Live Like a Local: Where Chefs Eat When They’re Off the Clock
When you’re wondering where to eat, ask a chef. They know a thing or two about taste, and they have limited opportunities to eat out because they’re always working at meal time, so they make their meals count! We talked to several great chefs and folks in the restaurant industry to find out where they eat when they have a chance.
Executive Chef Gio Filippone dishes out contemporary takes on classic seafood dishes like lobster macaroni and cheese or pistachio-crusted grouper at South Walton mainstay Vue on 30a in Santa Rosa Beach. When he's able to sneak away from Vue's top-notch food and spectacular view of the Gulf of Mexico, he mainly goes for comfort food and ambiance.
“Restaurant Paradis, which is located in Rosemary Beach, is my favorite off-the-clock dining experience. Their cast iron filet is juicy and tender – really fantastic, and the atmosphere of the restaurant is beautiful.”
At Roux 30a in Grayton Beach’s Art District, Chef Nikhil Abuvala uses farm fresh ingredients to explore a wide variety of cuisines, from sushi to Mediterranean. Because he's usually cooking at dinnertime, most of his off-the-clock meals are lunches. As a result, he tries to just relax and have a good time before work. One of his first choices is Sushimoto in Miramar Beach, where Chef Andy “is just awesome,” and makes, in Chef Nikhil’s opinion, “the best sushi in the Panhandle.” For a light and healthy option, he pops into Chiringo in Grayton Beach for a delicious grain bowl, often adding fresh local seafood on top! And when he manages to sneak away for dinner, you’ll usually find him at Amici 30a's bar, hanging out face-to-face with Chef Mack and enjoying a succession of delicious Italian plates.
Hugues Le Berre, Director of Food & Beverage at Alys Beach, doesn't get as much time as he'd like to explore South Walton’s restaurants, but he’s still managed to compile a few favorites, including Basmati Asian Cuisine & Sushi, Havana Beach Bar & Grill and Seagrove Village Market Café. Chef Drew Dzejak of Caliza Restaurant adds two others to Hugues's list, Chanticleer Eatery and Stinky’s Fish Camp, and notes that he’s also a fan of Hurricane Oyster Bar.
If you're looking for someone to tell it to you straight, ask someone who doesn't have time to waste. Chefs are busy people, and you can bet they're only eating at spots that deliver the best food. So follow their lead!