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Traditional European Dishes Meet South Beach Diet at The Lunchbox

Former Arepabox owner Carlos Dorado gives us the lowdown on his new Wynwood offering.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.

I have always been attracted to food and the kitchen, however when it came down to choosing a career to study, I did not have the guts back then to jump into the culinary abyss, so I opted for studying the same thing that my father studied in the hope that over time, I would forget about the kitchen world and learn to love the business world. I ended up graduating from Suffolk University on International Economics with a minor in accounting and moving to Miami to work on a company dedicated to importing high-end spirits. I was young, living in a beautiful city, in a beautiful apartment, with a good job. I should have been the happiest man on earth, but I was far from that. The monotony of a 9 to 5 desk job was literally killing me from the inside, I was depressed and the idea that I was going to spend the rest of my life sitting at a desk was torturing me on a daily basis to the point of madness. That is when I took the boldest, most aggressive and overall the best decision I have ever taken in my life: going back to school, to Culinary School to be more precise. I enrolled in Johnson and Wales on a experimental program that they where testing specifically designed for students with previous bachelors degrees. From the first moment I entered my first culinary lab I knew I was finally on my game field. During that time, I did three unpaid internships in order to level up a bit more with the rest of the students that had more experience that me. The first one was at the Pappermoon restaurant in Milano. The second internship was in Madrid on a restaurant called Castellana Drinks and Food, located in the heart of the financial center of the city. This internship was a dream come true for me due to the fact that my father is from Spain and I have always been a fool for Spanish food, so this internship was my opportunity to learn to cook all my favorite dishes directly from the hands of chef Gregorio, a master in the subject. For my last internship I wanted to experience what massive volume meant, that is why I decided to do it on the same university food court that served breakfast lunch and dinner to over one thousand students on a daily basis. There I learned how to run a food operation that received four six foot tall pallets of products a day. After graduating I almost immediately started a food truck business called Arepabox that specialized in Venezuelan arepas. The food truck was the toughest challenge of my life.

I'm a passionate chef with a background in economics and accounting.

For 14 months I lived on that truck, I became not only a chef but also a mechanic, an entrepreneur and a public relations guy, but after endless hours of work in hour hands and miles under the truck hood we managed to turn it into a success. However this also meant that we were at maximum production capacity and we could not keep growing our business. When the debate between acquiring a second food truck or make the jump into a brick and mortar restaurant came up we ended up opting for the second option, and I gotta say, selling that old truck with almost 200 thousand miles on it really hurt me. Even though it was a tough job, it was fun and we made good money with it, so it was not an easy decision to make. Overall I believe it was the right choice. Now I will have a bigger kitchen and a fixed location and I want to offer the clients what I learned from my periods in Europe on a simple, fast-casual environment with a future franchising possibility. And I might not be the chef with the most experience out there, but I am definitely the more passionate and stubborn one with out a doubt, so this will happen. I see myself having an upper hand in this business. I'm a passionate chef with a background in economics and accounting.

It is important to note though that the Lunchbox is not derived from the Arepabox. When we sold the food truck the three partners went our separate ways. I chose to start the Lunchbox, as the sole proprieter and just so happen to get to have my old business partner joining me in the kitchen and arepas will make an appearance on the menu.

What's the design of the restaurant like?

Our main point is to reduce our environmental impact through the upcycling of materials.

It's a fast casual dining setting. About 40 seats. The interior will consist of tables and chairs, utensils and dinnerware revived from local secondhand stores. This will reduce the environmental impact of the restaurant, something we find important in our restaurant. The walls will be decorated with paintings and photographs of local artists in order to show that The Lunchbox is unconditionally a supporter of the local arts. On any given day that you decide to eat at the Lunchbox, you might end up eating on a plate set from 1964, on a table from 1919 and sitting on a chair from 1981 and seeing a new piece of art on the wall. The restaurant will be in a constant state of flux. Our main point is to reduce our environmental impact through the upcycling of materials.

Why do you call the food "Neo-Traditional?"

I call the food neo-traditional cuisine because I use traditional recipes, influenced by modern thinking. You could think of it as traditional European dishes meet the South Beach Diet. The food is influenced by local and seasonal ingredients.

Why did you choose Miami for your next spot?

out of the whole U.S.A., no city is growing at a faster pace than Miami

At this point, there is no better place in the world to be a chef or entrepreneur than the United States and the reason I say this is because the U.S. is the only country left in the world that is still in the process of "learning" how to eat well. Thirty years ago it was odd to see a bottle of wine on someone's table, nowadays everyone is obsessed with wine. Twenty years ago it was unthinkable to serve duck liver to anyone but your dog, nowadays we see foie gras even on burgers. Ten years ago the definition of an Italian restaurant was a small family served joint with two sauce options, Alfredo or bolognese sauce, nowadays some of the best restaurants in the country are Italian cuisine.

Wynwood especially needs an affordable quick service lunch spot with healthy options.

So it is clear that the U.S. is in a path towards better eating and out of the whole U.S.A., no city is growing at a faster pace than Miami, soon to become, in my opinion, one of the top 5 cities in the country over the next few years. So the real question should be, why not Miami? Miami is on the world's radar, especially areas like Wynwood and the neighboring Design District. Wynwood is the focus of the city according to locals right now. Its coming up. Wynwood especially needs an affordable quick service lunch spot with healthy options. We will have available to download our Lunchbox App, where you can pre-order and pre-pay for your food on your phone/desktop, choose a time to pick it up and we will have it waiting for you. This won't be like anything Miami has seen so far.

When can we expect The Lunchbox to open?

November 22.