At SUGARCANE raw bar grill, their small plates have big flavor when it comes to going global. It may be because of its three distinct kitchens — an open fire grill, raw bar, and traditional kitchen — or it may be because of the restaurant's gastronomic roots, but it may also have to do with the roots of the man behind the kitchen himself. Award-winning Executive Chef and Partner Timon Balloo was born into a Chinese and Trinidadian family. Growing up with days on the farm and surrounded by rich, cultural recipes, his love for cooking came to life when he began watching a television series called "Yan Can Cook."
After graduating from Johnson & Wales University, his accolades include being a Distinguished Visiting Chef, as well as a repeat winner of the University's culinary Zest awards. But while he had tons of lessons in the classroom, he felt his true studies began under his culinary role models, both James Beard Award-winning chefs, Allen Susser, who taught him humility and respect for food, and Michelle Bernstein, who took him under her wing in the kitchen of Azul at the Mandarin Oriental Miami.
Since joining the Samba Brand Management team and opening SUGARCANE in 2009, the concept has received multiple recognitions, including a coveted notable nomination for "Best New Restaurant" by the James Beard Foundation. Eater has also recognized Balloo as "Chef of the Year" in Miami, and Ballo received was nominated for "The People's Best New Chef" by Food & Wine, as well.
But this chef's sights doesn't end at the Miami shore. Soon, we'll be seeing SUGARCANE's tasty eats at the Sin City — probably because all of its dishes are sinfully good. Besides preparing to open SUGARCANE raw bar grill's first location in The Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip, what else is this chef up to?
Find out what he had to say when as asked him six, quick questions.
The Quick Six
Foodable: What’s the first meal (that you can recall) that changed your life?
Timon Balloo: Foie gras dumplings at Annisa by Chef Anita Lo. It brought me to later move and cook in New York City.
Foodable: Who is your culinary mentor?
TB: Many, but it ranges from Michelle Bernstein to Allen Susser.
Foodable: One ingredient you could not live without?
TB: Gochujang paste.
Foodable: What's the most important lesson you learned (good or bad) in your first year of owning a restaurant?
TB: Success depends on your staff.
Foodable: What’s your guilty culinary pleasure?
TB: Double cheeseburger at Shake Shack!
Foodable: Favorite kitchen hack?
TB: Use the microwave for melting chocolate and dehydrating olives, or steaming vegetables. Can help when in a bind.