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“You’ll only gain 1 pound, rather than 20.” Those were my final words when I appeared on NBC Miami as the resident travel expert last month with InterContinental Miami’s Toro Toro executive chef Rodolfo Cuadros. Together, we introduced a dish that we created specifically for Intercontinental’s Kitchen Cookbook iPad app, an interactive app created in 2011 by the executive chefs of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts and filled with delicious recipes from around the world.

To create fresh content for the app, the hotel chain appointed 4 travel personalities to accompany 4 top chefs in select InterContinental hotels in the US (Miami, Atlanta-Buckhead, San Francisco and Boston). The individual “tastemakers” spent time with the chefs in their kitchen to create and cook these new recipes that paid tribute to their respective destinations. I was honored to be chosen and truly overjoyed to spend a few days in sunny Miami.

As soon as I arrived, I partnered up with chef Rodolfo Cuadros to create turkey pastelon, a new spin on the traditional Puerto Rico entree. Instead of ground beef, we used a leaner turkey. We also dropped the pasta layers and replaced it with sweet plantains. Thousands of viewers watched on NBC as we explained the innovative dish that will appear exclusively on InterContinental’s Kitchen Cookbook iPad app. And if I – even though I haven’t cooked in 10 years — can make the dishes, you can too!

But that’s not all that I whipped up in the kitchen. I had the privilege to prepare other innovative dishes with Rodolfo, including Pork Belly Skewers Al Pastor, served as an appetizer, and Churros con Dulce de Leche, a Latin dessert representing the holiday season (and one of my personal favorite desserts!). I was surprised to learn it was a super easy dish to make, and you can watch us prepare it in this short clip on InterContinental’s YouTube page. As per my request, I also had the opportunity to team up with head bartender of Toro Toro to create a Red Sangria cocktail, using Malbec, Cava, Beefeater Gin and Cointreau, as well as cinnamon, spices and a colorful assortment of fruits. Needless to say, I indulged.

But indulging is an understatement regarding the entire experience. My hosts exceeded expectations and checked me into the 2-story, 3,300-square-foot Royal Palm Presidential Suite, recently redesigned by tennis icon Venus Williams. I had breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay, not to mention a stand-alone soaking tub, private dining area and a bevy of turndown amenities that included everything from fresh-fruit sangria to chocolates.

InterContinental Miami wanted to make sure my stay wasn’t just all about the hotel (even though I was perfectly fine never leaving!). They set me up on an “Insider Experience” with Chef Concierge Eduardo Rosello to explore Miami through the eyes of a local. Rosello, who’s served as concierge at the hotel for 20 years, knows the city like the back of his hand and, quite frankly, knows everyone you need to know. He introduced me to institutions like Joe’s Stone Crab, La Gloria Cubana Cigar Company (where I learned how to roll a cigar) and even a private tour of the wine cellar at the high-brow restaurant, The Forge. This turned out to be my favorite, considering the hearty dishes and Enomatic wine dispenser.

But nothing topped the inventive dishes I created at Toro Toro with Chef Rodolfo. I even learned—as a virgin to the kitchen—that cooking isn’t an impossible feat. Who knows? You may see me again wearing an apron, making my own version of Chef Rodolfo’s version of turkey pastelon.

The Kitchen Cookbook iPad app has been a culinary hit, and it can be downloaded for free on iTunes. Check it out to experience some amazing dishes, and watch Chef Redolfo and me in the NBC Miami clip here.

- Jimmy Im

Jimmy Im is NYC-based travel writer, TV host and instructor, as well as the cofounder of OutEscapes.com

Have you downloaded Travel Channel’s Layover App yet? If not, what are you waiting for? The app is now free, and was recently chosen by Apple as one of the App Store’s Best of 2012 in the “Hidden Gems” category. Plus, new cities are being added each week!

Tonight at 9|8c, watch as Anthony Bourdain makes the most of a layover in Atlanta — he browses a farmer’s market with Top Chef’s Richard Blais, and visits a famous strip club with Food Network’s Alton Brown (yes … you read that right … see the pictures here). Then, use the Layover App to replicate his trip (perhaps minus the strip club?) — learn his do’s and don’ts, watch exclusive video and use the app’s practical tools to map out the places you want to visit. Want to learn more? Check out our Layover App video, and download the app for free today!

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