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MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Walk into the beautiful 200 seat eatery called Habitat at the 1 Hotel South Beach and you suddenly feel the tension melt away.

With warm, soft colors and greenery all around it’s the perfect respite from the daily grind.

“The concept of the look of the restaurant is that we wanted to go together with 1 Hotel. It’s all about sustainability and we wanted to create a concept that blended perfectly with the hotel. The food is a lot of the stuff I like to cook, all the flavors and cooked on a wood fire grill. The space has this feeling like you’re in The Hamptons,” said the owner Chef Jose Mendin.

Born in Puerto Rico, Mendin has become a long way since his humble beginnings. He first started cooking in college for himself and his roommates.

“I started cooking for my roommates and I started seeing how happy my food made them. That started my interest in the culinary arts,” he explained.

After attending cooking school at Johnson and Wales he grew into prominence as the face of Miami’s acclaimed Pubbellys Boys, of which there are now 11 restaurants.

Habitat is his latest venture. Oh, and this year he was named one of People Magazine’s Sexiest Chefs in America. CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo asked him how that honor feels.

“I guess I don’t believe it. It’s an honor. My mom keeps it in her purse and shows all her friends but other than that I don’t really notice,” Mendin said.

“So, you don’t have it framed on your desk,” asked Petrillo.

“It’s not framed anywhere,” he said laughing.

This year, Chef Jose will be back participating in the annual Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry, an event held at the Ice Palace April 27 featuring 60 chefs from South Florida cooking up culinary creations to stop childhood hunger. Mendin will feature his fan favorite “Hamachi Aguachile” made with watermelon, guajillo radishes, and cilantro.

“It’s citrus and spicy. There’s a lot going on, there’s a lot of flavor,” said Mendin.

“There’s heat but not too much,” said Petrillo.

“It’s a pleasure heat,” he said.

“Yes it is and the freshness of the fish is a big part of it,” said Petrillo

Next Croquettas de Jamon Iberico, or ham croquettes, made with bechamel and Spanish ham

“It’s a pillow of love,” said Mendin.

“It is a pillow of love,” said Petrillo. “I’m usually afraid of croquettes as they can be heavy and sticky. This is light and fluffy and the ham gives it salt on the outside,” said Petrillo.

They have delicious wood grilled Colorado lamb served with tsaktiki sauce and roasted eggplant and peppers and a mouthwatering Wagu Milanese Carpaccio topped with a black garlic soy, pickled romaine, and tomatoes.

“It’s really fancy, but simple at the same time,” said Petrillo.

“And it’s light. Really light,” said Mendin.

Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry is on April 27th.

Petrillo is the evening’s emcee. For ticket information www.events.nokidhungry.org

Habitat is open 7 days a week all day, all meals. For more info on it visit www.1hotels.com.

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