Acqualina Head Chef Jose Casals Shares His Haute Guide To Miami

Chef Jose CasalsPhoto Credit: Acqualina Resort & Spa

The prestigious Acqualina Resort & Spa has welcomed in its new head chef Jose Casals to the stunning property. Chef Casals will be responsible for overseeing the resort’s food and beverage operations, including the beachfront restaurant, Costa Grill, banquet and event menus and the spa menu for the hotel’s five-star Acqualina Spa by ESPA. Prior to his appointment at Acqualina, Casals served as a hospitality instructor and international chef ambassador at various locations, including Walt Disney World MGM Studios restaurants, the Miami Culinary Institute at Miami-Dade College and Palm Beach’s Café L’Europe, amongst others. He brings international cuisine into his menus, including dishes from America, Asia, the Mediterranean and modern American influences. At Acqualina, he will lead a team of 20 people to carry out the distinguished property’s food and beverage. Here, Haute Living chats with Casals outside the kitchen to get his personal guide to Miami, including his favorite eateries (outside of his own, of course), top hotels, bars, shopping venues, cultural destinations and more.

Where were you born: Ponce, Puerto Rico

How long in Miami: 9 years

Neighborhood: Key Biscayne

Occupation: Head Chef, Acqualina Resort and Spa

Favorite restaurant: The River Seafood Oyster Bar

Best sushi: Katsuya SLS / Zuma

Best Italian: Casa Tua / Salumeria 104

Best new restaurant: Ember / Novikov

Best hidden gem: Matsuri

Best healthy eating spot: Palat

Best vegan/vegan-friendly restaurant: Love Life Cafe

Best late-night dining restaurant: El Santo / Villa Azur

Best fine dining restaurant: Stubborn Seed

Best waterfront dining: Smith & Wollensky

Best dessert: Bachour Bakery

Best cocktails: Saxony Bar at Faena

Best happy hour: Café La Trova

Best wine list: Fiola

Best place for a romantic date: Café Roval

Best nightclub: El Patio / The Tea Room at EAST, Miami

Best Sunday brunch: Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne

Best place for a power business meeting: La Mar by Gaston Acurio

Best rooftop (pool/restaurant): Sugar

Best hotel for out of town guests: Acqualina Resort

Favorite shopping venue/boutique: Wynwood + the Miami Design District neighborhoods

Favorite place to buy jewelry/watches: DeBeers / Snow’s Jewelers

Best spa: Acqualina Spa by ESPA

Favorite charity event: Amigos for Kids “Miami Celebrity Domino Night”

Favorite cultural event: SOBEWFF / Art Basel

Favorite cultural institution: De la Cruz Collection

Best steakhouse: Meat Market / Prime 112

Best pizza: La Farinelli

Best lunch: La Petite Maison

Best gym/athletic facility: Equinox

Best massage: Acqualina Spa by ESPA

Best museum/exhibit: PAMM

Best weekend getaway/staycation: Acqualina Resort &Spa

Describe your city in three words: Eclectic, fun and sexy

Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore: Vizcaya

All-around favorite spot in Miami: Wynwood

Best aspect of Miami: the weather