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Chef Larkin: Custodian by day — chef for life

Miamian recaptures his life's dream of entrepreneurship

Ashley Montgomery | 9/19/2013, 9 a.m.
Chef Aaron Larkin is no stranger to the kitchen. It all began when he was 12 years young, shadowing his ...
Chef Aaron Larkin prepares a healthy meal. Photo courtesy Aaron Larkin

Chef Aaron Larkin is no stranger to the kitchen. It all began when he was 12 years young, shadowing his grandmother in her kitchen. Once he turned 14 his uncle opened up a business called “Slicks BBQ” which is where he helped out and did “a lot of prep work” that led him to venture out and begin looking for jobs in different restaurants around Miami.

Eden Roc was the first to give Larkin an opportunity to expand on his culinary skills. Larkin worked there as a line cook from 1981 until 1984. Shortly after he took his talents to

Doral where he was the “supervisor of cooks”. Although cooking was his first passion and something he always held near and dear to his heart, he had to pick up more work. So, in 1989 Larkin became a custodian for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

This additional occupation didn’t steer him from his first love entirely. In 2002, he was hired as chef de partie and supervisor at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale.

Long time coming — fast forward to 2003

Now the head custodian at North Beach Elementary while maintaining a new position as sauce chef at the famous Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel, Larkin set out to open his own business.

Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. After a year of service an unwilling to completely let go of his day job, Larkin deemed that he had to much on his plate and couldn’t continue with the restaurant. “I decided to postpone that dream. I was doing to many things at once. I was working two other jobs at the time,” Larkin said. The first attempt was a “learning experience” that he was grateful to have been able to stay open for a year. “I love what I do so much that I decided to go at it again,” he said.

After taking the time to rethink his plan he decided to take the leave of absence from North Beach Elementary, with the support of his principal, Dr. Alice F. Quarles. . . Old School International Food & Seafood Cuisine [817 NW 54th Street] was born.

Servicing the world

On Saturday, September 7, Larkin and business partner Sonny Rolle had the grand opening of their restaurant. More than 200 people showed up from an array of backgrounds and nationalities.

Hence the name of his restaurant, Larkin and his team is set out to bring forth refreshing dishes to the Miami scene. Being that this city is considered to be a ‘melting pot,' he wants to offer the community more than just Soul Food. He says that he uses fresh vegetables, herbs and ingredients for all of his dishes. “Im trying to bring something different to the table.”

Not only does Larkin serve as the executive chef of Old School International Food & Seafood Cuisine, he is also known as a mentor to two young ladies that work as cashiers in the restaurant. Allanna Gayle, 18 year old student said, “Its a fresh start and you have to start somewhere. One day I do hope to become a chef and for him to give us the opportunity to start working here without much experience is a blessing.” Tatyana Wimberly, 18 says she likes to cook too. “Cooking is something that I like to do and its just fun to be around. Sonny and Chef Larkin are very nice men,” said Wimberly. Gayle and Wimberly is excited and thankful to be apart of this team and is very thankful for Larkin.

Larkin welcomes everyone to come in and enjoy his food. Just like the city of Miami, his menu reflects different cultures. Freshly prepared homemade Alfredo sauce for his signature chicken Alfredo pasta, Bahamian-style conch salad, slow-cooked ox-tails, and deep-fried pork chops are just some of the things on the menu. “People don’t have to go spend top dollar on Red Lobster anymore when I offer better pasta here. I want to cater to everyone,” Larkin said.

Larkin is especially proud of his dessert chef, Curtis-May “Peanut” Tillman, 71 year old baker who has been serving the Miami-Dade area for more than 25 years. Her specialties are peach cobbler, sweet potato pies, an assortment of cakes, and bread pudding.

“Here at Old School International Food & Seafood Cuisine, we provide the best home-cooked meals and I am thankful that I am able to live out my dream. I promised myself that I would physically be here everyday. We look forward to meeting everyone in the community,” said Larkin.