Meals that Enriched Foods Miami will serve are prepared in professional kitchens, mostly by volunteers. / All photos and video courtesy Enriched Foods Miami

Johan Gutierrez founded Enriched Foods Miami in order to do two things at once: reduce food waste and help those in need of a nutritious meal. Unfortunately, in South Florida as elsewhere — as he saw during a visit to San Francisco — there is too much such waste and too many who are food-insecure.

Johan Gutierrez at work in the kitchen. A friend returned from Spain with this T-shirt, which, translated, means “Foods of Extremadura,” as a gift. Extremadura is a region in western central Spain.

Born in Cuba, Johan has lived in Miami for the past two decades. He has seen, first-hand, Miami’s homeless, as well as the many problems they face. One of the main ones is getting a decent meal. He decided that one way to reduce the problem of hunger among the homeless is to find surplus food, prepare it and deliver it to those in need. So he founded Enriched Foods Miami.

Florida Food & Farm asked Johan to answer some questions for our Chef Tastemaker series.

Question: What is your title? 

Answer: I’m founder and chairman of Enriched Foods Miami.

Q: What gave you the idea for your nonprofit? 

A: I started noticing the amount of food waste that we as a society contribute due to our culture and the country that we live in. All of our food is donated, mainly because it is surplus or it’s food that would be thrown away for the simple fact that it doesn’t look appealing to our eyes. Most of the food also comes in because grocery stores that don’t have the capacity to store large quantities of food have to create space; therefore, they have to eliminate the older foods.

Using donated foods, Enriched Foods Miami provides free hot meals for those who need them.

Q: Describe the concept of Enriched Foods, and who are its major sponsors?

A: In finding ways to distribute these foods, we decided to make gourmet meals for the community of people experiencing homelessness or food insecurity by creating events where the recipient will experience the same service as at a luxury restaurant, but at no cost.

Some of our sponsors are:
Netuno – all sorts of fish;
Whole Foods – vegetables, milk, cheese, pastry, bread;
Miami City Ballet – shirts;
Lean Orb: eco-friendly plates, and silverware;
Food Rescue Miami – food;
DJ Font – music for every event.

Wants to create a network of farmers in Florida

Q: You said that you want to network with farmers in other regions of Florida. How so, and what are your hopes and goals in doing that?

A: We want to work with farmers in the entire state to minimize food waste and obtain all food that could possibly go to waste. Not all crops are equally as good and we understand that, so we want to grow our suppliers list while we also appreciate their services.

Aside from that, we want to be able to network and create a circle in which farmers can provide their products to each other — referral services at no cost.

Q: Tell us about your first kitchen experience. (Note: The video is below.)

A:  Our first kitchen experience was catastrophically exciting. We actually cooked at a friend’s house, since we couldn’t secure our commissary kitchen for the first event. So we didn’t have the right size of pots or the equipment to feed the amount of food that we prepared. We even had to go to the store multiple times to buy more large pots. But it was a great experience, and the volunteers loved it, and it was also a learning experience for us all. 

Q: What three words best describe yourself, and why?

A: Intrepid, courageous and risky. I am a person that, if an idea crosses my mind, I immediately find a way to put it in place. Enriched Foods happened while returning from a trip to San Francisco, where I had time to relax, reflect and think.

While I was landing at Miami International, an idea came to me: Get food that would otherwise be thrown away, retain it and utilize it in gourmet meals — while giving the community the experience of a hot sit-down meal. The very next day, I commented about it to some friends to see their opinion and perspective on the idea. The following day, I was incorporating Enriched Foods Miami. 

Below is the video of Enriched Foods Miami’s first — and “catastrophically exciting” — kitchen experience.

Q: As a chef working in Florida, what do you get most excited about?

A: Even though I am not a chef — I’m an accountant that manages restaurants’ financials and also performs bookkeeping for restaurants — I get to cook once or twice a month for people I know who would not leave a grain of rice on the plate. I get to put a smile on someone’s face; that for me is the ultimate goal. 

Q: Tell us about some of the businesses and local farms you work with, and what they provide to you.

A: The one who has brought so much into what we do is the Redland Farmers Market in Homestead. There, we put together a once-a-month event for the community of South Dade.

Q: Who has helped you most to get to the place you are now?

A: My supporting cast is definitely my board members. They are 100 percent supportive of my decisions and also make their own. It is composed of three women and one guy plus myself. Putting these events together, plus going on several panels and speaking about food waste, cannot be done on my own. They work on my schedule, events, picking up donations, getting volunteers, and taking over entire events of their own. 

Q: Back to Enriched Foods Miami: Why should readers support your nonprofit, and what are you doing there that’s truly unique to your enterprise and to you as its founder?

Feeding the hungry requires a lot of teamwork.

A: We really are not reinventing the wheel; we are just putting in force something for our community. People should help if they want to better their community. Food waste is a major factor in climate change and global warming. If people believe in preventing that, and also reducing human suffering from hunger, then they should reach out to us and help.

How people can help is simple. Here are the three ways:
1. Sharing the information, about us and the hunger problem, on social media and all other forms to create awareness.
2. Donation is a major factor. To be able to keep doing more of what we do, we need funds. It’s just the reality. 
3. We also need farmers or companies to work with us to provide food or other in-kind donations. 

Q: Is there anything on your agenda we should know about?

A: Always. The second Saturday of each month, we participate at something we created called Soul Food in Redland. The next one will be on July 13 and the following one on Aug. 10. Those are aside from other events that we always get called in for.

Q: Shout-out: Is there someone (for example, a purveyor, farmer, chef, etc.) you’d like to tell Florida Food & Farm readers about?

A: There are. Every single nonprofit always has those people that some way, somehow take the lead on their own. In this case, we have three:

  1. Ellie Klimas from Whole Foods in South Beach;
  2. Nina Regalado from Netuno;
  3. Sandra Bahhur, our chef in charge of creating the menus.

Enriched Foods Miami
323 Washington Ave., No. 7
Miami Beach, FL 33139
[email protected]