food doesn’t taste as good as it looks.

In terms of stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, do you have a favorite?

Mac N Cheese is my favorite comfort food. I like to call myself the “King of Mac”! That’s one dish I make extremely well because I love it so much lol.

What would you say is one of the strangest foods you’ve ever eaten? Are you an adventurous eater?

I’ve tried octopus once and I wasn’t very pleased with it. As a chef you have to try different things to expand your pallet. There are a lot of things I don’t like but I’m open to trying most things.

What advice do you have for any aspiring foodies in the kitchen?

My advice would be to cook with flavor and cook with passion. Have fun with it and put your personality into your dishes.


Chef Alain Lemaire
Chef Alain Lemaire

Chef Alain Lemaire

A native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Chef Alain Lemaire is a graduate of Culinary program at Johnson & Wales University. Upon completion, Alain earned several honors such as a being a member of the Silver Key Honor Society, and of the “Chaine des Rotisseurs”. He is the co-owner and Executive Chef of Sensory Delights, LLC, a full service catering company supplying the entire South Florida area.

Thanks to his heritage and having spent most of his career in South Florida, Caribbean and Latin flavors play a major role in his style of cooking.

How did your journey and love of food begin?

Not once did I fathom being where I am today in my career, but my love and passion for food has carried me through. My love for food began at an early stage of my life, right around when I was 7 or 8 back home in Haiti. At first, it was more out of curiosity and the desire to cook for myself, but that swiftly changed along the years as I realized that I had a God-given gift not only to create delicious food, but also to entertain others with it when I was in high school.

How would you describe your culinary style/cuisine?

My cooking style/cuisine is contemporary Caribbean fusion. I enjoy creating new dishes with that island flair and kick. And I also enjoy recreating traditional dishes from back home with a modern and elegant twist. Visuals and flavors are big factors to me, so I emphasize on both.

In terms of stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, do you have a favorite?

Most definitely I do. Now, I love me some deep fried goat with fried plantain and pickled veggies (traditional Haitian dish) and I also love me some fried chicken with creamy mac and cheese. Can’t go wrong with some soul food.

Being a huge fan of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods, what would you say is one of the strangest foods you’ve ever eaten? Are you an adventurous eater?

Not a big fan. I am more of a fan of Bobby Flay because of his style of cooking and how he uses ingredients in his cooking. I love fresh and bold flavors that linger in your mouth and take you on a journey.

What influence, if any, does your nationality play in your dishes?

My nationality influences my dishes a lot. I was born and raised in Haiti so my palate has an affinity for a certain flavor profile. In addition, I am proud of my country, of our culture and of our food, so whenever I get a chance to showcase it, I do.

What advice do you have for any aspiring foodies in the kitchen?

For all the aspiring foodies in the kitchen, respect the ingredients that you are using and get to know them; find out who you are and who you want to be down the line.


Chef Troy Tingling
Chef Troy Tingling

Chef Troy Tingling

Chef Troy Tingling, personal chef to Amar’e Stoudemire of the Miami Heat, was raised in Jamaica and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu. Upon graduating, Chef Troy worked in Jamaica where he cooked for former Prime Minister, Bruce Golding. Over the years, Chef Troy has catered for a number of athletes and recording artist mixing his personal blend of Caribbean cuisine to his dishes.

Connect with him on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

How did your journey and love of food begin?

As many great chefs, my love for food and cooking began at home. My family can tell you many stories of me helping in the kitchen. When I joined the culinary program in high school, that is when I knew I loved food and wanted to learn everything I could about the culinary arts.

How would you describe your culinary style/cuisine?

I am Jamaican therefore I love bringing a Caribbean style to my dishes infusing it with a number of other cuisines including Asian, Indian, and European because of the spices I can play around with.

In terms of stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, do you have a favorite?

After cooking an array of dishes for clients, when it comes to cooking for myself, I like to keep it simple with a good meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

What would you say is one of the strangest foods you’ve ever eaten? Are you an adventurous eater?

For me, as a chef there are very little limits as to what I would try. I’ve tried gator, rabbit, ostrich, shark, and goat nuggets. They are all unique in their own way, so I try to keep in an open mind when I travel learning about different cultures and what they consider staple foods, which sometimes means thinking outside the box.

What advice do you have for any aspiring foodies in the kitchen?

For the future chefs, come in and give it all that you can. The culinary industry is tough and it could eat you up, but stay positive and be open to learning and growing with some of the best.