BlackFly The Restaurant • Collage Fresh Seafood & Steaks • Artful Global Dining
A native of Thomasville, Ga., Chef Matthew Brown’s first job in a professional kitchen—like so many great chefs—was as dishwasher. As a military kid, his family moved to Hawaii, which had a lasting influence on his sensibilities as a culinarian. Back in the Southeast, he quickly worked his way up the ladder at numerous restaurants. He achieved the position of executive chef at Stonewood Grill & Tavern—the youngest in this fast-growing Florida-based chain—and was invited to become an operating partner. But in his quest for continuing growth as a culinarian, he instead took a position—all the way at the bottom rung—at One Ocean Resort & Spa, a premier oceanfront resort in Jacksonville. His talent was quickly recognized and offers were made but Chef Brown had been saving up to pursue culinary training in France. A baby on the way changed all that and pointed Chef Brown and his bride to her hometown of St. Augustine. There he found another family in the kitchen at Collage—where he started as chef in 2011—with owners Mike Hyatt and Cindy Stangby.
When an opening presented itself, Chef Brown deftly stepped up to the helm of their other restaurant, BlackFly. He saw a need for a coordinating chef for both restaurants and pitched the idea of serving as executive chef. He brought in Chef Ryan Ruffell—who he had worked with at Stonewood Grill—to lead BlackFly. Chef Ruffell, who started his culinary career at age 14, following in the footsteps of his father, was working as executive sous chef at Roy’s in Jacksonville Beach. At Collage, Jeff Cohn, who had begun working at La Parisienne in 2006 as a dishwasher and was encouraged and challenged to step up to a chef position, serves as chef de cuisine of that restaurant. And with that, this duo of award-winning restaurants has the most talented trio of ambitious and passionate culinarians this town has seen!