Image by Broadway Photography. Article by Althea Tyrell.
Yesterday I spoke with Chef Darlene Herrick, former Cuban Sandwich Festival winner for Non-Traditional Cuban when she was with Gaspar’s Grotto. She is currently the Executive Chef at La Septima Café in Brandon. In the ten minutes I spent talking with Chef Darlene, I discovered that it is not every day that you find someone with such pride and love for what they do.
ME: La Septima Café is a family owned business, right?
ME: What made them want start the Café?
CHEF: The owner, Dahlia Fernandez, along with her husband, Ron, have been in the restaurant business for years. They are from Tampa, like me. They have had two very successful restaurants. Their families are from Ybor City and West Tampa. Dahlia’s paternal grandfather owned a casino in Ybor when her father was growing up. Ron and Dahlia moved to Brandon where they raised their children, Jennifer and RJ. A very dear family friend, Gert Laxer, gave them the advice to open a restaurant in their own back yard serving what they know best…and that’s how they decided to open La Septima twenty years ago!
ME: Where did the name La Septima come from?
CHEF: La Septima means “seventh” for Seventh Avenue in Ybor City.
ME: What is your secret to continually winning “Best of Brandon” for Spanish/Cuban Restaurant and Cuban Sandwich?
CHEF: Our recipes are handed down from their grandparents, who were born in Cuba, Italy and Spain. These recipes have been in the owners’ families for years. Our food is made with love and care. I’ve been a chef for a long time and have never worked with anyone who takes such pride and love in their food. Being an executive chef, I feel the very same way!
ME: What dish are you most proud of on your menu?
CHEF: Well, the Cuban Sandwich of course!
ME: What is your favorite thing about the Cuban Sandwich Festival?
CHEF: The spirit of the competition. I know some people say, “oh, it’s just a Cuban Sandwich”, but it is a part of our Tampa history. I’ve been making Cuban sandwiches since I was six years old!
ME: Press or Not pressed?
CHEF: I prefer not pressed, when the bread is fresh and the sandwich is made just before you eat it.
IF YOU WANT A TASTE OF CHEF DARLENE HERRICK’S FOOD STOP BY LA SEPTIMA, OR SEE THEM AT THIS YEAR’S FESTIVAL!