MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In this week’s edition of “Women To Watch,” Trend Tracker® Tara Gilani tracked down one of the top female chefs in America.
Cindy Hutson is owner and executive chef of Ortanique in Coral Gables. Her outposts in Camana Bay, Grand Cayman and at The Dunmore in Harbour Island Bahamas adds up to three times the charm.
“Cuisine of the sun” is what Hutson long ago dubbed her Caribbean-style cooking.
Ortanique has been a popular spot its whole 16 years—quite a feat.
Mom of three, a self-taught cook, Cindy opened her first restaurant, Norma’s On The Beach (in South Beach) in 1994 with her partner in life (and business), Delius Shirley.
“He decided that I knew how to cook, I didn’t go to culinary school, he said get in the kitchen, I need a chef, I want a restaurant, he threw me in there.
Hutson told Gilani she learned, “the hard way. I cried every single night, every night.”
“Are you still crying 16-years later?” Gilani asked Hutson.
“No. What happened was I cried, I burnt myself, I cut myself, I didn’t know what I was doing. So I thought. And then our first review came out and it was USA Today and they called me the jewel of the Caribbean and I went…oh…I can do this!“ Hutson said.
Cindy calls her Caribbean-inspired cooking “Cuisine of the Sun.”
“My cuisine of the sun is basically whatever I feel under the sun to be cooking but it does involve fresh, seasonal produce, local wherever possible. It’s ever-changing, core menu, all the special revolve, like the sun,” Hutson said.
Hutson cooked for Gilani. To sum it up, Gilani said the food was “delish.”
“I went all Caribbean today and this one is a Jamaican-style curried pork with yellow yam malanga, breadfruit and jasmine rice.”
Hutson’s secret to longevity in the restaurant business is simple; don’t try to be something you’re not. And her secret to success is similar, “be true to yourself.”
Hutson, who often wears a bandana, which has become a trademark said, “yup, that’s me. It changes every day.” Gilani noted, “the bandana and the menu.”
“Laugh at me if you will but I kind of have the feeling in a past life I was maybe a Jamaican, somewhere in the Caribbean. It’s just too comfortable for me. It’s very easy to get into that whole mode,” said Chef Hutson.
Coming soon, the newest member of the Ortanique family, Hutson said, “We’re opening up Zest, down on Biscayne, right across from the Intercontinental Hotel.”
Hutson’s first book, called “From the Tip of my Tongue,” just debuted. “It’s part cookbook and part love story,” Hutson said.
“I fell into this business because Delius grabbed my hand and told me I could do it and would be wonderful at it, all along, me doubting me, no one else doubting me, and it’s a darned good feeling to know you’ve found what you’re meant to be doing.”
Cindy Hutson, from the heart, answered the Trend Tracker®’s round of questions: I am, “content,” I want, “to keep traveling,” I will, “make a mark in this world,” I will, “never back down,” I hope, “to become a little wealthier, I wish, “the best for my children,” I promise, “to help provide that for them.”
For more on Cindy Hutson, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, @ortaniqueonthemile.