Carlos Frias was reading his school’s newspaper, “The Independent Florida Alligator,” when a particular column stood out to him: a “Where are they Now” article that he had written about a Gators football player named Jarvis Williams. Not yet knowing what he was going to do for a living, Frias had a realization.
“I remember that morning it came out and I ran downstairs to the mailbox,” said Frias. “Walking through the campus, I saw people in the quad reading it and saw my name in print, and that was it. That was the thing I was going to do.”
Starting as a college sports writer and then continuing on to win two of America’s most important food-writing prizes, the 47-year-old new host of WLRN’s Sundial, has told innumerable stories about the culture and people of South Florida.
Born in Miami and raised in Broward, Frias is a child of Cuban immigrants who were forced to leave their country in the 1960s and have never been able to go back. But he did not live in areas like Little Havana or Hialeah. He mostly grew up in Miramar around “gringos” and always felt separated from his culture.
“Both my parents were Cuban exiles,” said Frias. “They decided they wanted to leave the country, they were sent to Miami, so they came here as immigrants.”
His parents were part of a wave of Cubans who left the country after Fidel Castro took power in 1959. According to the Library of Congress, between 1960 and 1970, the number of Cubans living in the United States increased from 79,000 to 439,000. His mother, Iraida, came to the United States in 1963, and his father, Fernando, departed in 1969. Both left behind everything they knew and loved. They accepted the grim truth of never returning home.
His parents met in the United States. Fernando was working at Kennedy and Cohen, a Miami-based appliance chain, where he became a salesman. Iraida was a customer, buying a new refrigerator for her father’s house. They were married for 46 years.
Carlos, who was born in 1975, was naturally an introvert like his mother, but over time he practiced being an extrovert like his father. Putting those two together, Frias saw that he was a little bit of both, a listener and a storyteller.
“My dad would write little poemas, and I think that I was unknowingly absorbing that,” said Frias. “My parents had a great influence on me as a person and as a writer.”
Frias attended Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens before starting at the University of Florida in 1993.
In 1995, Frias started covering sports in college at age 19. While reporting for “The Independent Florida Alligator” in college, he was also a journalist for the Sun Sentinel in Gainesville doing three to five articles a week.
He studied liberal arts at U.F., where he met his wife, Christine. They married in 1999.
In 2004, he began writing high-profile stories at the Palm Beach Post. Frias reported on the Miami Dolphins, the Super Bowl, the NBA finals, and dusty football fields in Georgia.
Later, he got bored of sports. Frias noticed there was a constant cycle of writing about athletes that people were not as interested to know about anymore, but more so they cared about their performance on the field whether they won or lost.
In August of 2006, Frias went to Cuba for a two-week reporting assignment where he covered the illness of dictator Fidel Castro and wrote about his family’s stories. He brought the stories to life, taking pictures and recording audio diaries. It inspired Frias to write his book, “Take Me With You” which tells the story of immigration, exile, and what it’s like to be separated from your family. It was published in 2008,
“I remembered for years my father used to tell me that I should write their story,” Frias stated. “I wrote a book that ended up in a way being the story of my family.”
In 2009, he was offered the opportunity to write general features at the Palm Beach Post, where he got incredible feedback from his first article. That’s when he realized people were interested in a person’s story and the community. And that was where Frias’s passion was.
In December 2010, he and his wife divorced. They were married for 11 years.
At The Post, Frias had help from his mentor and good friend, Liz Balmaseda.
“Carlos has that quality that so many great writers have – a respect for context,” said Balmaseda. “He’s a great cook and an adventurous eater, so of course, he would be a wonderful food writer.”
Frias continued to work with Balmaseda at The Post until he went to work for the Miami Herald in April 2016. Going into the Herald as a food and dining editor, Frias’s goal was finding stories that could only be told in Miami, and telling them through the viewpoint of food was a success. He won the Jonathan Gold Local Impact award in 2018 and again in 2022 for engaging readers through food writing and covering Miami food locales.
“I’ve learned so much from Carlos,” said Balmaseda. “In a way, he has been a mentor to me as well, and that is a wonderful thing.”
Frias has three daughters:19-year-old Elise, 17-year-old Amelia, and 15-year-old Catalina Angeles.
Out of the blue, WLRN contacted Frias asking if he would be their host on their radio show 91.3 FM. Without hesitation, he took the chance and said yes.
Frias’s last day at the Miami Herald was on November 11 of this year. At Sundial, he aims to continue to tell stories of Miami’s amazing and weird phenomena.
“I’m 47 years old and you don’t get a lot of chances in life to learn something different,” said Frias. “If you’re in this career long enough, you end up doing a lot of jobs. If you enjoy journalism and you really dig into it, you end up moving from beat to beat, and I did that.”