Cindy Hutson may have been born and raised in New Jersey, but in Florida this self-taught chef has mastered what she calls “cuisines of the sun,” the southern, Mediterranean, and Caribbean flavors that color her cooking. Her Coral Gables restaurant, Ortanique on the Mile, which she opened in 1999 with business and life partner Delius Shirley, has landed her on a raft of “best of” lists, including Best New Ethic Restaurant (Bon Appétit, 2001), Miami’s Best Chef (The New York Times Magazine, 2009), Top Female Chef (American Chef Association, 2006), as well as garnering several Awards of Excellence from Wine Spectator.

“I love the islands,” says Hutson, who put that love into action with an outpost, Ortanique on the Crescent, on Grand Cayman Island, and at The Dunmore resort on Harbor Island, Bahamas. On any given night, the menu may feature a special seviche with mango and Scotch Bonnet peppers, conch fritters, a West Indian-style bouillabaisse, or jerked pork chops. Before lunch and dinner service, Hutson may be giving a cooking class to teach her fans how to whip up an island feast at home. She even wrote a cookbook, From the Tip of My Tongue, filled with recipes specifically aimed at home cooks.

On deck for Hutson and Shirley (son of restaurateur Norma Shirley, whose Montego Bay, Jamaica, outpost he also helped to open) is the launch of Zest (another island-accented restaurant) and Zest Mrkt (a casual place for breakfast- and lunch-to-go), in Miami’s Southeast Financial Center.