As the culinary heart of SUGARCANE raw bar grill, Chef Partner Timon Balloo draws from his broad range of influences and experiences to bring bold, global flavors to every dish on the menu. From his own Chinese, Indian-Trinidadian heritage to his classic European training, to the diverse kitchens in which he built his career, each step along the way has led Balloo to become the chef he is today.
Balloo went on to become Junior Sous Chef at Azul in Miami’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel under the leadership of Michelle Bernstein, Balloo’s greatest mentor. While he cultivated his expertise of Asian cuisine at Azul, Bernstein helped him hone his own signature style. “She taught me to cook from my heart,” he says, “and as such, I started to craft my own approach to food, infusing it with what I like to call ‘Asian-Caribbean soul.’”
From contemporary Spanish cuisine at La Broche in Miami to the intersection of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian dishes at SUSHISAMBA in New York City, Balloo eventually earned Executive Chef status. Through the use of simple ingredients to create great food, Balloo started to form his signature style: the juxtaposition of bold flavors made for sharing, prepared on small plates. He partnered with Amir Ben-Zion to launch Domo Japones in Miami’s Design District; the Japanese concept highlighted one-of-a-kind ingredients in a former post-office-turned-restaurant. Balloo’s menu was awarded three stars by The Miami Herald and voted “Best Japanese 2008” by Miami New Times.
An opportunity to reconnect with Samba Brands Management in 2009 brought Balloo back to the growing restaurant group as Chef Partner of SUGARCANE raw bar grill, which opened in 2010. It was here that he was able to bring together everything he had learned about global flavors and techniques. Shortly after the restaurant’s debut, SUGARCANE raw bar grill was named a James Beard Awards semifinalist for “Best New Restaurant” and Balloo was dubbed “The People’s Best New Chef” by Food and Wine. Since then, the accolades have never stopped for this chef who is, as the Miami Herald wrote in its three-star review, “as much a fusion of cultures as the eclectic menu he’s been refining without pause.” “SUGARCANE raw bar grill has played a major role in Miami’s food scene since opening. We’re committed to pushing the culinary envelope every day,” he says. “But our warm, casual vibe will never change – that’s a mainstay of the brand in which we all take a lot of pride.”