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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

Chef Joe Isidori Wants You to Explore Florida’s Ethnic Food Markets

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Lisciandrello, Carl
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A Michelin Star chef from the Bronx, New York, gives a shout-out to our state's ethnic grocery stores.

Listen to the episode

When you think of Florida foods, what comes to mind—maybe grouper sandwiches or key lime pie? What about the spices of Little Haiti or the Greek flavors of Tarpon Springs?

Chef Joe Isidori wants us to experience it all. The Michelin Star chef hails from the Bronx, New York, where practically every cuisine on the planet is just a subway stop away. Joe also gives props to Florida for its diverse cuisine, and he says our state’s ethnic grocery stores are home to some of the freshest, most exciting foods anywhere.

“I love Florida,” says the third-generation chef, who worked in South Florida earlier in his career and has lots of relatives in Jupiter.

“Some people give Florida a bad rap, like, ‘Oh, Florida! It’s where people retire.’ Not really true!” Joe says. “There’s great diversity. There’s a great melting pot culture. Awesome farms.”

He’s especially enamored with Florida’s ethinic grocery stores, which he says are a city’s heartbeat.

“Always look for the ethnic food markets,” Joe says. “Whenever I go to a new area, I get off the plane and I say, ‘Okay, take me to the Asian market. Take me to the Latino market.’”

Joe’s love of global cooking is at the heart of his Mexican-inspired restaurant, Jotoro Kitchen + Tequila Bar. It opened in November 2020 at Tampa’s Sparkman Wharf dining and entertainment complex. The menu puts a global spin on classic dishes like tacos, enchiladas and Mexican street corn.

“I throw in a little Korean barbecue here, a little Vietnamese steak there,” Joe says.

He says ethnic grocery stores are a great place to shop for local produce and seafood, as well as cultural products.

“You’ll take these things and put them together like a puzzle,” Joe says. “Now you’ve got a plethora of things in front of you that can inspire you.”

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