If you don’t like eggs, it might be because you haven’t tried Fritho Hilaire’s omelet.
Hilaire is the man responsible for prepping and flipping omelets at Olé, the breakfast eatery at the InterContinental Miami Hotel, where the National Association of Hispanic Journalists conference converged this week.
He has mastered even the most complicated orders, like when people order an omelet with every ingredient laid out in bowls at his fingertips. To prepare one such creation, he has to mix spinach, ham, onions, green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers, orange peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, scallions, bacon, turkey, chorizo and two kinds of cheese. The ingredients would overflow if Hilaire wasn’t so practiced at taking just the right amount of each.
When he meets someone who tells him they don’t really like eggs, Hilaire sees it as a challenge.
One woman, whose husband ordered an omelet, refused. The next day, Hilaire looked up to find her standing at his cooking station.
“What’s wrong [that] you’re not eating?” Hilaire asked.
The woman, it turns out, had tried a bite of her husband’s food the morning before. She so enjoyed the mix of flavors that she had to return.
“She loves you,” Hilaire recalled the man saying. “The way you make an omelet … She never ate eggs in her life, and then you made her eat eggs.”
Another guest once tipped him $20 a day for 20 days after he was amazed by Hilaire’s omelet-cooking skills.
“I felt happy and said ‘Are you serious?’” Hilaire added. “Some people came here especially for my eggs, they said ‘You’re the one who makes me come here.’”
On busy mornings, the 61-year-old cook can make up to 150 omelets. He has gotten burnt in places like his arms, hands, face and more, but that has done little to deter him.
“This is my job and I love it,” he said.
Hilaire is Haitian. He immigrated to Miami in 1993 to study photography and took a job as a taxi driver. More than a decade ago, he began working at the InterContinental as a dishwasher. Six years ago, he became a cook.
You can find him most mornings behind the breakfast bar, standing over sizzling pans and a bowl piled high with white-shelled eggs.
Ammy Sanchez is a senior at Florida International University majoring in communications. She reports in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and is the producer of the South Florida Roundup — the Friday afternoon show at WLRN News. Reach her at ammysanchez001 [at] gmail [dot] com and on Twitter at @ammyelizabethh.