MONICA "MIKA" LEON
THE CHEF BEHIND THE MAGIC
Monica “Mika” Leon has spent the better part of the decade working in kitchens across South Florida. Her journey to chef, restaurant owner and television personality began humbly with Mika Bites, a wholesale desserts company she launched out of her mother’s garage just after college. With a recently earned business degree in hand and grit and passion to spare, Leon quickly went from home baker to thriving entrepreneur—proving that sweets were only the beginning.
The granddaughter of a successful restaurant owner in Spain, Leon always aspired to have her own one day. She started with a food truck in 2016 and, in 2017, expanded to a larger area whose parking lot she turned into an inviting outdoor dining space for customers. The nimble business model had always appealed to Leon, who was lukewarm on the idea of staying in one place. Her love of travel and seeing the world manifested in a similar desire to hit the streets of Miami with her unique Cuban tacos. The truck, she says, gave her the opportunity to explore different neighborhoods, introduce new people to her food and get a lay of the land before deciding to settle down.
In 2019, Leon put down roots in Coral Gables with the opening of Caja Caliente’s first brick-and-mortar. It was a dream come true for the young chef who brought her family along for this new endeavor. Taking flavor profiles she picked up on her travels through the Mediterranean and combining them with family recipes passed down for generations, Leon’s cooking is highly personal. Traditional roast pork and homespun versions of arroz con pollo are featured on the menu alongside whimsical brunch plates and the healthy dishes she shares on her website, www.MikaLeon.com. Incubated during lockdown, her website reflects Leon’s evolution as a chef. She focuses on healthy preparations of classic Cuban food and adaptations of her favorite desserts while also drawing inspiration from seasonal ingredients to create new dishes in line with her own clean, whole-foods diet.
Concurrent to work in the restaurant, Leon has been cultivating a growing media career with appearances on the Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Store Games, Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay, among other television shows. She was a finalist for Eater’s Young Guns awards and has been featured in countless publications, both local and national.