From the kitchen to the court to Hollywood and beyond, six leading South Florida men are the untouchable forces that make Miami one of the fastest-growing—and most exciting—cities in America.
THE SPORT AUTHORITY: JOSH RICHARDSON
No longer a rookie, and with Dwyane Wade out of Dade County, the Miami Heat shooting guard who was thrust into the spotlight last season looks to take on a leadership role in 2016.
When did you know an NBA career was possible?
I went to school thinking I would just get my undergrad degree paid for and then go to grad school after because I wanted to be a doctor, but my junior year [at Tennessee] my coach wanted me to start taking basketball more seriously. A couple of weeks before the NCAA tournament, I started being more of a leader, and I averaged 20 points a game in the tournament.
What was it like going from not even sure you’d make the team to playing significant NBA minutes last year?
It definitely happened a lot faster than I expected, but I was ready for it, so I just tried to take advantage of the opportunity. My teammates let me grow at my own pace. I had Hall of Famers and great vets around me to teach me the ins and outs of what to do and how to approach it.
With Dwyane Wade gone, your role is even bigger.
I’m excited for it. It’s going to be a group effort because no one person can replace a guy like Dwyane Wade, so I think we are trying to take the reins on that and fill the void and try to make it an easy transition to the next phase.
Do you prepare differently now?
Definitely. Last year, I was approaching it like, “Okay, what do I need to start to do to figure out my niche on the court or to carve my role out?” I’m trying to be more of a leader this year because I’m one of the vets of the program at this point.
THE CELEBRITY CHEF: JEREMY FORD
The Top Chef winner and executive chef at Matador Room by Jean-Georges at The Miami Beach Edition has cooked up a masterpiece with a side of fame.
Early on you went to LA to explore careers as both a chef and a musician. How did you make the choice?
I got on stage and I fell in love with it. I was obsessed. But I missed three or four band practices following that and got fired from the band [Shinedown], which is now, like, triple platinum. It was passion versus passion, and at the time, they weren’t signed.
You got the call to audition for the Matador Room. What was that like?
I did a brutal tasting at the Jean-Georges at Trump Tower. It was really intense having to cook for Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] and his corporate guys. They’re staring at you, you’re super nervous, and there are people somewhat kind of sabotaging you. It reminded me of being on Top Chef—that intense pressure. But I made it. He gave me the offer two days later.
What’s the job like?
I stand for what Jean-Georges believes in, so I have to be the liaison between what he wants and what the hotel wants. The way I look at it, one day when I move on and have my own restaurant, I would hope to God that there’s someone like me still there saying, “Hey, man, this is the way it’s supposed to be, we have to live and die by these recipes.”
You didn’t choose the rock star path, but Top Chef has made you a celebrity. How has that changed your life?
Every opportunity ever imagined has come to light. There are brands, spokesman deals, and all of these things that unfortunately pull you out of the kitchen, but it’s all part of the bigger picture. Chefs today are rock stars. If you do really good stuff and people like you, it’s a rock star lifestyle.
THE HOSPITALITY MAVEN: THOMAS MEDING
With properties in South Beach, Brickell, and Midtown, the senior vice president of SBE Hotel Group oversees operations and has his finger on the pulse of the city’s hottest hotels.
How did you start with SBE Group?
I opened Le Parker Meridien Palm Springs, which became like the celebrity haven, where Brad and Angelina started, Robert Downey Jr., all of the good stars. In that time, I got to know Sam [Nazarian] and Arash [Azarbarzin], and it was kind of a dating game. After two years into it, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
You came to Miami in 2012 with the opening of SLS South Beach. But now there’s also the Raleigh, Townhouse, and The Redbury on South Beach. What’s your day like?
It usually starts at 7:30 with an espresso and a cigar. Then it’s really going from property to property making sure the teams have what they need to operate and function properly and driving top-line revenues with the PR, marketing, and operational teams, so there is unison and a consistent message to capture as much as we can from a market-share aspect. I really enjoy helping the individuals grow, growing the bench for the company, and making sure we have a great human resource capital that we can build the expansion on.
How have you changed since taking this job?
I’ve matured. Really my job is providing food and an income for 1,000 families. That always grounds you and keeps you humble. You make sure everybody respects you and you’re fair.
Coming soon are Hyde Midtown and SLS Lux, and SLS Brickell will make a big splash this October. Do you love a good grand opening?
Four years later, everybody is still talking about the grand opening of SLS South Beach. It’s great. It’s a relief, to be quite frank, and it’s fun when you see everyone enjoying themselves, but then again, you’re already thinking about what you can do next.
