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Fooq's Chef Nicole Votano Leaves for Dirt

Written by Zachary Fagenson | This originally appeared in Miami New Times

Fooq's chef Nicole Votano has parted ways with the restaurant less than a year after the hip, homestyle eatery opened on a shaded downtown Miami corner in the space once filled by Nemesis Urban Bistro.

She'll become chef de cuisine at DIRT, according to a spokeswoman for that restaurant. The curiously named fast-casual spot in South Beach will serve healthful dishes such as quinoa-crusted blue catfish po'boys with zucchini jalapeño slaw, crisp capers, tomatoes, and creamy slaw dressing.

Votano was instrumental in adding much of the comforting flair to the menu at Fooq's. She grew up in London and San Francisco and trained at New York City's French Culinary Institute before toiling at Bradley Ogden's One Market Restaurant in San Francisco. Prior to working at Fooq's, she worked for Michelle Bernstein's catering outfit and Crumb on Parchment after stints at the Four Seasons and the Biltmore.

Her Italian background helped inspire dishes such as ultra-tender meatballs and a bucatini all'amatriciana with a hefty dose of smoky bacon. Much of that will remain on the menu at Fooq's while owner David Foulquier, 25, looks for a new chef.

"Until someone comes along and does something better, we'll still have them," Foulquier says. "I see this as an opportunity for me to get involved more on the culinary side, and we'll be looking for somebody to try to push the envelope."