A menu with a view
By Lauren Sage Reinlie
SANTA ROSA BEACH – If there is one thing that sets Chef Isley Whyte apart — besides his culinary creativity — it’s his smile. It’s an infectious one that sets the tone for everyone and everything else at Vue on 30A, the restaurant at the Santa Rosa Golf and Beach Club.
“I’ve never seen him not smile,” said Michael Bickett, the club’s general manager. “He must be the most beloved employee we have at the club.”
Whyte took on the role of executive chef of Vue on 30A in the fall of 2019. He was promoted after serving as the restaurant’s sous chef and Bickett said he has rewarded them tenfold with his creativity in the kitchen, his care for his staff and his contagious positivity.
“The way his staff and the service staff, the way they speak about him is really a testament to what he is all about and the family atmosphere he has created here,” Bickett said. “And the club members and customers echo that as well.”
Vue on 30A – one of the only beachfront dining options along Scenic Highway 30A – has been serving customers with high-end food and an incredible, panoramic view of the Gulf of Mexico for 50 years. The restaurant offers full windows in their air-conditioned dining room as well as an open-air, covered dining terrace, all overlooking the emerald green water and white sand beaches.
Whyte grew up in Jamaica cooking with his auntie for their large family (he is the oldest of 11 children). He came to the United States in 2005, started as a dishwasher and moved his way up the line to where he is today. Each morning, he arrives at the kitchen and creates something new.
“He is very creative and likes to surprise us on a daily basis,” Bickett said. “We often don’t know what tonight’s dinner will be because it hasn’t sprung from Chef Isley’s brain yet. I never want to stifle his creativity. His brain thinks in different ways than a lot of people do and it’s a great way to think.”
Vue on 30A’s menu features three to four unique, daily specials. Bickett said Whyte often takes whatever fresh produce, fish or meat his purveyors have to offer and creates a dish around that.
One example on the menu during late spring was a whole fried fish special. It was branzino, about one-and-a-half pounds of it, tempura-battered and deep-fried.
“The presentation, the way it looked going out, once one table saw it, everyone wanted it.”
Whyte brings some of his native island flavors to the menu (coconut curry, Jamaican jerk chicken) but Bickett said he also has a broad range of experience and serves one of the best steaks in town: a filet mignon served with red wine chorizo demi-glace that is one of Vue on 30A’s most popular dishes.
Shrimp and scallops is another popular item at Vue on 30A. It comes with three pan-seared scallops served over a bed of truffle risotto paired with two fried, grilled or blackened shrimp and a mango carrot beurre blanc.
Kitchen staff will always try to work with any dietary requests or customize dishes to what the diner is looking for, Bickett said.
Their food menu is complemented by an extensive wine list and a custom cocktail menu created in-house.
In addition to Whyte, the entire staff works hard to help make a special experience for diners, whether they are just getting to have a night out or celebrating a special occasion.
“The view gets people to show up for the first time, but the food and the service along with that view are what brings them back as repeat customers.”
Vue on 30A is located at 4801 Co. Hwy. 30A West in Santa Rosa Beach. Staff can be reached at 850-267-2305. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, 3 to 6 p.m. for happy hour, and 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Sunday brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended, at least two weeks in advance for dinner and brunch. Find more information or make reservations at vueon30A.net.