THE SOUND MIXER: DJ IRIE
Miami’s quintessential DJ-turned-international brand isn’t just spinning records; he’s running a corporation and charitable foundation while marching to the beat of his own drum.
How did growing up in Miami pave your road to success?
Being exposed to the Latin and European cultures and different sounds helped increase my vocabulary in music. Also, it didn’t hurt that Miami is one of the nightlife meccas of the world. My first opportunity to play overseas came when an agent in Miami heard me playing at Level and said, “I want to bring you to Germany.” About a month later, I was on a plane to Europe.
How did becoming the official DJ of the Miami Heat take your career to the next level?
It made me more of a household name. Before that, my name was synonymous with the nightlife community—mothers and fathers didn’t know who I was, young kids didn’t know who I was. [The Heat exposure] really made me more mainstream, and in turn I became a lot more marketable with corporate partners. The transition from going out and performing to focusing on being a brand and building a true business came when I realized the reach that we have and the value there is in touching thousands of people on a weekly basis.
The Miami Heat connection also led to your Irie Foundation.
The importance of giving back and being community-conscious came from Alonzo Mourning. He really amplified that for me. Seeing what he was doing was so profound and mind-blowing that I just said, “Wow, I need to be a part of this.”
What’s your coolest gig to date?
For the World Cup in Rio, I got to go out there for a month, and I formed lifelong friendships with people from all over the world. I went to India and Africa and had friends there from the World Cup. From one event, you become a globally connected person.
THE FITNESS ENTHUSIAST: DAVE LONG
As founder and managing partner of Ultimate Fitness Group, he took a local workout concept to the next level and made Orangetheory into a globally recognized method.
There will be 600 Orangetheory facilities by the end of the year, and it all started here.
We met Ellen Latham, who created the workout, and with my passion for fitness and my partners’ franchising experience, we took her idea and created one studio in Fort Lauderdale [in March 2010] to perfect the model. We always liked this market. My two partners and I launched European Wax Center in Aventura and Fort Lauderdale, too. Today we are opening about 30 stores a month throughout the world.
Obviously the workout is important, but marketing is key. Was even coming up with the name a process?
That was a wild process. We went through over 10,000 names and went with something that was a little bit more abstract but ended up tying into the brand. The orange color is now associated with the afterburn—that zone you go into that burns all the extra calories [after you’re done exercising]. We wanted a color and a vibe that worked for as many people as possible and that was focused on high energy, and Orangetheory really worked for that.
How have you been able to franchise Orangetheory?
We’re able to translate our system and hand clients the toolkit—and with such an amazing group of franchisees, it’s one of the things that’s been most rewarding. If you look at where we wanted to be in average studio revenue or workout traffic, we’ve literally doubled what we thought we’d ever do.
With that, has your role changed?
In the beginning, you’re 100 percent tactical because you’re just trying to make the brand work, but in the last 12 months, I’ve shifted to 10 percent tactical and 90 percent strategy. It was a hard transition. You’re used to being in all the meetings, but it’s about trust and knowing you’ve built a great team to execute your vision.
THE AUTEUR: AARON SALGADO
A Miami chico of Peruvian descent used his hometown roots to make films—and moves—in Hollywood.
Your feature film Magic City Memoirs has made you the go-to Miami guy in Hollywood. Do you enjoy that role?
There hasn’t really been a film director who has been Miami’s voice the way New York has Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee. I always wanted to be that unique voice that tells authentic Miami tales. A lot of films get shot in Miami, but it’s not from the local perspective. The other side of the bridge gets neglected, and that’s where I feel the juicy stories are.
What was it like working with Andy Garcia on that film?
Andy came on the last day of shooting and immediately gravitated to it. He invited me to Los Angeles, came to the editing room with me, and helped me mold the story together. He’s been a mentor to me since that day. The best advice he’s given me is to follow my gut with the characters. They’re all human, and so am I.
Now you’re working on a digital series with Pitbull and have landed numerous writing and producing jobs. How has life changed since you’re no longer a struggling filmmaker?
When I did Magic City Memoirs, I was in Miami working nine to five in order to pay bills, but once it was picked up, I found myself traveling a lot more. As a writer you get to explore, and that’s the thing people don’t understand: You can’t write when you’re just at home in one place. You need to interact with different people. That’s how you evolve as a writer and artist.
How do you stay grounded?
You have to be yourself—that’s what people want. I learned that quickly. It wasn’t about trying to be something I’m not. They wanted a chico. That’s who I am. I’m a Miami chico who loves making films, and that’s what has been opening doors for me.