Born in Medellin, Colombia, and migrating to Paterson, New Jersey at age nine, Cesar Zapata became a chef the moment he was dubbed “family cook” while his parents worked. Over the years, he perfected his family’s recipes and taught himself to recreate other cultural classics that saturated his neighborhood. It wasn’t until he moved to Texas, however, that his scope broadened and his passion for the culinary arts truly ignited.
Intrigued by the ways of regional barbeque, Mexican flavors, and the seafood bounty of the Gulf, Zapata enrolled in culinary school at the Art Institute Houston. In addition to the flavors of the south, the city exposed Zapata to a multitude of Asian cuisines as cultures, especially Vietnamese flavors.
In 2011, Zapata’s biggest break with partner Aniece Meinhold was launching Miami’s first pop-up concept, Phuc Yea. Before food trucks and pop-ups became prevalent, Phuc Yea’s Vietnamese-inspired menu made cameo appearances throughout the city. Its overwhelming success served as a launchpad for Zapata’s first foray into restaurant ownership with critically acclaimed The Federal Food, Drinks & Provisions.
Five years later to the day, Zapata and Meinhold re-introduced a grown-up version of Phuc Yea as a stand-alone restaurant in the heart of the Miami Modern “MiMo” (Upper East Side) District. While The Federal was about cooking food of his childhood and early adulthood, Phuc Yea is an expression of where he has come from combined with his identity alongside his partner in life and work. Phuc Yea is the perfect blend of the couple’s heritage and culinary passion with its Viet-Cajun riff on Vietnamese street food.