New Cuban Food Revolution dinner at Cena: Culinary royalty will visit in January when Fernando Martinez hosts chef Douglas Rodriguez for a New Cuban Food Revolution dinner on the nights of Jan. 21 and 22, 2015 at Cena.

Chef Douglas Rodriguez
Chef Douglas Rodriguez

Rodriguez, chef-owner at Alma de Cuba (in Philadelphia) and De Rodriguez on Ocean (in Miami), is widely regarded as the creator of Nuevo Latino cuisine and a mentor to chefs seeking to learn it.

After Martinez sold out as partner in Mojito Tapas Restaurant and Havana Rumba several years ago, he traveled throughout Venezuela and Miami to train with other chefs and cooks. His time under Rodriguez’s tutelage was life changing.

“He is the most creative chef I’ve ever worked for,” Martinez said. “I learned more in the short time I was with him than I had before that. … He’s already got about 2,000 ideas for this dinner. It’s hard to keep up with him.”

Though details are not finalized, the $120 per-person dinner will feature five courses — all paired with wine, beer and cocktails — crafted by Rodriguez, Martinez and Alma de Cuba executive chef Reynaldo Alfonso. Each night’s seating will be capped at 60, 10 seats fewer than Cena’s maximum.

Martinez, the lone Cuba native in the trio, came up with the idea to imagine what Cuban food would have become were it not for that country’s revolution in 1958. Despite Fidel Castro’s visions of an improved country wrenched from the hands of capitalists, Cuba’s economy was rendered anemic and continues to dissolve. The country’s infrastructure is crumbling, its citizens are largely poor and they infrequently have access to the foods that once defined its cuisine.

“So our challenge is to imagine Cuban food cooked in a modern way,” Martinez said.

Your challenge is to be one of the lucky 120 who get a seat next month. That’s right, six weeks’ notice on this one is necessary. The significance of this meal is not lost on the crew at “Secrets of Louisville Chefs.” They’ll be on hand both days to film what will become a four-minute video.

So if you have half a mind to attend, grab the phone and call 333-0376.

Arepas update: Since I had Martinez on the phone, I asked about the progress of his planned arepas restaurant in the old Papalino’s pizzeria on Baxter. He said the project is on hold due to concerns with the lease and some objections raised by neighbors.

He didn’t divulge details, but he allowed that the Venezuelan specialty shop likely won’t come anytime soon, and possibly not at all at that location.

Anthony Lamas
Anthony Lamas

Next stop, Atlanta, Anthony? Anthony Lamas, the talented chef-owner at Seviche, apparently is learning the old lesson that silence is golden. Earlier this week, the loquacious Facebooker pulled some comments from that social media site regarding his upcoming new restaurant concept.

Teasing followers with “where do you think we’ll go next” messages, Lamas leaked during the first week of December that the new restaurant will open in Atlanta.

But on Dec. 11, when I went back to double check the details for this piece, the comment was gone, as was another comment about the soon-to-be vacant La Coop Bistro a Vins spot, which Lamas said was “not talking to me.”

The deletions happened so fast that even the snarkettes at LouisvilleHotBytes didn’t see the original posts.

The only reference remaining now is a vague Dec. 6 post saying, “New concept coming in 2015! Deciding on which location is the best fit to open up first…can’t wait to share details! ‪#‎patience.”

Patience, indeed.

The big question remains: Why the retractions, Anthony?

C-J gives four stars to Anoosh Bistro: Anyone surprised by the news of this great review? Anyone? Anyone?

I thought not.

Anoosh Shariat is a tremendous chef who’d been searching for an opportunity to cook his way in his own space for several years. When Pat McGinnis put the short-lived, well-liked Henry’s Place on the market a year ago, a handful of serious suitors stepped up to sniff the offering before stepping away. Shariat and wife Paula Barmore snapped it up, however, and by all accounts, it’s a spectacular restaurant.

Once again, I’m not surprised.

Chef trio launching sorta-secret dining club concept: As if to make every old fart in town envy the vigor of their youth, chefs Dustin Staggers (Roux), Griffin Paulin (Rumplings Slurp Shop) and Eric Morris (Loop 22) are launching an exclusive, secretive dinner club-style concept called Ten Tables.

Dustin Staggers of Roux
Dustin Staggers of Roux

As if they didn’t have enough to do running their own restaurants, they’re now going to invade each other’s spaces on random Mondays with what appears to be a truly cool idea.

Ten Tables centers on the use of a lottery-like system for reservations for 20 to 40 people who will, as the name implies, be seated at 10 tables.

Dinners will cost around $65 per person, give or take, and will be prix fixe six-course events with optional wine pairings. The meal will be prepared by the three chefs who, instead of taking a day off, just keep on cooking.

According to a recent Facebook post, “If you have interest in being one of the first customers of Ten Tables, please respond with your name and how many you would like on your reservation. After we reach 500 likes on our Facebook page, we will choose the winners randomly.”

So go on, sign up and see if you get to go.

More chef news: The impending departure of Hillbilly Tea chef Arpi Lengyel has drawn David Scales, the longtime chef de cuisine at Lilly’s: A Kentucky Bistro, to that restaurant.

According to The Courier-Journal, Lengyel, a Hungarian immigrant, will open an authentic restaurant named Gypsy, based on the cuisine of his homeland.

The story said Lengyel wants to open somewhere in NuLu within a few months, and that his cuisine will be a modernized version of Hungarian food, including some “molecular” influences.

Think about this: In the past several months, the following independent operations were added to the local restaurant scene: Ward 426, Anoosh Bistro, Louvino, Rumplings Slurp Shop, a micro-Hillbilly Tea, Roux, Craft House Brews and 8UP. (Did I miss anything?)

Doubtless this adds to the diversity of offerings here, which is fantastic. But does all this activity subdivide the restaurant pie for these operators or draw more diners who otherwise were staying at home or eating at chains?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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Steve Coomes
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.