If you have ever visited Miami, chances are that you have visited one of Jose Mendin’s restaurants. The Chef and restaurateur co-founded and created the Pubbelly Boys restaurant group in 2010, recently announced the formation of Food Comma Hospitality Group (FCHG) and the opening of Habitat, a new signature restaurant at 1 Hotel South Beach.
Born in Puerto Rico into a family with a keen appreciation of the culinary arts; his great-grandmother was a cooking instructor and his mom a talented cook. In 1998, Mendin moved from his native Puerto Rico to Miami to enroll at Johnson & Wales University, graduating in 2001 with a Bachelor’s Degree in the Culinary Arts.
Quickly joining all-star kitchens around the globe and playing key culinary roles at Nobu Miami and Nobu London, was Assistant Corporate Chef to Sushisamba, and opened Mercadito in Chicago and Miami. He even cooked for the King of Spain at Michelin-starred El Chaflan in Madrid. After his stint with Mercadito, he sealed his fate by teaming up with Chef Sergio Navarro restaurant empire.
After his stint with Mercadito, he sealed his fate by teaming up with Chef Sergio Navarro restaurant empire. FCHG’s roster includes restaurants and bars such as Pubbelly Noodle Bar, Pubbelly Sushi (at American Airlines Arena, Brickell City Centre, Casa de Campo and Miami Beach), Food Republic aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Escape, Baja Bao and PB Ysla in Mendin’s hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico and newly opened Habitat.
Along the way, he received many honors including the StarChefs Rising Star Restaurateur Award (2016), and James Beard Foundation nominations for “Best Chef: South” from 2012 – 2016. And we could go on and on and on about Chef Mendin, but we decided to get to know him better and so, without further ado, let’s go drinking with Chef Jose Mendin.
Drinking with Chef Jose Mendin
Tell us a little about your newest spot, Habitat, and what you suggest a first-timer enjoys while sitting at the bar.
I would definitely start with the Hamachi Aguachiles, made with a watermelon broth, guajillo peppers and yuzu. I’d wash it down with one of our house cocktails, particularly The 5th Element – Avion Blanco, pineapple, cilantro, avocado, agave, lime, egg white, citrus salt).
Tell us about the Beverage Program at Habitat.
The beverage program at Habitat is super creative; we have amazing Mixologists that are having a lot of fun behind the bar.
From our sugar specialities our “Key Lime Tequila” spikes up this Saturday Night for Art Basel! Brown butter blondies and yuzu Lime cremeux! @djleeburridge spinning at 12 at our @2ndfloormb Lounge! • #WinterInMiami #Habitat #BonAppetit #Saturday #WeekendVibes #Sugar #Dessert #ArtBasel #BaselLife #MiamiBeach #2ndFloor #DjLeeBurridge #KeyLimePie 📸@ztarglider
How did you get started in the biz?
I went to college in Puerto Rico on a scholarship for Volleyball. I stopped playing and lost the scholarship, so I ended up dropping out. I had to do something, so I started working in a kitchen in San Juan. I fell in love with it instantly and ended up moving to Miami to go to culinary school.
What is your current go-to (boozy) drink order?
I have many depending on my mood. But being Puerto Rican, there is nothing that I like more than a simple Don Q & Coke.
Do you drink coffee or tea?
I am not a big coffee drinker, but when I go for coffee I love Panther Coffee or a Cuban colada.
Tell us about your first boozy experience? Where, when and what?
If by boozy, you mean the first time I got very drunk, it was in Puerto Rico at a bar called Shannan’s Pub. I had six Long Island Iced Teas and got hammered.
What is your hangover remedy?
There is none, and I’ve tried everything. Go to sleep ‘til the next day or keep drinking.
If you are day drinking, what’s your poison?
Rosé, all day.
What is your very last sip, Death Row drink?
A bartender that worked with us made a drink for me and she put it on the menu, she called it Chef’s Old Fashioned. It is the perfect rum old fashioned that has ever been, and ‘til this day, the best drink I’ve ever had. Thanks, Ashley!
If you could have drinks with anyone dead, alive or fictional, who would it be and what would you both be drinking?
I would definitely love to hang out with Vince Vaughn. Probably in Puerto Rico while sipping on Piña Coladas.
Who is the best drinking buddy for a wild night?
Chefs Jeremy Ford and Brad Kilgore, when we get together bad things happen
What’s your theme song in the kitchen?
Rocky’s “Eye of the Tiger” always gets me going.
You are from Puerto Rico …. what is your favorite drink from La Isla del Encanto?
For sure the Piña Colada from Caribe Hilton.
Your Pubbelly restaurants have pretty much become Miami institutions. What’s your favorite Pubbelly dish & drink pairing?
From Pubbelly Noodle Bar, I love the sea urchin spaghetti with harissa butter and horseradish; I would pair it with nice glass of sake.
Any advice for aspiring young guns wanting to break into the industry?
Get out while you can!!!! Run!!!!!!!!!!
Chef Jose Mendin’s Favorite Miami Joints:
Taking out-of-towners for an “Only in Miami” experience?
Mango’s, Calle 8 or Pubbelly (lol).
Romantic “let’s get it on” date night?
A Classic Dive Bar night?
Super Crafty Cocktails?
Broken Shaker (at Freehand).
Late Night (Drunk) Eats?
Your local Neighborhood spot?
Best Cuban Spot?
Shameless Plug Time – what is next on your world domination agenda?
I’m opening a restaurant in Paris sometime in 2018.
How can we follow you and your restaurant’s adventures on social media?
Habitat Miami Beach Details
2341 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL
habitatmb.com | 305-604-6700