Frenchy Mingo moved halfway across the world for love. And now a different kind of love might bring her right back where the crazy adventure started. When Andy Bates, a London-based celebrity chef, met Mingo while she was working at the Miami-favorite Ms. Cheezious many years ago, he couldn’t help but ask her to dinner. Since then, food has been at the center of their lives, taking the couple from the shores of Miami Beach to the London fog. But, when Mingo’s best friend and fellow food aficionado, Vivian Belzaguy, learned that the A+E District was on the hunt for Miami’s newest restaurant, Belzaguy knew exactly who to call — or rather, Skype. With Bates in the kitchen, Belzaguy on the marketing, and Mingo handling the social media, the three decided they were a team that could not be beaten.
How did all of you meet?
Andy Bates: I was doing a Food Network series in 2012. I was in Miami filming the second series of my show American Street Feasts.
Frenchy Mingo: I was working for Ms.Cheezious, and they came to film. He showed up with his crew and forced me to have drinks with him at night. And we’ve been hanging out ever since.
AB: It all started with food.
FM: I served him a Bacon and Blue grilled cheese sandwich. That’s actually what we served as a midnight snack at our wedding. But … it wasn’t as good as Ms. Cheezious.
Vivian Belzaguy: Yeah, and I’ve been friends with Francesca for a million years.
So, what do each of you bring to the table (pun intended)?
VB: Well, Andy has the main food experiences, I do the marketing and Frenchy has been in the food scene for forever.
FM: Yeah, I started working at a Mexican restaurant in high school, and I went to FIU and got a degree in hospitality. I worked for plenty of different restaurants in Miami and in the food truck scene. For the last two years, I’ve been in London and working in the front of house, and as a bartender. I’m also a professional eater. I blog as well as do the social media for Andy.
What does food mean to you?
FM: Food is everything in our relationship. It’s how he won me over.
AB: I’ve learned that if she’s not fed every two hours she’s thinking about murdering me.
FM: We had a long distance relationship in the beginning, and he’d visit me every 3-4 months. Every time he would visit me, we would go out to eat and spend the whole time traveling around trying all the restaurants. I’ve shown him a lot about Cuban cooking and arepas. It’s definitely shaped the way we are together.
AB: Food is so important because it’s so basic, but it’s also incredibly social. I mean, right now we’re sitting in the kitchen talking at the table. It’s what we’re about — food and booze.
VB: Andy being this amazing chef definitely attracted Frenchy at first. She’s always been such a food girl, and it’s always been something they’ve been able to connect on. But after all of her friends ate Andy’s food, we all fell in love with him.
Why do you want to open this restaurant?
AB: I first came to Miami in 2012, and I saw a very exciting restaurant scene starting to happen. Not just the restaurant, but also the craft beer, food, and different cultures. It was so exciting to see the cusp of it. I’m a London chef, but I travel around the world. To bring some of the basics of British food to Miami would be something different that hasn’t been done before. With this restaurant, I want to go back to basics of British cooking. I want to make a classic English pub/diner, and want it to be completely unique. We’d want a lunchtime crowd that’s totally accessible and open for all. We’d have the best fish and chips, all made with beer batter. We’d basically be cooking in beer, and incorporating beer in our recipes. We’d also make scotch eggs. We want it to be totally different, and of course we’d have some of the best puddings.
FM: That’s desserts.
So, would this be a long-distance cooking type of deal?
FM: No, I would be moving back to Miami with Andy and starting a new life with the restaurant.
AB: I’ve been living in London for almost 20 years. It’s a great town, but I’m ready for some sunshine. Miami is such a great city, where we’ve got so many friends, so we’re happy to start something new there.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
AB: It changes weekly for me because I’m a chef. One of the greatest I’ve had was while sitting on a beach in Brazil. I was at this restaurant where a guy catches seafood right in front of you and grills them in front of you. You get grilled lobsters, fries, and beer while sitting on surfboards on Pria de Forte.
FM & VB: Andy’s Sunday roast. It’s roasted potatoes with duck fat. Yummm.
And the worst?
FM: I was on a boat tour in China, and they were giving us these fried fish things. To be honest, I think it was a snake or some sort of eel.
VB: I’d have to say, one time someone tried to make me a vegan meal but it tasted like eating cardboard with seeds on it.
AB: Once I had a prehistoric fish in South America. It’s called Bodo fish, and it lives in the bottom of the Amazon in the mud. It looks prehistoric, like a dinosaur fish, and tasted like a mixture of mud and fish. I had to eat it several times in front of the man who cooks and catches it for a living, so I had to be very polite and pretend I liked it. Then I found out right at the end that he never eats it because it’s disgusting. That’s what I get for being too British and polite.
What’s your favorite Miami restaurant?
VB, FM, AB: Pubbelly
AB: The first time was when we first started dating and I was really impressed by the whole fusion scene that was starting to happen. Pubbelly was doing some special things. I spoke to the chef for a long time because he trained in London as well.
VB: I also think Mignonette and Blue Collar are great.
It’s lunchtime and our office is in Little River. Where should we go get some grub?
FM: Little River has changed so much since I left.
AB: Wherever you go, you should go have a drink, go and get yourself an old fashioned.
VB: Drive down 79th street. There’s a little Japanese place, like a Japanese market. Get yourself some sushi, turn your cell phone off, and put it in your bag. You’ll be eating in a little Japanese grocery store with a little sushi bar that fits 10 people max. Or go to Blue Collar and get some grits.