Jacksonville is the home to many unsung chefs that fly under the radar yet, are cooking some of the best food in town. I found one of these heroes doing his magic at Jax Diner located on St Augustine Road. He graciously agreed to take some time and sit down and chat with me.
When did you find an interest in cooking?
When I was growing up my uncle had a small Italian restaurant at the beach I would go and wash dishes for him, eventually working my way to kitchen manager. Thirty-three years later, I have found my calling in the food world.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up here in Jacksonville, attending Terry Parker High School. I have left Jacksonville several times running restaurants around the state, but always find my way back to Jacksonville
What did you want to be growing up?
I studied architecture in high school, but due to bad decisions, turned down a scholarship to UF, that combined with the stress of working in the culinary world I lost my direction.
Food smells that transport you back to your childhood?
Anything Italian, I grew up in an Italian household, Grandma lived with us, so it was Cucina Italian all the time.
Favorite food memory?
During a surfing trip to Costa Rica, we indulged in monkey brains. I don’t know if it’s my favorite but certainly most unusual. I will never forget this dish.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
Probably after I returned from Costa Rica, I moved to St Augustine and worked at a seafood restaurant, that was challenging plus I enjoyed the grind.
Where did you train?
In Jacksonville at what then was FSCJ culinary program, then worked with a food service company for several years and earned a scholarship to Savanah College of Art and Science where I received my CC degree.
How do you develop new dishes for the restaurant?
Trial and error, articles I read or see on TV then try and recreated the recipe perhaps with my spin.
If you weren’t cooking what would you be doing for a living?
I don’t even know; I have been cooking for so long. I did try and leave numerous time but always return I am an adrenaline junky I strive on the stress.
Death Row meal?
Jiff peanut butter, strawberry preserve and a bowl of ice cream.