Chef Scott Neuman of Oba in Portland, Oregon, is considered the “father of Nuevo Latino cuisine in the Pacific Northwest” . Neuman will be in Miami June 22-26 as a celebrity chef repping Certified Angus Beef brand at The Taste of the Caribbean Culinary Competition at the Hyatt regency in Downtown Miami, featuring trade shows, tastings, seminars and a competition between chefs from the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Anguilla and Curaco. We asked Neuman a few questions about Portland's Nuevo Latino vs. Miami's.
Eater: What, if anything differentiates Miami's Nuevo Latino cuisine from your Pacific Northwest version?
Scott Neuman: What we have tried to do is create a unique menu, using not only authentic ingredients and techniques but also the fresh local bounty of the Willamette Valley, transforming the two into a textured dining experience. The inspiration for my cuisine comes from my roots in the American Southwest, but includes also my travels in the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico as well as Spain. What I hope really separates what I do is the use of local, seasonal, sustainable ingredients that are right outside my back door, and translate those products into something that our guests can identify with, and crave after their experience.
It starts by taking people out of rainy, cold Portland and transporting them to somewhere warm and tropical (remember, it does rain nine months out of the year here, and we think a “heat wave” is two days over 80 degrees!). Fourteen years ago, our guests didn’t have the same type of experience with the style of cuisine that was already so prevalent in Miami. I wasn’t born into this cuisine, so it is the melding of all the influence that I have fallen in love with through travel and discovery over time. I have probably used broader brush strokes to represent our cuisine to make it more understandable for our guests.
Those brush strokes translate themself into things like Grilled Wild Columbia River Salmon with Banana Lime Mojo, Pineapple-Black Bean Salsa and Tomatillo Rice, and Pan-Roasted Northwest Halibut with fresh Oregon berry salsa served with locally organically-grown Russian Banana fingerling potatoes and baby arugula salad.
E: Do you know Douglas Rodriguez? Have you eaten in any of his Miami restaurants?
SN: I have not yet met “The Godfather", but I obviously know of the contribution he has made to the style of cuisine that I try to represent. I’m a great admirer of his, and have a tremendous appreciation for his body of work and what he has done to popularize upscale Latin food in America. I have not had the pleasure of dining at his establishments in Miami, since it is unfortunately my first visit here since 2000, though I did eat at the legendary Patria in New York City many years ago.
E: Any future trends you see in Nuevo Latino, because what's nuevo today is old tomorrow?
SN: Interestingly enough, Nuevo Latino was one of the hottest trends 14 years ago when we opened the restaurant, and as they say, things come full circle. Nuevo Latino cuisine has been projected to be one of the hottest trends for 2012. All concepts go through evolutions, not only while they are the hottest thing going, but maybe even more impressively when the trend is winding down. Most either evolve or close. I believe that’s how we’ve maintained our identity over 14 years, through unique ingredients, preparations and presentations that you can’t find elsewhere, and our commitment to consistency.
Things I think we’ll see play out more this time around in 2012 are more authentic distinct regional cuisines within each country. Street foods will continue to be extremely popular. This may seem somewhat contradictory, but I believe the “fusion” of cuisines that we’ve been a part of might be more accepted into the mainstream. We’ve probably all experienced Korean barbecue tacos -here in Portland Thai cuisine reigns. I’m actually meeting with a chef from Thailand this weekend to discuss how we could potentially work together combine our cuisines. Jose Andres, one of the greatest current trendsetters in our industry, continues to reinvent at China Poblano, which fuses Chinese and Mexican cuisines, so I can see more “hybrids” coming our way. [EaterWire]