Roger Duarte, Co-Founder of My Ceviche & Zuuk

1fa36eaOwner of My Ceviche and now Zuuk, Roger Duarte “always knew [he] was a die-hard entrepreneur.”  At the age of 24, he started his first business venture which is still alive today: George Stone Crabs, a home-delivery service providing stone crabs nationwide.  Living in Miami, he saw the capacity for a new player in the stone crab industry other than the renowned Joe’s.

Duarte’s first job after graduation was in investment banking because he wanted to gain a real understanding of the value of businesses before starting his own.  But after three years, the entrepreneurial world lured him in and he launched his first venture.  George Stone Crab was profitable, but Duarte understood that it was not scalable.  He knew that brick-and-mortar stores were necessary for the business to grow, but he wanted something like a “store within a store.”  He began to think of how to incorporate his stone crab business into a restaurant and discovered that ceviche would be the perfect vehicle.  A true businessman, he also saw that the fast-casuals were not just a fad, but a growing industry with much potential.

Duarte discussed his idea with Sam Gorenstein, who at the time was working at B.L.T.  Gorenstein quickly jumped on board and is now the company’s executive chef. My Ceviche opened its flagship location in Brickell in 2012.  The restaurant now has four locations with two more opening soon.

In addition, the team just opened a new concept next called Zuuk, a fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant.  After gaining an understanding of their customer base and their wants, the team saw the potential to continue to feed the community through a different concept.  They realized the shortcomings of My Ceviche: it was too seafood-centric and required higher price points than most fast-casuals.  Zuuk, on the other hand, offers a wider variety of proteins at a lower price.

Duarte is very passionate and always wants to give back to the community.  His advice is to “align your play, your purpose, and your potential” in order to be successful.  He gives us his own example of this: Duarte believes that his play is starting businesses, his purpose is to make an impact within the community, and his potential is to be able to finance the generations under him.

Duarte is a Miami-lover and believes that it is “the sexiest city in the world.”  He cherishes the transformation that the city is undergoing.  Whereas years ago the metropolis lacked a food scene, Duarte loves how even new players are coming from outside to start different food concepts.  As the U.S. hub of Latin America, Miami has a variety of flavors and “there’s a lot of taste buds getting crossed.”  It really is exciting to see how Miami is evolving and how Duarte’s restaurants have contributed to the city’s rising food scene.

Duarte is a sushi aficionado and is dying to go to Tokyo.  According to him, everything is better in Japan: the whiskey, the noodles, the sushi.  He admires sushi as an art and loves the entire experience, from the one-on-one with the chef to the simplicity of every bite.  Duarte is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant type of guy and we asked him to give us the inside scoop on Miami’s hidden gems:

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