Executive Chef Ron Duprat1 Executive Chef Ron Duprat2
 

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Sleek lounge in Miami celebrates Haitian cuisine

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NORTH MIAMI, Fla. — Driving past a row of antiques stores and the Museum of Contemporary Art, you might think the MOCA Cafe & Lounge is closed. The restaurant’s black windows make it easy to miss and you have to look closely to see the sleek, italic lettering printed on the door.

MOCA Cafe, which takes its name from the Miami museum but is independently owned, is one large space with two bars, a dining room, and an area for live music. Sky-high ceilings, glossy tables, Lambi and black leather benches fill the space. Walls sport a fresh coat of cerulean paint that frames black-and-white photographs on canvas of both North and South Miami street scenes. Every Friday night, a live band plays traditional copa music.

Smartly dressed couples, the type who wear sunglasses indoors, occupy the 4,800-square foot dining room. The cafe reopened recently after a seven-month renovation, which explains its stylish, contemporary look. The cuisine, however, is traditionally Haitian, with the addition of a few Florida favorites like coconut shrimp.

MOCA Cafe is a family-run operation that Jean Michel Cerenord and Rodney Noel bought three years ago after running a successful fast food chain called Cecibon. Haitian-born George Jiles, the previous chef of MOCA Cafe, enlisted the help of local “Top Chef” contestant Ron Duprat to reconstruct the menu with French culinary influences. Manager Ricardo Philias says, “This is where Haitians come to eat outside of Little Haiti.”

Duprat, a heavy-set, congenial man educated at the Culinary Institute of America, trudges confidently through the dining room in his chef’s coat and kitchen clogs adorned with crossbones. He smiles at a guest giving two thumbs up and exclaiming “Good stuff!” He moved here at 16 from what he describes as “the poorest family in Haiti.” He dubs his own success story, “From the banana boat to Top Chef.” While Duprat relishes the spotlight, chef Jiles remains hidden by the kitchen stove, making Duprat’s ideas come to life.

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