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Once their food scraps have been turned back into soil, Rum Room’s composting partner returns it to the restaurant so it can be used to nourish the restaurant’s raised garden beds.

Food scraps return as soil to feed a restaurant garden

Miami Beach Convention Center has a new high-end restaurant and a companion site that feature an on-site garden and a robust composting partnership.

A pink compost bucket sits at every prep station in the kitchen at Rum Room, a high-end restaurant that opened this spring at Miami Beach Convention Center. Sodexo Live! and the convention center premiered the space, which is housed in a renovated golf clubhouse that dates back to the 1900s. Next door, they built a rentable space, Venu, for weddings, meetings, fundraisers and other moderately sized events.

As the kitchen staff prepares dishes, such as grilled salmon with maracuya miso and crispy shallots or a Caribbean Caesar salad dotted with heirloom tomatoes and pickled red onions, they sweep vegetable scraps into the bins. The waste then goes to a pink bin outside, which is designated solely for food waste. Their composting partner, Compost for Life Miami, takes the waste back to their farm, where the scraps break down into nutrient-rich soil.

Chef_Samantha_Cruz_(8).pngBut unlike other composting programs, the story’s not over. Once the soil is ready, Compost for Life returns it to the restaurant so Executive Chef Samantha Cruz, left, and her staff can spread it on the raised garden beds located behind the restaurant: a full sustainability circle.

Molly Crouch, corporate director of sustainability with Sodexo Live!, explains that the Compost for Life Miami founders are a husband-and-wife team who “both worked in the restaurant industry and saw all the food waste.” The pair purchased property and established a compost farm to transform Miami Beach restaurant food scraps into soil.

To initiate a program between the Rum Room kitchen and Compost for Life, Sodexo Live! met with the farm’s founders to discuss logistics, including details about what can and cannot go into the compost stream through the program.


Once the gardens are producing at full capacity, the kitchen will use their own garden-fresh herbs, greens and vegetables in as many of their dishes as possible.

They taught the Rum Room’s staff how to sort or “clean” their compost by channeling hard-to-compost items, such as meat scraps, corn cobs, and apple cores, to a separate spot. (Those items are sent to an incinerator-style composting service.)

“We’re super conscious about sustainability,” says Cruz. She and other members of the culinary team tend the garden beds daily. Built with reclaimed wood, they’re planted with rosemary, thyme, mint, lemon balm, and sage, herbs they use fresh or dry to use later in the year.

Once the gardens are producing at full capacity, they’ll use their garden-fresh herbs, greens and vegetables in as many of their dishes as possible. Even though the garden was just established in April, Cruz says they’ve already served mojitos made with limes and mint they’re growing themselves. They also have a mango tree. (Though it’s more of a headache than a blessing: earlier this summer, the fruit was attracting about 150 iguanas per day to the area around the garden, pests the kitchen staff had to fight off.)

In addition to gardening and composting, Cruz focuses on sustainable sourcing, to drive the local economy. “I personally go out to the farmers’ market and scout,” she says, searching for food grown on farmland between Miami and Key West.

The focus on sustainability and local ingredients supports a team that’s dedicated to elevating foods that are significant to the people who live in their region.

“We wanted to keep an old-school, old-world aesthetic,” Cruz explains, to capture the spirit of their historic building. “That definitely influences the food. We’re cooking very old dishes, particularly things like our grandmothers would make. [There are] heavy Caribbean influences, but with a much more upscale take to them. We refine everything.”

Tamales, for example, a food central to Cruz’s own ancestry.

The restaurant makes one type of simple tamale, stuffed with pork. But the ingredients are a step above typical street fare. For the filling, they cure and braise pork belly for three days. They use Florida-grown corn for the masa and serve the dish with spicy guava ketchup and truffle aioli. “It’s super bougie,” she says.

Tamales are more than a dish to Cruz. They’re “a tradition, something that’s passed down. It’s not something that necessarily you would learn in a culinary school or that a professor would teach you, or that you would learn even at a restaurant you worked at. It’s something that you kind of have to learn through the grapevine.”

This kind of thoughtful menu development paired with their sustainability efforts, make Cruz proud of her work and of the entire culinary team, which is made up of people she’s worked and learned with for many years. Upscale food, the elevation of local cuisines, an intentional sustainability loop and a trusted team: these are the reasons Cruz calls Rum Room “the best restaurant on the beach.”

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