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Word On The Street With Timon Balloo

The Miami Chef Behind Balloo Wallah

May 25, 2021 Hannah McIntosh

Born to Chinese and Trinidadian parents, chef Timon Balloo’s mental childhood scrapbook holds a mixture of memories, from days on a farm to eating traditional recipes from his parent’s backgrounds to hours spent watching PBS’ Yan Can Cook. Fast forward to 1998, Timon traveled to Belgium to work at Hotel Metropole under French master, Chef Dominique Michou, launching his career. Back in Miami, Balloo worked under the famed Allen Susser, one of Miami’s most influential chefs. In 2010, Balloo became executive chef and partner of SUGARCANE raw bar grill, which was named “Best New Restaurant,” and earned Balloo the title of “Best Up-and-Coming Chef'” by Miami New Times, followed by Eater dubbing him “Chef of the Year.” 

Throughout his entire career, a connecting thread has run intuitively through his style of cooking and approach to food: seasonality and a focus on local ingredients, or what is better known as the farm-to-table movement. This theme remains present in his latest endeavor, Balloo Wallah, a West-Indian-inspired street food concept serving curry, samosa, and much more. We chatted with chef Timon to learn more about his inspirations, his go-to pantry staples, and what he gets up to when he’s not in the kitchen.

NBRHD: What’s your general philosophy around food? 

Timon Balloo: I love using spices and bold flavors to make meals that transport you around the globe.

NBRHD: What are your foundational sources of inspiration? 

TB: Ingredients and seasons, as well as global regions and their cooking techniques.

NBRHD: How would you describe Balloo Wallah in a sentence? 

TB: Bold flavors, fresh spices, and comfort, all conveniently wrapped and delivered to your doorstep.

Chef Timon Balloo | Illustration by Richard Fairhead

NBRHD: Where in your home do you spend the most time? 

TB: In the kitchen – it’s where we eat, start, and end our day. It’s where friends and family are fed love through food and quality time together. 

NBRHD: What is your go-to meal at home when you don’t feel like cooking? 

TB: Usually a meat and cheese board. We always have a bountiful array of meats, cheeses, jams, pickles, and cracker-like things around for snacking or meals.

NBRHD: What was your last delivery meal and where was it from? 

TB: We had Thai food from a place in Fort Lauderdale called Zaab Thai. They have a solid crab fried rice and Panang curry.

NBRHD: Favorite spicy food? 

TB: Mapo tofu, hands down. I love the texture and soulfulness as well as the tongue-numbing effect from the szechuan peppercorn.

NBRHD: How do you find inspiration when you’re feeling burnt out? 

TB: Now that I’m older, I’m learning that it’s okay to check out of cooking and try to dive deep into a healthy hobby or project. Mine, at the moment, is houseplants.

NBRHD: How have you been decompressing lately? 

TB: A lot of planting and working on my yard.

NBRHD: What’s the last great thing you read, watched, or listened to?

TB: I watched the movie One Night In Miami… about Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, and Jim Brown.

NBRHD: What is something you’re looking forward to this summer? 

TB: Traveling and eating and the adventure that comes with that.

NBRHD: As a chef, what do you love about living in Miami? 

TB: Being surrounded by the ocean. Its elemental force inspires and motivates me.

NBRHD: What are your favorite pantry items? Any tips on how you use them?

TB: Sweet soy sauce – drizzle it on top or add water and vinegar to use it as a dipping sauce.

Chili garlic crunch – toss it with crunchy vegetables like celery and cucumbers or just put it on top of EVERYTHING. XO Sauce – toss it with cooked vegetables or pasta, or it can be used to marinate meats and vegetables. Furikake – it’s like the Japanese version of everything bagel seasoning! I put it on everything.

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