Harvest & Reel Farm Fresh and Shore to Table Cuisine
Executive Chef John Botkin
As so many great chefs have done, John Botkin started his culinary career working in restaurants as a teenager in his hometown in Northern Virginia, about 40 miles north of Washington, D.C. He continued this track through college and when it came to choosing between aviation and culinary, the culinary track won the day. Botkin attended the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, VT., where he was mentored by the first of three French chefs he credits with influencing his career—Michel LeBorgne. After culinary school, Botkin moved to the Virgin Islands where he purchased and rehabbed an existing restaurant that had been damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1991. He made a name for himself using local Caribbean products prepared with classic French technique perfected under the tutelage of Chef Jean-Louis Palladin of the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. and Alain Borel of L’Auberge Provencale in White Post, VA. Having already sold his restaurant, when Hurricane Marilyn hit St. Thomas in 1995, Chef Botkin took the first flight out and let opportunity guide him from there. First stop was Atlanta, where he took a job with Morton’s of Chicago Steakhouse. When the company was looking for a chef to open their Las Vegas location, Chef Botkin was tapped. In the 1990s, Las Vegas was the land of opportunity for a talented chef with an explosion of celebrity chef-led restaurants and massive resorts. Chef Botkin took a position with the opening team of the New York-New York Hotel & Casino. He went on to work for McCormick and Schmick’s, where he prepared 34 fresh species of seafood every day. That led to a position as executive chef at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino, where he ran the hotel’s main kitchen and grand buffet, which served between 4-6,000 people a day on average. A desire for a more family friendly location, brought Chef Botkin, his wife and two sons back to the East Coast, first to North Carolina’s Outer Banks and then, in 2017, to St. Augustine. He was recruited to helm Harvest & Reel and has been integral in the development of every aspect of the restaurant, along with Food and Beverage Director Robert Ivey. It’s as if every step of his career has led Chef Botkin to this destination. From mastering seafood cookery in the islands, to mastering meat cookery with Morton’s of Chicago, to managing the logistics required to run a $43 million buffet in Las Vegas, Chef Botkin is the perfect fit to lead the team of Harvest & Reel with its ”farm and shore to table” concept.