With over 20 years of experience in the industry, our chef along with his amazing team is proud to introduce a modern dining experience . Along with our fun dynamic sake & wine list showcasing family-owned wineries/ kuras, sustainable farming enhancing your dining experience!
Our services offer many different flavor options for holiday parties, special occasions or company events. We look forward to catering your next event. Please contact Cynthia Betancourt at 954-278-5936 to make all the arrangements.
We use only the finest products to design and cook our dishes. From the seasonings to the detailed techniques used by our chefs; we hope you enjoy and appreciate every single bite.
In 1989, at the age of 8 years old, Wendell's family migrated to Miami from Honduras in hopes for a better life.
Wendell's culinary path to success is a combination of many experiences that has contributed to his uniqueness and style of cooking. One of his first experiences with food was with the school lunch lady. During lunch he noticed that hot sauce was now part of the cafeteria line, it is then that he came to see the authority the Lunch lady had on his meals; it excited him. That was his first magical experience with food and the explosive flavors that can happen when combining ingredients to enhance food.
As time passed, he started to appreciate food in his own way, thinking outside the box. At a young age he found that adding certain ingredients, ultimately enhanced the flavors of his food. For example, he experimented with something as simple as his cheeseburger. He would add fries to it , make his own special sauce using all the sauces in McDonalds, cup of noodles with potato stix, boiled egg, and crispy fried onions. His culinary pallet was evolving to his liking.
After high school he moved to Gainesville where he started working as a dishwasher at a family owned Thai/ Japanese Restaurant. One day, they were short staff and asked him to help make Pad Thai. It was the first dish he ever cooked and it was life altering! It was this experience that solidified his calling to be a chef and moved back to obtain his culinary degree at Le Cordon Bleu in Miami.
After graduation, he decided to move to New York City to work under the BLT Group - DJango restaurant led by Chef Laurent Tourondel. As his experienced grew in the fast paced NYC atmosphere, he knew that ultimately he would want to bring home his talent and style.
Shortly after he decided to move back to Miami, The Mandarin Oriental Miami - Azul at the time and one of the few 5 star/5 diamond restaurant hotels in Florida, extended an offer to Wendell. His passion was always to pursue French/ Asian cuisine with the top chefs/ culinary destinations such as the Epic Hotel/ St Regis. So he decided to hone in on his entrepreneurial skills and started a food truck in 2011 called Waffleosophy. In addition, he also opened a booth at the Yellow & Green Market while improving on his sushi skills at various Sushi restaurants. These experiences is what led him to where he is today.
On his off time, Wendell dedicates his time to his two sons which are the inspiration behind the ishilima logo.
The story begins in Hudson County, New Jersey where Cynthia was born and raised, alongside a Colombian family of five. As a young girl, though she excelled academically, it was not something she felt a desire to pursue. By the time she reached high school, she had an interest in cooking; this more apparent through the help in the kitchen at home and watching cooking shows such as The Great Chefs of the World. “I would take notes confident that I would be able to master French techniques just by watching”, Cynthia recalls.
As one of the youngest in the family, she had an advantage of having older siblings, who would without realizing it, made impact on young Cynthia’s culinary journey. On occasion they would take her along to New York City. Cynthia amazed by the big apple, was more taken by the action of the melting pot of the NYC restaurants. “I gravitated to the noise, buzz of a kitchen, plates, and mixed conversations that fill the air in a restaurant.” It was those moments that solidified her yearn to be a chef.
At the age of 14, she started working in the hospitality industry. She held positions that exposed her to the many aspects of not just service but more importantly what it would take for her to make her mark in the industry. Her drive to learn, took her through different restaurants where she would hold positions as a hostess, server, busser, and banquet captain. She even had an opportunity to work as a dispatcher for a lucrative limousine, car shuttle service at a hotel.
In 1997 she decided to leave New Jersey and start a new life in South Florida where she immediately registered to Culinary Arts of Art Institute. While in school she worked at a local wine shop called Wine Watch while cooking in the evenings. Little did she know that immersing herself in the world of wine, would take her career path to another level. She quickly realized the importance of a good dish is better with the right wine. She learned how wine, history, food customs, economics, geography, climate tied it all together. She was not the only one that noticed her newfound interest in the wine industry. In fact, the owner of the wine shop was the person that helped her narrow down what her career goals would be and ultimately pursued her sommelier certification. During the time that she worked on her certification, she was also able to complete her hospitality degree at Florida International University. Her academic success proved through various recognitions she received, one that would leave a lasting impact on her life. In the summer of 2003, she won a scholarship to live in Spain for Arts and Language.
“I had very strong-minded mentors both men and women who believed in my talents and pushed me hard.”
Cynthia’s first job as an assistant sommelier was at the Mandarin Oriental – one of South Florida few to obtain the five diamond/ 5-star award. Later, she would move onto the Biltmore as their wine director and opened various restaurants. After some time, she was called back to the Mandarin Oriental where she was named the Wine Director for the restaurant.
Young and determined, Cynthia worked hard to obtain most of wine certifications possible all the while building a dynamic award-winning wine list. Among the many recognized organizations in the wine industry, she holds certifications as an Advanced Sommelier from the Court of Masters, WSET Level 3, Level Sake, Certified Specialist of Wine – Society of Wine Educators.
“I was fully immersed in the industry and couldn’t get enough of it. From serving the King of Spain, celebrities, to wine connoisseurs/ collectors with a in depth knowledge of wine. The opportunities this brought me to most of the wine regions of the world enhancing my understanding of the world of wine.“
As she journeyed through the world of wine, immersing herself using her culinary experience and refined palate for wine led her to what would be the most impacting part of her life, Chef Wendell. “My love of wine collided when I met my young, brown thang Chef Wendell At the Mandarin”; Both having a passion for food and wine, made them a powerhouse of culinary taste.
As Cynthia’s career evolved, she sought out to learn the sales aspect of wine the industry, leading her to working for two reputable distribution companies in Florida. It was through these experiences that she learned to be tenacious, how to read a crowd, and never give up!
To date, all the experiences, ups and downs, sacrifices made came into a full circle as she alongside with Wendell, opened their first restaurant, Ishilima.
“I love the personal attention I am able to provide my customers, getting to know about them, their families and their love for food and wine. I want my customers to feel the first spark that I felt when I fell in love with the industry ----- the experience of dining, the music, the service, the food, the smell of the food – yet in a simple, fun approachable way.”
Five Years serving the community - We made great friends!
We are sad to share we have closed our doors. We look forward to including you in our next chapter.