Soraya Caraccioli-Kilgore’s desserts are more like “masterpieces than endings”, where she brings fresh and seasonal ingredients to a new light.
Born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Soraya moved to Denver to attend culinary school at Johnson & Wales University. Shortly after, she moved to Chicago where she started working at the EPIC Hotel and enrolled in the pastry program at Kendall College.
Soraya later moved to Miami where she worked under acclaimed chefs including Chef Sam Gorenstein at BLT Steak in the Betsey Hotel; Chef Sylvain Marrari at The Setai Hotel; and two Michelin-starred Chef Danny Grant at 1826 Restaurant & Lounge.
In 2015, Soraya opened ALTER in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami alongside husband Chef Brad Kilgore, which garnered a James Beard Best New Restaurant nomination in 2016. Soraya is also the Executive Pastry Chef at Brava by Brad Kilgore inside the Adrienne Arsht Center and the new MadLab Creamery in The Miami Design District.
We got the chance to interview Chef Soraya on her journey as a pastry chef, what keeps her inspired, and her newly opened concept MadLab Creamery.
MadLab Creamery will feature six different rotating ice cream flavors along with 30 different house-made toppings, in addition to chocolate by the slab, bonbons, and Japanese cheesecake. How did the concept for MadLab come together?
I have always wanted to have a shop with sweets and I didn’t want to box myself into just doing one thing. I draw inspiration from my travels, and usually, have one thing from each country I’ve traveled to that I fall in love with and want to recreate.
I thought about making soft serve because I love making ice cream, yet I’ve never liked eating it because it’s usually too sweet or too rich for me. The only ice cream I’ve ever enjoyed eating was a chocolate vanilla soft serve swirl I used to get as a child in my home country of Honduras. Most ice cream shops usually don’t have any interesting flavors and I’ve always wondered when someone would add to it. That’s when the curiosity was born.
The craze for beautifully colored and cool flavors on soft serve is relatively new and decided that Miami needed this. I’ll also be adding my own special Chef touch with various unique homemade toppings. I also LOVE ice cream and cheesecake, and why not make fluffy delicious Japanese cake? Being able to add a slice of it to your soft serve is my way of making it my own. Adding handcrafted chocolates to the shop just seemed natural, I love chocolate, with the rustic idea of selling it by weight that way you’re not tied to just one flavor or flavors that are pre-packaged, yet you get to pick.
|Yuzu, Kalamansi & Key Lime “Pie” Curd
maracuya, African basil, torches meringue
sour cherry, tarragon
Famous Italian architect, Gaetano Pesce, will be designing the MadLab’s unique façade and interior floor. How did this collaboration come about?
It was amazing to have this opportunity, something so unique created by someone of that caliber. The floors and façade give the store a cool and cute vibe, which is exactly what I was looking for. I was very blessed that the Miami Design District is saturated with art and that they had a vision of having this amazing artist, Gaetano Pesce, do his work on the building.
MadLab will be located in Miami’s Design District. How has this neighborhood evolved and inspired you over the years and on this new concept?
It is hard to put into words but, for me, it is a neighborhood that is so vibrant, full of beauty and art. It’s great for wondering and discovering sculptures by Urs Fischer and Xavier Veilhan, façades by John Baldessari, and amazing architectural work like Elastika by the very missed Zaha Hadid; just to name a few. The neighborhood in my eyes is an urban gallery, it is a place of endless discovery. It is inspiring, leaving me with the aspiration to be at the altitude of the neighborhood because it excites me to be part of something so special and unique.
What makes you excited to be working in Miami right now, and what’s the biggest challenge?
Miami is a city which I still consider to be getting out of its culinary infancy, yet at an accelerated rate. It is making leaps, what all big cities accomplish in 20 years we are doing in five and you can see it before your eyes. The growth is palpable and being part of it is amazing, humbling, and exciting but also nerve-wracking. It is a machine that never stops growing, evolving, adapting and it makes you the same way, never stagnant; it can take you to the edge, but as chefs, that’s what we thrive on.
Sourcing local and seasonal ingredients is what aids your creativity as a Pastry Chef. How have Miami’s farmers, purveyors, and ingredients inspired you and how have they evolved since your move to the city?
It is great to see the farmers come into the restaurant excited about a fruit, vegetable or herb because it makes us creative, being able to work with something that is great.
Challenges, probably the same as any other major city but a little magnified, it is hard to get constant and consistent produce even though we have amazing and hardworking farmers. Miami weather can be relentless and capricious but we manage, we are very resilient in this city. We have micro-seasons, where I might have a dessert for 1 month/2 months or as short as 2 weeks but that is good for me, it makes it interesting and fun.
When I first moved to Miami there were not that many small restaurants, it was mostly restaurants housed inside hotels. In result, small farmers barely had a role in the city, at least in my opinion. As time passed, people started venturing into opening smaller, more focused restaurants which triggered the demand to work with farmers, ordering a case of this and a case of that was not good enough. The void has been filled and every year you can see our small farmers getting better and stronger, and it is amazing to see.
apple, sage, winter spice, tamari caramel
You are the Executive Pastry Chef for both ALTER and BRAVA by Brad Kilgore. How would describe your creativity and style at both places?
Both restaurants are very different, Alter is what I describe as a refined grownup punk – very alive, eclectic and unapologetic. At ALTER you can only expect food that makes you think, dares you, and yet drags you in and comforts. I feel like my husband has poured his heart into it and it worked!
Brava is the feel-good side of fine dining, it is a sexy date and then a show. We have reinterpreted classics, just as the shows being done in the Adrienne Arsht Center – classics reinterpreted.
Has there been a notable chef, travel, space or experience that has inspired you throughout your journey?
My travels absolutely, being exposed to different cultures, flavors either by necessity or choice have definitely rounded me as a human, molded my creative process and the way I appreciate the taste of things.
The chef that has inspired me is my husband, I have never met anyone that thinks like him, how he thinks about food, his passion, dedication and untiring love for creating.
What are some issues in food culture and in food conversation that you’d like see/hear more of?
The issues of how women are portrayed in the kitchen and in high positions. At this moment in time, we can see the levy breaking but we as women have to make sure that even if people start rolling their eyes because of the oversaturation of the topic, we need to keep pushing. We are on the brink of equality and we have to keep fighting for it. Sexism in the kitchen is real, I have lived it, endured it and now I am fighting it.
Best piece of advice you’d give to someone just starting their journey in the culinary industry?
Yoga…lol but really!
Don’t let anyone tell you your way is wrong, everyone has a different journey and way of finding their place in this industry. Be unapologetic about it, just make sure you are kind to others, it is hard to keep a kind heart in such a harsh environment.