Meet the Founders of My Ceviche
Roger Duarte, left the high-paced world of investment banking in 2009 and founded George Stone Crab. Since its inception, GSC has become the largest home-delivery service of stone crabs in the U.S. and the top distributor of stone crabs to Latin America. Roger has furthered his involvement in the food industry with a fast-casual seafood concept called My Ceviche, which now has two locations — on South Beach and in the Brickell area.
Sam Gorenstein, had a humble beginning at Les Halles in Coral Gables, Fla., when he was just a teenager, Sam received the opportunity to move to New York, where he soon made his way into world-renowned chef Laurent Tourondel’s kitchen at Union Pacific. Sam honed his skills in the kitchen, and Tourondel granted Sam the opportunity to make the move to BLT Fish in New York City. Shortly after opening, BLT Fish received a three-star review from The New York Times and was granted a Michelin star.
OCT: Why have you decided to create in Miami?
Sam: It’s where I live, it’s where I’ve lived half of my life, where I have cooked for most of my career. It’s the market that I’m most familiar with right now. For us, it was the perfect market to start our business: We’re near the ocean, My Ceviche focuses on seafood, Roger already had George Stone Crab up and running.
Roger: This is where I’m from. I love this city, and there needs to be a “mafia” created, meaning there have to be major players investing in the city. Even if the company grows outside of Miami-Dade or outside of Florida, the headquarters should remain here so that we can build this city. So, here we are!
OCT: Describe a challenge personal or entrepreneurial you had to overcome to get here.
Sam: At the beginning, it was tough trying to get people to believe in and to trust what we were putting out of the little window that we first opened on South Beach. We had no tables — standing room only — and we somehow needed to convince people that our food was worth it, even with all these quirks. Laying out the groundwork to open the second one was challenging, and now working on the third location is time consuming. It’s a lot of work to get all the aspects of the restaurant to marry in a way that keeps customers happy and coming back for more.
Roger: There are challenges every day. From a business standpoint, it’s difficult to find a mentorship program that can help you strengthen your business into a robust operation with a great surrounding of intelligent people that are willing to put in the time and effort to help you out. And it’s not to make the individual succeed, but to make the business succeed, so in the end it trickles into the city itself.
OCT: How did you two end up collaborating in this city?
Sam & Roger: We had known each other for a couple of years. We both have an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to do something in Miami, so we started brainstorming ideas. My Ceviche was one of them.
OCT: How has Miami impacted you who you are today?
Sam: We have the ocean basically at arm’s length away, so I have an affinity for cooking with seafood. My Ceviche speaks exactly to that: We created a concept based on seafood. Plus, the market in Miami has really taught me a lot. Miami is extremely diverse so you have to strike the perfect balance to connect with your customers — groups of people from so many different cultures and cities who are of all ages!
Roger: It’s given me a lot of ups and downs, between the hard work and the fun that there is to be had in the city. The cool part is you get to experience a lot of cultures and you get to see that your business isn’t only for the city but for the international people. You really get to understand their culture and their way of life.
OCT: What do you love the most about Miami that is unusual?
Sam: I’m South American (Colombian), so the proximity to South America is pretty convenient for me. And, the Miami culture is made up of dozens of different cultures. Being next to the ocean and having near-perfect weather is also awesome.
Roger: The sexiness. It’s a very sexy city with a lot of great talent — from entrepreneurs to investment bankers to artists, we’ve got it all.
OCT: Why do you do what you do?
Sam: Because I love doing it. I’m passionate about food.
Roger: Because I love it. And I love to build.
OCT: What’s the most gratifying aspect of what you do? And the most grating?
Sam: Gratifying? Creating something that people truly enjoy. Grating? Finding the right balance within and the right group of people to have join our team. It takes time … but it’s one of the challenges.
Roger: Seeing my business grow. Seeing it grow from a baby, to begin crawling, to seeing it turn into a full-fledged adult. I love watching something grow from just an idea. The most grating? Getting sick and not being able to be totally present.
OCT: What wisdom would you share with your younger self?
Sam: Don’t try to run before you walk. And don’t be afraid of starting small; there’s nothing wrong with that. Follow your instincts. For every person that tells you “no,” there are five people telling you “yes.”
Roger: Work hard. Work smart. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and who are willing to help you.
OCT: What community issues keep you up at night?
Sam: Creating jobs. It’s our social responsibility.
Roger: And making sure those jobs remain available and that the people who have the jobs can move up the ladder. It’s important to help people contribute to something bigger.
OCT: Which major challenges do you think our city will face in the next year?
Sam: With all the building that’s happening, sustaining the city — keeping traffic flowing, etc.
Roger: In our segment, real estate is always a challenge. We need to make sure landlords keep rents affordable so that small businesses can survive and thrive.
OCT: When did you feel a great sense of pride for Miami and why?
Sam: When I started working here and I recognized that I wanted to put a staple on it.
Roger: When I started my first business, George Stone Crab. Witnessing customer loyalty and word of mouth that happened that helped me as a young entrepreneur start my own business in an open market was unbelievable!
OCT: Describe your ideal Miami. Why are those qualities important to you?
Sam: It’s ideal: It’s diverse, we have great weather, we have the ocean, the food scene is growing, people are becoming more conscious of food.
Roger: It’s ideal right now. I would like a boat, though. That would be great for enjoying the ocean. Oh, and there’s already great weather, but I really wish there weren’t hurricanes.That would be ideal!