By Lisa Petrillo

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Chef Cindy Hutson is a familiar name to many in South Florida, whether you’re in the restaurant business or just a self-described foodie.

For 21 years, at Ortanique on the Mile in Coral Gables, Cindy and her life partner Delius Shirley and daughter Ashley have been cooking up her Caribbean inspired cuisine she calls “Cuisine of the Sun.”

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“When we came to Coral Gables my goal was to be ethnically driven because, let’s face it, Miami has a lot of ethnicity. So the food is farm fresh, it’s seasonal, it’s ethnic, and people know what they’re eating when they come in, it’s not complicated,” Hutson said.

Through the years, Hutson has received many awards and accolades for her unique style of cooking and charming hospitality.

Celebrities flocked there and foodie fans came in from all over.

But in recent years they struggled. Coral Gables has had intense street construction for the last two years.

“There would be tractors in front of our front door for three months without moving and torn-up streets. It was awful, it hit us hard,” she said.

Then the pandemic happened in mid-March.

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“I was so hopeful. Our customers were so very loyal, they were ordering, they were coming in and picking up, they were just wonderful,” Hutson explained.

Then came the county’s 50 percent capacity rule.

“If you are not filling your 50 percent capacity at 100 percent, how can you really even pay your bills with that? How can you pay your rent, how can you pay your taxes, insurance, everything, your staff?” she said. “We started getting letters from the landlord saying we had needed to pay our rent and we tried to cut a deal with them. We could not pay this amount when we were not filling 50 percent.”

Earlier this month they made the heartbreaking decision they would close Ortanique for good.

“We were heartbroken. We cried, we laughed, we cried we thought this has to be the end of 21 years,” Hutson said tearily.

“What would you like to say to say to your South Florida fans that have held you in their hearts and stomachs for all these years,” asked CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo.

“It was awesome. It is awesome and the people reaching out to us now are incredible. I cry all the time now because people are really expressing what Ortanique meant to them and so I guess we accomplished exactly what we wanted,” she said.

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Hutson still has Zest Market in Downtown Miami and Zest Restaurant in Jamaica. For now, she’s doing some consulting here in South Florida and there’s no doubt we will see her cooking in the kitchen somewhere again soon.

Lisa Petrillo