Locals and visitors alike know we have been blessed with beautiful white sands and emerald waters. What is also becoming known around the country is that South Walton, and specifically 30a, are becoming a hot gathering spot for world-class culinary experiences.
Chef Nikhil Abuvala of Roux 30a in Grayton Beach is quickly garnering rave reviews and an extremely loyal following. His “Around the World“ dining series is fast becoming a highly sought after way to experience food and fun in South Walton.
30afoodandwine.com caught up with the rising star of the culinary scene to ask a few questions and get a sneak peak into what goes into his craft at Roux 30a.
How did you come up with the “Around the World” dinner concept?
“Mike Ragsdale of 30a.com asked me to do an Indian dinner for him and some of his friends. So we did this wonderful elaborate Indian dinner and had so many people that heard about it and wanted me to do it for them. Mike then asked us to do a Moroccan dinner to celebrate an upcoming trip he was taking to Morocco. We researched it and had another huge response so we did a second night and invited some friends in the community. It was such a big hit we realized we could do a country every month. In March of 2015 the series was launched and we do them now on the third week of the month for 3 nights.”
What can a guests expect at one of the dinners?
“Every dinner is a five course tasting menu. Some of the courses are not necessarily what you would expect right away. The dishes will have familiarity but we don’t want our guests to recognize every dish. For example when we did the Indian dinner, we did more of street foods that guests might not expect. I like to change it up a little! Seating starts at 6:30 and dinner starts when everyone arrives. It’s not just about the menu here. We want people to enjoy themselves and be relaxed. Some nights we are out of here by 9:30 and other nights it might be after midnight.”
“The other thing I really believe in is the community table. One of the most important things to do in life is to share meals with your family and friends. Its one of the things lacking today and I wanted to recreate that here for our community. You might recognize the people at your table or you might meet new people from the community when you come to dinner.”
How does your life and past experiences influence the vibe and setting here at Roux 30a?
“When I started I was 13. I went to the Kitchenique cooking school two days after my 13th birthday for a hands on sushi class. The instructor asked when I could start working for him! So I started working for Dan Pettis and Tim Creehan at Beachwalk Café rolling sushi as an apprentice.”
“I went to school for music but when music became a job it wasn’t fun anymore. I packed my knives and made my way to Miami and worked under James Beard finalist Dean Maxx. I learned under him and had set my sights on moving out west to open a restaurant. I came home on vacation here in South Walton to visit my mom and there were hundreds of homes being built in the area. I said why don’t we try and do something here and as the say, the rest is history.”
How do you describe your cooking style?
I would say modern American cuisine. I truly believe in the farm-to-table and sea-to-table idea. I work with as many local people as possible. When we do private dinners, we give the guests a general idea of the menu so that I have some flexibility with what local farmers and fisherman are going to have available.
Is there a dish that you create that incorporates all the senses?
“For the Germany dinner, we made our own bratwurst and served it with purple potato salad and house made sauerkraut and smoked mustard. We cold smoked it and served it with a glass over it. Everyone removes the glass at once and the smoke comes out….it was really a unique dish.”
How do you research the dishes for each “Around the World Dinner?”
“Every dish I do is not exactly a direct correlation to what you might think. I cook more light food instead of heavy. I find ways to make small changes to dishes to make them flow together over five courses. You are getting a great experience. You are not eating five drastically different things.”
“I look for the main dishes that truly define the country and what other variations exist. Maybe not one dish but one element of one dish to utilize and infuse it with something else that makes you think of that country. There are no menus at our around the world events. With every course I explain the dish and the ingredients and the inspiration behind it.”
Chef Nikhil of Roux 30a and his “Around the World” dining series can be found at 114 Logan Lane Suite 1A, Grayton Beach, FL 32459. For reservations please call 850.213.0899. The next Around the World Dinner (India) is set for August 10-13th at Roux 30a.
Chef Nikhil photo provided courtesy of Roux 30a.