The chef’s role is steeped in history and tradition. And, while in the past, they rarely left the confines of the back of the house, today chefs celebrity status. So, the next time you have an excellent dinner, remember these hard-working professionals behind the scenes.
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!
Candlelight South Restaurant Legendary Restaurant Continues in a Southern Setting
George and Kathy Tracy with their daughter Laura Russell, are carrying the torch of a family legacy—George’s father Jack opened The Candlelight Inn Restaurant in Scarsdale, N.Y. in the 1950’s. Jack and his wife Phyllis worked tirelessly to turn a little bar into the successful, nationally recognized restaurant it is today. Today, the New York restaurant is run by George’s brothers, Jay and Mike (with Jack’s oversight). The Candlelight Inn has been voted one of the top 21 Wing Joints in the United States by Thrillist.com, and has been featured on the History2 (H2) Channel’s All U Can Eat show.
The Candlelight South offers the same fresh hand-prepped (never frozen), juicy wings twice the size of what other restaurants typically serve. Their signature secret Hot Sauce will keep you coming back for more while other sauces include Garlic Parmesan, Teriyaki, BBQ and the very popular Hot Teriyaki. For those who like a fiery challenge, the Candlelight offers their notorious Chernobyl sauce. While enjoying wings with Freedom Fries, waffle fries or onion rings and a cold beer you can also watch your favorite sports teams with DIRECTV pro and college packages.
The Candlelight South offers a full menu beyond the legendary wings. With Executive Chef Dustin Muir at the helm of a sparkling new kitchen, the menu features fresh, traditional American Fare including handmade burgers cooked to order, baby back ribs, Fish & Chips, Shrimp, steak or mahi tacos, steak specials, seafood specials & pasta specials, entrée salads, house made soups and chili. Come experience the casual, friendly and laid back atmosphere now in St. Augustine as the loyal mob of customers do in Scarsdale, NY.
1 Anastasia Blvd. • (904) 819-0588
GAS Full-Service Award-Winning Nouveau Diner
Since opening in February 2011, Lindy and Ben Loose have earned numerous accolades, but their most recent—Florida Trend’s prestigious Golden Spoon as one of North Florida’s Best New Restaurants—is an affirmation of the highest order. Reviewers noted their “Comfort food made from scratch” and use of local beef for amazing burgers. Locally, GAS was voted Best Burger and Dessert in the Best of St. Augustine Awards; took top honors in the annual Taste of St. Augustine; and won a first-place award in the recent Great Chowder Debate. The couple is passionately commited to sourcing seasonal, sustainable, all-natural foods from local producers whenever possible. Niman Ranch steak, chicken and pork assure humanely raised, grass-fed meats. Another point of distinction is GAS’s selection of local and regional beers on tap. The Looses host a monthly Beer Dinner, featuring a five-course dinner matched to selected flavorful brews.
As avid supporters of the Slow Food Movement, the Loose’s lunch and dinner menus highlight local flavors prepared with creative flair. Starters include Loaded Homemade Potato Chips (topped with blue cheese béchamel, bacon, and scallions), Fried Green Tomatoes, and award-winning Reuben Roll (deep fried eggrolls filled with corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese served with Russian Sauce). Favorite entrees include Espresso Rubbed Ribeye, Not Your Momma’s Meatloaf, Chicken Marsala, and Mojo-Marinated Slow-Roasted Pork, These and GAS’s “ScratchMade” breads, burger buns, ice cream and desserts will have you lining up at the pump for GAS’s comfort food with a conscious!
Kingfish Grill St. Augustine’s Best Fresh Fish on the Water
Hailing from County Kilkenny, Chef Danny Heffernan grew up in the hospitality industry, cooking for and serving guests in his mother’s bed and breakfast at age 10. At age 16, he entered Ireland’s state-sponsored culinary training program, one of the most rigorous in Europe at the time. Chef Danny trained in the finest hotels in Ireland, including Dromoland Castle Hotel, a world-class, five-star hotel and country estate, and Malahide Castle Hotel, a country estate built in 1185. A vacation to the U.S. turned into a job. While serving as executive chef of The Country Inn on Long Island, and later the Locust Valley Inn, his work was featured in The New York Times, Newsday, and Great Chefs of Long Island annual. In 2001, he and his family opted for the Florida lifestyle and now call St. Augustine home.
Chef Heffernan has worked as executive chef of Kingfish Grill for the past four years, the last two of which he has enjoyed collaborating with Chef Austin Katoh. Chef Katoh was born in Chicago, Illinois and moved to Pittsburgh, Penn., at the age of two. Growing up in a third-generation Japanese family, he was exposed to the exotic flavors of a Japanese kitchen. Learning basic techniques from Mom and Grandma, he went on to attend classes at the Sawyer School for the Culinary Arts. For the last 25 years, Chef Katoh has worked in authentic Japanese sushi restaurants form Pittsburgh to Hawaii to Texas and now Florida. After 12 years in The Sunshine State, Chef Katoh has attained a firm grasp of the Northeast Florida palate. With more than 65 years of professional culinary experience between them, Chef Heffernan and Chef Katoh make an incomprable multi-cultural team and create a unique dining experience at Kingfish Grill, unmatched in this region.
