Welcome back to Local Tastemakers, our monthly column where we’ll feature local members of the food community who we want to tell the world about. This month, we travel to Delray Beach and visit Chef Blake Malatesta, who has taken his Louisiana roots; love of bold flavors; and passion for using local and sustainable ingredients into the kitchen of M.I.A. Kitchen & Bar.

Interview with Chef Blake Malatesta

Chef Blake MaletestaName: Chef Blake Malatesta
Title: Executive Chef
Restaurant: M.I.A. Kitchen & Bar in Delray Beach

Tell us about your first kitchen experience.

Making stuffed macaroni with my grandmother for the holiday. She would make the mix of fresh ricotta, braised calf brain, spinach, garlic and onion. She’d turn on the radio and we’d stuff the macaroni by hand and cook it off for holiday dinners. To this day, I can close my eyes and taste those macaronis — and can’t come close to replicating it.

What’s your drink of choice?

Single Batch Bourbon … neat. After work … a PBR.

And, what about your last meal?

Sliced meats and cheeses, sausages, bread, pickles, olives and a bottle of Bordeaux.

What about secret talents, do you have anything that you’re hiding from us? 

I have been playing the violin since I was fifteen.

Do you have any advice for those looking to become a chef?

Travel, taste the world and read, read, read. Be humble, be professional and be prepared to sacrifice everyone and everything. Your craft is the only thing that matters.

As we move into the season, what are you most excited about? 

Local farmers gearing up for the season. Ready to use Florida produce.

Tell us about some of the local farms that you work with.

Swank Farm, Kai Kai Farm, Natural Nomad, Lake Meadow Naturals, Cypress Point Creamery, Fancy Chicken Farms, Hatcher Hills Mango and more.

When did you start working with local farms and why do you think it’s important?

In every kitchen I worked in, there has been a very strong relationship between local purveyors and local restaurants. When I moved Delray, my first order of business for 50 Ocean was to move it to a local food movement with Florida meat and seafood. It is important to support the local farmer. Buying food local decreases the carbon foot-print. You get more fresh product, better tasting, and in most cases organic and natural. This cycle, in turn, starts to pump revenue into the local economy and everyone wins from the farmer to the restaurant to the consumer.

Who’s helped you get to the place your are right now? 

Shoutout to my wife, Ana Malatesta, who has pushed me all over this world to hone my craft, I will always adore you. To my brigade, you are the reason. It is because of you all that our guests enjoy themselves. And finally, to our guests, thank you so much for your patronage and continued support of MIA Kitchen & Bar.

It was great seeing the community of chefs coming together recently with Chef vs. Chef and other chef competitions. How do you see that growing and how can that togetherness help strengthen the community? 

I can see it becoming a ritual every summer. I enjoyed participating in it. From that competition, many friendships were forged. With more togetherness, you will see more pop-up concepts, more restaurant collaborations, more culinary driven projects in the community such as food drives with chefs, community gardens and specialty dinners.

Now back to MIA Kitchen & Bar – Why should we love the restaurant, and what are you doing there that’s truly unique to the restaurant and to you as a chef?

We want to educate and bring our patrons closer to true Florida ingredients. We elevate the old concept of farm to table to a new inventive way of  Florida Modern Cuisine. The restaurant as a whole is truly unique, from the local ingredients in dishes and drinks, to the design of the interior. The restaurant is a part of the community that will feature local artists of screen, sound and canvas. 

MIA Kitchen & Bar is located at 7901 W. Atlantic Ave., Suite 101 in Delray Beach. For more information, visit the restaurant online or call (561) 499-2200.