Featured Foodie: Michelle Faedo

Michelle Faedo with a batch of delicious devil crabs

Michelle Faedo with a batch of delicious devil crabs

Tampa, Florida is home to year round sunshine, a well-designed airport, and a signature sandwich---the Cuban. That's right---And I’m not just saying that for effect. The city council officially declared the Cuban the city’s “Signature Sandwich” last April, calling the varied ingredients “a symbol of the diverse city.“

I lived in Tampa/St. Pete for 5 years and ate my share of Cubans. While there are plenty of places that make them, some good, some just "meh," the undisputed Queen of the Cuban is Michelle Faedo, a 3rd generation Tampanian whose loyal customers follow her mobile kitchen, Michelle Faedo’s On The Go, around the city to satisfy their cravings for a sandwich so good it has won numerous state and citywide contests, including the city's 2nd Annual Cuban Sandwich Festival in March.

According to Faedo, a good Cuban begins with quality ingredients. Sweet ham, the best salami, quality mustard, superb Swiss cheese, pickles, and pork (that Faedo roasts herself), all layered and pressed on crunchy Cuban bread scored with a palm frond from the iconic La Segunda Central Bakery, a place Faedo used to visit with her grandmother from whom she honed her own cooking skills.

Despite the name (and some grumbling from a certain South Florida city that claim it as their own---sit down Miami) the Cuban’s birthplace is Tampa---Ybor City to be exact---a neighborhood northeast of downtown once dominated by a thriving cigar industry. Cuban immigrants arrived in early 1900s to work in the factories, bringing with them their favorite midday snack—bread stuffed with sliced meat called a “mixto.”  Nearby grocers and cafés began making them too, renaming it The Cuban after the workers who ate them.

Faedo sells her Cubans from her food truck whose roving location is announced on her Facebook page. While the stacked goodness is a top seller, Faedo whips up other local specialties too---like Devil Crabs, a crab meat croquette made with stale Cuban bread, deep-fried and divine. 

 “There are so many wonderful things that I can do with food, but I want to keep Tampa heritage alive. I want to serve the things I’ve grown up with; I'm a Tampanian and proud of it,” she said.

I've tried many a Cuban sandwich since I left Florida. Inevitably I shake my head after the first bite. None have compared to Tampa's.

The city has a signature sandwich for a reason, and if the city council were really smart, they'd sign off on a street named after Faedo too.

Her Cuban is that good.

The Foodie 5

1. What is your favorite food memory from childhood?

My favorite food memory as a kid was going to my grandmother’s house and having her make me white rice, black beans, a Palomilla steak, and sweet plantains.

2. You’re moving to a new kitchen in 5 minutes and can only take one gadget along with you. What do you grab and why?

Spice smasher. There’s nothing like being able to grind your own spices.

3. No one’s looking. What is your secret food fetish? 

Ice cream. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And it has to be peanut butter and chocolate!

4.   Fill in the blanks:   “For my dream meal I would love ____________ to prepare a meal for me and I'd enjoy it with a glass of ____________________.”

I would love Emeril Lagasse to prepare a meal for me and I'd drink it with a glass of red wine. 

5.  Congratulations, you have carte blanche to dine anywhere in the world! Where would you go and why?

It’s been a long time dream to go to Greece and experience their fantastic cuisine.

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Thank you for sharing this post.

 

 

Would you like to be a featured foodie or do you know someone who would? Email me at kimberley@kimberleylovato.com    

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Kimberley Lovato

Kimberley Lovato has written about travel, lifestyle and food for national and international publications and websites including National Geographic Traveler, Executive Travel, American Way, AFAR, Condé Nast Traveller (UK), Ryan Air, b.there, Easy Jet Traveller, leitesculinaria.com and frommers.com, among others. She is the author of a Michelin Guidebook on Brussels, where she lived for six years Her culinary travel book, Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves, about the Dordogne region of France, won the "Best Travel Book" nod in 2012 from the Society of American Travel Writers, as did her personal essay, "Lost and Liberated," which also appeared in Best Women's Travel Writing, Volume 8. When she's not plotting her next trip or her annual pilgrimage to France, she resides in San Francisco where she is a correspondent for BBC's Passport Blog, a student in Stanford University's Creative Writing Certificate program, and a brave mother of a teenaged girl.