Born in Medellin, Colombia and migrating to Paterson, New Jersey at age nine, Cesar Zapata became a chef the moment he was dubbed "family cook" while his parents worked. Over the years, he perfected his family’s Colombian recipes and taught himself to recreate the Italian-American classics that saturated his neighborhood. It wasn’t until he moved to Texas, however, that his scope broadened and his passion for the culinary arts truly ignited.
Intrigued by the ways of regional barbeque, smoke, strong Mexican flavors, and the seafood bounty of the Gulf, Zapata enrolled in culinary school at the Art Institute. Following his graduation, he gained hands-on experience at numerous prestigious establishments such as the Four Seasons, and under the tutelage of culinary greats including James Beard-nominated Chef Timothy Keating and 2-Michelin starred Chef Shawn Hergatt.
In 2011, Zapata’s biggest break with partner Aniece Meinhold was launching Miami’s first pop-up concept, Phuc Yea. Before food trucks and pop-ups were as locally prevalent as brick and mortar eateries, its Vietnamese-inspired menu was making cameo appearances throughout the city. Phuc Yea!’s overwhelming success served as a launch pad for Zapata’s first foray into restaurant ownership with The Federal Food, Drinks & Provisions.
2016 debuts a new chapter in life, Zapata and Meinhold will be re-introducing Phuc Yea! as a stand-alone restaurant, located just minutes from The Federal in the Miami Modern "MiMo" (Upper East Side) District. The neighborhood, which has been rapidly growing with chef-driven gems, quaint retail spaces and community-minded thought-leaders such as Zapata, will now also become home to Phuc Yea!’s twist on southern Vietnamese street food.
The Federal has received national recognition, with accolades including "Best Biscuits in the US" and "Best Gluten Free Dessert" from Food & Wine magazine; "Best Local Eats" by USA Today Travel; "Best Gastropub 2011 Finalist" by Village Voice; and the Trip Advisor "2013 Certificate of Excellence." Under Zapata, the restaurant has also been lauded as one of five of "Miami’s New Culinary Guard" in Indulge magazine; winner of the "Golden Spoon Award" from Florida Trend; and "Top Five Gastropubs," "Best Neighborhood Restaurant" and a beyond-stellar review in the Miami New Times.
Zapata has also received a number of national accolades. He has been featured on The Food Network’s: Diners, Drive Ins and Dives (hosted by Guy Fieri) and was a Semifinalists on Gordon Ramsay’s Best New Restaurant, showcasing sheer culinary talent and strong work ethic as driving forces in his career. Additionally, Star Chefs awarded Zapata as a Rising Star in South Florida in 2016 and he has also served as partner and ambassador to brands such as Tabasco, Toyota, Barilla, Vice Media, Hey Shugah! and La Victoria Cast Iron Cookware.