We sure don’t think that Brian Nasajon, executive chef of SUSHISAMBA in Coral Gables and Dromo (that is SushiSamba Dromo) in Miami Beach, knew where his life was headed as he finished up the last year of his philosophy degree in NYU.
But who really does? It’s a blurry time for most of us.
Still, it did seem like an unlikely choice. Going from Descartes, Kant and Wittgenstein to throwing around the words substitute and on the fly, which happen to be his least favorite words used in the kitchen.
He explained, “Substitute means I have to sub out something with something else. Hate it. On the fly, I hate those too. It means super fast, it means I need it right now and it’s usually used when someone messes up,” and that definitely does not sound good.
But, before we get into the kitchen talk, we asked ourselves why would someone study philosophy if they wouldn’t be using it in practice per say?
Oh wait, we all do that…
You can call it fate, if you believe in that sort of thing…
He did mention to us that his grandfather was a big influence on his love for food.
“My grandfather was a chef. I always watched him cook. Every time, I would go to his place he would ask, ‘What do you want to eat?’ He would say, ‘let’s cook something… let’s make some dough.’ So that always sparked that interest in cooking. I always liked to cook for my friends and family and I got that from him. I wouldn’t say that he was the driver in why I became a chef, but he is definitely the reason I love food, for sure. It’s very much in the blood.
So what could be the driving force? When it came down to the decision, of what to do with his life, Brian told us, “My options were, write a book or teach a class and I didn’t want to do either of those things. I wanted to leave college and the reason I stayed was because my parents really insisted. So, my senior year I gave cooking a try. It was something random I had never pursued. I went to work for free at this restaurant Lure Fishbar as a prep cook [in NYC]. I had never really picked up a knife and within a month I really, really liked it. And it just took off from that. I spent a year there.”
He must have had it in him. He modestly accepted, “A little bit, the first six months were really tough. I liked it and I wanted to get better so I was asking a lot of questions, bothering everyone about things. And after the first year, I was doing better. After I finished college, it was way too expensive to live in New York. I was getting paid nothing as a prep cook. So I came back to Miami where things were cheaper, I could get paid the same but I had a better quality of life.“
The past few years have just been on fast forward for him. In Miami, he connected with Marco Ferraro at Wish (now closed) and Michael Bloise, former chef of SushiSamba on the beach.
So maybe he didn’t need the education, but he wasn’t and isn’t another brick in the wall…
He says by chance he moved up quickly but we are certain it was his talent that scored him the executive chef position at both SushiSambas in Miami. That’s two restaurants on two different sides of Miami.
Sleep must be an afterthought and he certainly keeps busy.
But his energy transmits through the food he puts out and what SushiSamba stands for: street food from Japan, Peru and Brazil done gourmet.
Being the only SushiSamba (Coral Gables) in the world that serves breakfast, Brian revealed to us what his favorite thing about breakfast is: “We get to offer a different style of food and yet embrace the energy of the place. It’s a small departure from the norm, in the same playing field. It has a life of its own and I think it has so much potential to grow. It gives us another face, to the company, a whole other personality to SushiSamba.”
His eyes lit up as he spoke to us about his favorites. Here’s the scoop.
The morning sandwich-very meaty, perfect for a hangover.
“So what’s awesome about the lunch menu is that right now we are doing the whole bento box thing. We are going to start offering a whole menu based on different bentos. So it gives you the complete option of your rice, your sushi rolls, your salad, your soup, your protein with your sauce. With that, I love that whole concept of it, for less than $20 you get a full complete lunch. It’s a fast lunch, easy, the ideal situation.”
“I always say the Moqueca Mista. It’s this traditional Brazilian fishermen stew with steamed clams, shrimp, coconut milk and chimichurri rice. What makes it very particular is that we use dendê oil, which is a red palm oil from Brazil. It’s this wood oil, it really has this intense wood flavor, super unique and different from anything, gives it this really awesome flavor, a hardy and flavorful seafood dish. I can’t take any credit for it.”
Wrapping up we asked Chef Brian to share with us his thoughts on Miami’s food scene:
“Miami is a baby. It’s a brand new city especially, in the culinary world. But, I think its showed a lot of promise, people are finding that we are getting a good amount of tourism, getting a certain quality of people that are paying attention to the food world, to the culinary world. Before, you were seeing this generic trend of fine dining restaurants with a lot of classic food and now you are seeing trendy chefs doing modern food, a little riskier. I do think it just started and it’s too soon to see what it, in my opinion, will develop into. But I think it’s going on the right path and it’s just booming. People are making good food. It’s the beginning of something really awesome, hopefully. It’s good to be part of it now too; it’s the beginning of a whole new food culture in Miami.”
There you have it Hungries!
It’s so refreshing to see young and talented chefs making it happen. It just gives us some revelatory-hope that we’ll make it too. Cheers to Chef Brian and to his continuous success!