Tamara Suarez of Tamara's Cafe Floridita, Apalachicola, FL.

By: Cathy Hulbert
for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As a television producer in her native Venezuela, Tamara Suarez savored the skills of world-famous chefs and collected the recipes they prepared on her popular TV show. Now, she proudly dons the chef's apron at her own restaurant, in the charming Florida Panhandle town of Apalachicola. With a unique style that is warm and witty, Suarez declares that cooking is her art and a great source of positive power. Her menu tells patrons that "love and magic are in the sauce," and she urges them to linger and relax while she stirs up dishes designed to lift spirits up dishes designed to lift spirits, sooth psyches and even rekindle romance.

Who: Tamara Suarez, 50.

Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela.

Home life: Recently moved from nearby St. George Island with her dog, Chica, to a house closer to Cafe Floridita in Apalachicola. She is the mother of two adult children, Luis Enrique Getter and Marisa Getter.

Specialties of the house: Pecan Crusted Grouper; Shrimp and Scallops al Ajillo with Garlic; Crab-Stuffed Grouper; Taste of Apalachicola Stew; Seafood Bisque; Cuban Black Bean Soup; Caribbean Banana Split.

Favorite spices: Cumin, basil and cilantro. "I must have cilantro," she says. Rosemary and oregano grow just outside the restaurant.

Style of cooking: "I say that is has a South American flair, but do try things from all over. My food is good for your health. If I find a way to cook something that is less rich, I'll go with that. It's not true Venezuelan food, which is very elaborate. My recipes are quick and light. Now, when I get into desserts, that's a different story. I love to go crazy with desserts."

Three things in her home refrigerator: Bread, milk and bananas. "I don't like to cook when I'm at home. I want to eat someone else's cooking. I tell my cook 'If you will make me some fried chicken, I will pay you.'"

Free time: "I like to walk on the beach. On St. George Island, you can walk at 2 or 3 in the morning and admire the stars. You feel perfectly safe. I love to do that."

Early KP: "In Venezuela, women must know how to cook flan. They all know Mama or Grandmama's recipe, and they don't change it for anything. I don't remember when or how I learned to make it. I just did. My daughter just knows how, too. When I was a journalist, I really admired the chefs on the show. They are artists, and I studied their art. In Los Angeles, I lived with a Frenchman who was cooking all the time, and he also taught me a lot. It was from him that I learned how to chop....In L.A. I catered a meal for some movie people and realized I really loved to cook."

Whom would you most like to cook for, and what would you cook? "Several people come to mind, but I would love to cook for Hillary Clinton. I would love to talk to her; I have so many questions. Things I will never know but would love to know....I think she is just incredible! I would cook her the Crab-Stuffed Grouper. It's an aphrodisiac, you know. I think she would like it very much."

Philosophy of cooking: "You can make people angry when you cook for them by using too many spices, or you can make them feel sluggish by making the food too heavy. I've seen it happen. You have to be careful. You can also make them loving and mellow. We have couples come in who are not talking. It makes us very uncomfortable when we see this happen. After all, this is a very romantic place. So I cook for them, and in the end you see them smiling. They are happy. It's a wonderful thing."

Where to find her: Tamara's Cafe Floridita, 71 Market Street, Apalachicola, FL. 850-653-4111.