Chef-Owner Mark DeRusso has built a career on his passion for the culinary arts. And, true to his birthright, he specializes in the Italian cuisine of his heritage. Chef DeRusso, a graduate of the Hudson County Culinary Institute in Jersey City, N.J., developed his skills working for several restaurants before taking the plunge to open his own in July 2000. La Strada embodies all of Chef DeRusso’s philosophies of what makes Italian cuisine a worldwide favorite—a comfortable setting, gracious service, and soul-satisfying food crafted from the freshest seasonal ingredients.
Along with traditional Italian favorites such as Chicken Marsala, homemade lasagna, and Shrimp Scampi, Chef DeRusso has developed a number of dishes that are distinctively his own. Chicken DeRusso features chicken breast rolled with prosciutto ham, mozzarella cheese, and herbs, finished with a Madeira-mushroom sauce, and Duck a’ La Strada features crispy roasted duckling served in a sauce of cranberries and port wine, finished with fresh mushrooms. His Seafood Pasta Absolut (lobster tail, shrimp, and scallops in Absolut Citron vodka cream sauce with sundried tomatoes over linguini) is always a favorite with customers. Paired with the perfect wine (La Strada features the largest selection of Italian wines of any restaurant in St. Augustine), you will be transported! Chef DeRusso flexes his creative muscle on a weekly basis with innovative specials or making food to order upon request, proof of his improvisational culinary skill.
La Cocina International Restaurant Continental Cuisine with Latin Flair
At La Cocina International Restaurant, located within the elegant Castillo Real Resort Hotel in St. Augustine Beach, you immediately see the culinary team of this award-winning restaurant at work. An open kitchen format puts their culinary artistry and professionalism in clear view. And, being the true hospitality professionals these gentlemen are, they always greet guests as they enter.
With 15 years of experience in the restaurant industry, Norberto Jaramillo began working at La Cocina as the general manager. Now, as owner, he continues to provide an exceptional fine dining experience by constantly improving culinary fusions and the beautiful plate presentations that have become the hallmark of La Cocina International Restaurant. A native of Colombia, Jaramillo leads a team of professionals whose culianary inspirations lie in the Southern Hemisphere.
In charge of bringing these amazing culinary creations to life are Chef Julio Banda and Chef Marcel Vizcarra. Chef Julio came to La Cocina from New Jersey and, over the span of the last 8 years, has proven to be the perfect match for the restaurant’s vision and culinary ambitions. Chef Marcel is a graduate of Gastronomy and Culinary Arts from Le Cordon Blu, Peru. In 2010, Marcel moved to Florida to develop his skills and learn new techniques and joined La Cocina’s culinary team in 2012. Together, these professionals demonstrate their passion for food on a daily basis by providing an exceptional gastronomic experience at this comfortably elegant restaurant.
The Raintree Restaurant & Steakhouse Casual Dining • Historic Location
The story of the Raintree Restaurant reads a little bit like a romantic novel. On March 30, 1979, the MacDonald family, consisting of father and mother, Tristan and Alex, and son Gaere, and daughter Lorna, left England in their 45-foot yacht, Intsholo III, bound for the United States, just as their countrymen had done in the 17th century, and for just about the same reason. After selling everything—business, house, cars, and most of their furniture—they said goodbye to Europe and friends. At 5 p.m. on Nov. 7, 1979, they left the safety of the Canaries for the open Atlantic. The crossing took nearly 18 days before Intsholo III anchored at Bridgetown, Barbados. The next step was across to Florida and then north to St. Augustine, where the MacDonalds found the old house at 102 San Marco Avenue that became The Raintree after 10 months of restorations and refurbishment. This century-old building is one of the last survivors of the city’s Victorian heyday.
Since opening in 1981, The Raintree continues to be recognized nationally and internationally as one of Florida’s top destination restaurants. The warm, inviting ambience of the restored 1879 home—and brick courtyard, gazebos and koi ponds surrounding it—provide the perfect setting for memorable dining and special events. The menu features hand-cut prime steaks, fresh local seafood, chef’s specials, and handcrafted desserts, notably made-to-order French crepes. Specialties such as the Brandy Peppersteak, Veal San Marco, Fresh Catch Matanzas, and Beef Wellington have put the restaurant on the map of gourmands the world over. For dinner nightly and Sunday Brunch, Raintree is a St. Augustine tradition not to be missed!
Wildflower Café A Casual American Restaurant with International Flair
As owners of one of the beaches’ most popular eateries, Brian and Dae Lynn Helm found the cafe of their dreams right in St. Augustine Beach in 2006. Deciding to take the plunge and transition from a successful career as a corporate chef to that of local chef-owner was a natural progression. As a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., and with more than 28 years working in the resort and country club industries, Chef Helm had fine-tuned his culinary and management skills and earned numerous prestigious awards. While serving as executive chef of the Sandestin Resort and Club in Destin, Fla., the resort’s signature restaurant, Elephant Walk, was named one of the top 200 restaurants in the state by Florida Trend magazine. Chef Helm was poised and ready for the challenge and risk of owning his own business.
For Chef Helm, the purchase of Wildflower Café was the fulfillment of his longtime dream. While completing his studies in Providence, recently hailed one of the top five cities in the country for food and dining by Travel + Leisure magazine, he developed a passion for international cuisines. That is evident throughout his menu—from morning to evening. From Crab Cake Eggs Benedict and German Oven Pancakes in the morning, to Market Steaks, Grouper Wildflower, Pasta Brian, or Pork Schnitzel for dinner, Chef Helm puts his own signature chef style—and passion—into every dish he creates. Join Chef Helm on Saturday nights for the best prime rib in St. Augustine.