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PUBLISHED APRIL 2023


STORY

Lisa Cavanaugh

PHOTOS

Dan Cutrona

LOCATION

Miami

The way Chef Alex Diaz sees it, the path his life has taken has landed him exactly where he should be. “I believe I was meant to move away from New Jersey, where I was born, and to live with my grandparents on their farm in Puerto Rico,” says Diaz, who is a corporate chef with the Sub-Zero Group in Miami, Florida. “My grandfather always said you never say no to an extra pair of hands, and I learned so much from that experience.”

As a young man living in Puerto Rico, Diaz did not immediately see himself as either a farmer or a chef. “I wasn't really fond of waking up at four in the morning to work on the farm,” he says with a laugh. He studied computer programming and accounting before a local friend suggested he try culinary school. “One of the first things they taught was basic menu costing, and because I had that background in accounting and computer programming, it was a very easy start for me in a sense. That's when I realized, well, the more I can learn, the better prepared I'll be to make the most of my career.”

Diaz started his culinary career by working in several restaurants in Puerto Rico before receiving a job offer from Hilton and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. “I was with them for five years,” he says. “Then a chef from the same property offered me a position in a private restaurant in Miami.” Eventually, Diaz says, he wanted to set out on his own and put into practice everything he had learned so far about the restaurant business. “I joined the Zuma Restaurant Group and worked in several of their restaurants before joining Sub-Zero in 2018."

The way Chef Alex Diaz sees it, the path his life has taken has landed him exactly where he should be - the Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove Miami Showroom

At the Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove Miami Showroom, Diaz facilitates product demonstrations, use and care tutorials, and events. His position entails travel throughout Florida and the Caribbean, where his ability to communicate in six languages comes in handy. “I can go to Martinique and use my French. It’s a lot of fun!” says Diaz.

His multilingual talents reflect his aptitude for a variety of cuisines. “I was never one to dedicate myself to just one style of cooking,” says Diaz. “For me, it has been more about learning techniques overall.” He says he began with traditional European cuisines, predominantly French and Italian, and then branched off into exploring Spanish, Mexican, and Japanese styles of cooking. “I even learned the art of smoking meats in the Carolinas and Texas, “ he says. “So, it's always about knowledge and passion, and I try to stay very versatile in the kitchen.”

Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove Miami Showroom Chef Diaz relishes the chance to grow and harvest fresh produce at his Miami home.

Diaz relishes the chance to grow and harvest fresh produce at his Miami home.

As a Sub-Zero Corporate Chef, Diaz is able to share this versatility with customers. “I love making connections with them,” he says. “I believe the memory behind a dish is so important, so I stress that in my demonstrations. I tell people that I'm sure there's a dish that they had when they were kids, and they want to bring that flavor back into their cooking.” Diaz especially appreciates when customers feel moved and comfortable enough to share their own culinary journeys with him. “Sometimes when we are done with the demonstration, people will say, ‘Oh, if you’re ever in our area, let us know so that you can come over to our house, and we'll cook for you.’ It's a great feeling to have people trust me enough after a meal or a dinner presentation to invite me. I cook for people, which is the same values my grandparents and my mother instilled in me growing up.”

As a Sub-Zero Corporate Chef, Diaz is able to share this versatility with customers

Diaz will often send customers home with a personalized spice rub sample, a practice that stemmed from his initial job interview. “When I did my first tasting for Sub-Zero, I brought my own personal seasonings, which I used for the second course, and Chef Joel loved it so much that I gave it to him as a gift,” says Diaz, referring to Joel Chesebro, the Head Demonstration Chef for Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove. Diaz’s current prep kitchen has an extensive spice collection, and it has become a staple of his cooking demonstrations to give out curated spices. “We give the customers a little Mason jar with a spice rub to take home, and I'll give them pointers on how they can use it for different types of proteins,” he says. “I’m happy to make the recommendations to match any kind of cooking style.”

In both his professional and personal life, Diaz embraces much of the locally available foods of his home base of Miami. He often uses fresh fish in his menus and considers fishing an enjoyable, meditative hobby. Floridian waters offer a bounty of options, such as snapper, grouper, snook, and flounder, which Diaz loves to catch and prepare. “I’m a big, big fan of working with fish,” he says.

Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove Chef Diaz loves using fresh, local ingredients in his cooking, such as Florida seafood.

Diaz also considers himself lucky to have his own urban garden to draw from for his culinary endeavors. “I’ve been working on it for two years, and we now have our whole side yard dedicated to herbs, vegetables, fruits, and flowers,” he says. “I have a greenhouse, a pergola, raised beds, and a hydroponic system, even a small sanctuary for swallowtail butterflies, the biggest butterfly in the U.S.” The only thing that is lacking, he says, are chickens. “I really miss fresh farm eggs, so I’m hoping to eventually convince my wife that a few laying hens would be nice and quiet and well-behaved."

Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove Chef Diaz embraces much of the locally available foods of his home base of Miami

Diaz loves using fresh, local ingredients in his cooking, such as Florida seafood.

Diaz shares this Miami home with his wife and four children and truly loves being a dad. “It has made me who I am today,” he says. “I have extended family still in New Jersey, in the Caribbean, and all over the U.S., and honestly, I feel like Sub-Zero is my family as well. I feel like I'm working with people I've known my whole life.”

He often is joined in the garden by his youngest daughter, who, at four years old, is already learning to love the tactile experience of growing food. “All my kids love the outdoors, but she and I have this farming connection,” he says. “We love picking flowers together, and she wants to help me dig, plant, and harvest. It reminds me of my grandfather teaching me on his farm all those years ago.

“I love what I do with a passion, and I believe it was meant for me to go to a sustainable farm as a teenager, then on to computer programming and accounting, and then somehow, incredibly, bring the experience of those three things to the restaurant and hospitality industry,” continues Diaz. “We never see things when we're kids growing up, but I now understand that every single thing that has happened to me, thankfully, had a purpose.”

Working on his grandparents' farm in Puerto Rico has inspired Diaz on his culinary journey

Working on his grandparents' farm in Puerto Rico has inspired Diaz on his culinary journey.

Grilled Red Mullet with Parsnip Puree

Grilled Red Mullet with Parsnip Puree and Sundried Tomato Tapenade

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