Of Filipino descent, Richard Hales (45) has always been drawn to Asian culture and cuisine. Upon traveling to Asia as a teenager, Hales’ culinary passion was ignited and as he developed as a chef, his cooking style reflected those early Eastern influences. Nearly 30 years later, Hales can be credited with inspiring a wave of refined Asian-fusion cuisine in Miami with the openings of Sakaya Kitchen and Dim Ss?m ? gogo. Hales is updating Chinese classics at Blackbrick Chinese which was nominated as Top 50 new restaurant in America 2014 by Bon Appetit Magazine. Born in Louisiana and raised in Tampa, Hales applies his formal culinary training with his experiences abroad to his family of restaurants, using local organic ingredients to create traditional Asian flavors.
In his early 20’s, Hales owned and operated a small bakery delivery business in Tampa. At the age of 26, with a desire to immerse himself in the culinary world, Hales sold the bakery and packed a bag for New York City. Shortly after, he enrolled in the French Culinary Institute, now the International Culinary Center.
Upon graduating with a culinary arts degree in 1998, Hales took his first cooking job at City Wine & Cigar in New York. Before long, he was drawn to Jean-Georges Vongerichten and the Thai-inspired French cuisine at Vong. Hales longed to work with the world-renowned chef and applied for a position. Initially turned away for his lack of experience, Hales wouldn’t take no for an answer, following Vongerichten around the kitchen until he was given the position of garde manger. Hales moved through the ranks at Vong – from garde manger to entrementier chef, poissionnier and saucier – before becoming sous chef. Hoping to learn more and refine his classic training, Hales left Vong in 2000 to take the position of rotisseur, later saucier, at La Grenoiulle, one of New York’s finest and most historic French restaurants.
During his years working in the Big Apple, Hales widened his scope of Asian culture and cuisine taking annual trips to Asia, traveling to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Korea, Hong Kong, China and Japan, staging at kitchens to pick up techniques that he would later incorporate in his restaurants.
After a year at La Grenoiulle, Hales was asked to be the Asian Chef of Caf? Sambal in the new Mandarin Oriental, Miami. Later that year, Hales became the assistant manager at Azul, the hotel’s critically-acclaimed fine dining restaurant. When the sommelier of Azul left in 2001, Hales took over the wine program, seizing the opportunity to further his wine education and visit wineries all over the world – France (Burgundy, Champagne, Loire and Alsace); Germany (Mosel, Rheingau); Italy (Piemonte, Tuscany, Maremma, Fruili, Chianti); Chile (Casa Blanca Valley, Maipo Valley, Colchagua Valley); Argentina (Mendoza); and California (Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley). After four years as sommelier, Hales left South Florida and returned to the concrete jungle as Wine Director of the Mandarin Oriental, New York.
With the desire to operate his own restaurant, Hales left New York in 2008 and returned to the sun and sand of Miami. He also returned to his first love – Asian flavors – and developed the fast-casual, Korean-style street food concept that would become Sakaya Kitchen with locations in Midtown Miami and Downtown Miami, Dim Ssam a gogo mobile food truck and his flagship restaurant Blackbrick Chinese.
Always the pioneer, Hales has accomplished his latest mission; giving authentic Chinese dishes a fresh look with his latest concept, Blackbrick – a sit down, casual yet elegant, eatery opened in Midtown Miami December 2013. Bon Appetit Magazine nominated Blackbrick "Top 50 Best New Restaurant in America 2014". Emily Codik of the Miami New Times says "Blackbrick in Midtown is the Chinese food you have been waiting for." Victoria Pesce Elliot of the Miami Herald and contributing writer to Food and Wine magazine gave a "very good 3 stars" to Blackbrick.
Sakaya Kitchen opened in 2009 with a quality and chef-driven menu introducing Hales’ take on Korean street food cuisine to Miami diners who flocked to the small Midtown storefront location. Sakaya Kitchen has been featured on the Food Network with Guy Fieri and Travel Channel with Anthony Bourdain. Recieving a favorable review from the Miami New Times the critic noted "Nobody took Midtown seriously until Chef Richard Hales arrived." Sakaya Kitchen defines the current trend of chef-driven "Fast-casual 2.0" and pioneered the segment in Miami.
As other similar concepts started to develop in the area, Hales took the idea one step further by launching the city’s first Asian food truck Dim Ss?m ? gogo in 2010, combining his no frills fare with the convenience of a food truck. Named one of the best food trucks in America the catering division of RH Restaurant Group continues to please. The truck currently is located in and in a partnership with The Wynwood Yard to launch Hales latest creation Bird & Bone. Bird & Bone will be serving spring and summer 2016 hot chicken and ribs with Hales’ Asian twist.
Hales has appeared on Food Network’s Drive ins, Diners and dives, Guys Grocery Games, Americas’s best bite, 24 hour layover with Anthony Bourdain, Fast Casual Nation, The great food truck race, Eat street Canada, NBC The Feast, CBS 4, WSVN Channel 10. Hales appreared as himself in an independent film to be released October 2016 called "Whatever it takes". Recipes published and features in Bon Appetit magazine, Food and Wine magazine, NY Post, Miami Herald, Miami New Times, Andrew Zimmern St Paul Magazine, Delta Sky Magazine.