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Story by Chad Thurman
Meet Chef Kevin Purdy of the Highlands House Café & Bar in Santa Rosa Beach.
Chef Purdy envisions and creates the menu using his experiences, influences, and educational knowledge to offer coastally inspired and French technique influenced meals. Purdy credits the free and creative atmosphere that Highlands House owner Marc Russack encourages as instrumental to the variety of the menu he has crafted for the guests of Highlands House.
Recently, 30afoodandwine.com spent a few minutes with Chef Kevin to discover his influences and inspirations for his menu.
Chef Purdy’s Highlands House style in his own words:
“The menu is all my creation. Marc has been very generous in letting me have free rein to show my influences, my style of cooking. He has been very supportive of my influences that span a whole lot of different regions and styles of cooking.
I grew up in Miami where the food is a melting pot of South American, Cuban, Haitian, Bahamian, and other Caribbean cuisines. My family had a scuba diving cruise company, and we would take people out on weeklong scuba diving trips. I’d always worked for them growing up, and one day I started cooking on the boats for the passengers. I took an interest in that while we were out cruising the Bahamas catching fish straight from the water and going to the galley to make sashimi sushi, or pulling conch off the bottom of the ocean and making conch salad. It was an incredible job; it was a lot of fun. That was where it all began; ever since I was born my parents have been in the hospitality yachting industry. That’s where I got my passion to cook.
The first restaurant I ever worked at was a Peruvian restaurant at the Sonesta Hotel in Coconut Grove. I worked there for about a year then I took a job at an Italian restaurant. All the while I was going to Florida International University studying restaurant management and hospitality. I started to realize how much I loved cooking while taking classes and cooking in these restaurants. That’s when I decided that I wanted to go to Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. I began studies at CIA in 2007 and graduated in 2009.
While studying at CIA, I moved from New York to Charleston and did an internship at the Peninsula Grill under Chef Bob Carter, who is a James Beard nominated chef. It was a really phenomenal restaurant with South Carolina Lowcountry influenced southern cuisine but with a French technique.
After I graduated CIA, I went to Nashville which is where my career got a kick start. I worked at the Capitol Grill in the Hermitage Hotel under Chef Tyler Brown, who is also a James Beard nominated chef. Then I went to work at F. Scott’s in Nashville which is kind of a Southern-French fusion, a Southern style but with a French technique. I started to get a lot of wine knowledge working there too. Paring food and wine is one of my passions.
From there I went to Watermark Restaurant in Nashville under Chef Bob Wagner, another James Beard nominated chef. It is in a booming spot right downtown; a high end modern place. I went on board there and during my time there we filmed a PBS TV show called Sing for Your Supper recorded at the Ryman Auditorium. We would prepare meals for different singers and musicians who would have to literally sing for their supper. We would cook on stage, and I would showcase a dish that I was making – it was a blast. My fiancé and I moved to South Walton in 2013, and I took a job at Marina Café. I was there about one year before I came aboard with Highlands House this past May.
With my cooking style, Chef Wagner is definitely one of my biggest influences; he brought all of the finesse together for me. He cooked in France for several years and his influences on me are largely French – heavily sauce based. Everything I make in-house from scratch. We do our own stocks, our own sauces, and our own accompaniments. Definitely something that Wagner instilled in me was that you can always make food better.”
Chef Purdy’s diverse coastal history and the educational experiences of having cooked with some of the best culinary artists in the industry enable him the creative vision for food that is much sought after by casual diners and foodies alike. The adventurous spirit to cooking that he retains from his days in the galley while on scuba tour through the Caribbean is embodied in the flavors of his food, while his inventiveness is evident through dishes like his Korean inspired bibimbap kimchi burger, or his German influenced pumpkin spaetzle dish. With the many tapas style offerings and entrée dishes drawn from his extensive background, Chef Kevin Purdy of Highlands House will certainly have your new favorite on his menu.
Story by Sarah Murphy Robertson
They say fish is brain food, which is just what Chef Christopher Holbrook of Signature Catering of 30-A anticipates our new Gulf to Table events will ultimately serve up. When asked what these dinners will bring to 30A, he was quick to answer: “Education for the consumer. Our menus will highlight lesser-known fish; providing a platform for helping both local fishermen and our area’s ecosystem.”
Chef Christopher is excited for these private meals to provide one-on-one dialogues on fishing practices in our area. He is well-versed on the many factors driving the popularity of specific fish, and is ready to bring his knowledge to his diners’ culinary repertoires.
His Gulf to Table menus will emphasize a balanced progression; keeping it fresh and straightforward. “To me, the fish is the star and so that will always be my first focus” promises the chef. While his career’s spanned decades and time zones, most recently he notes his role in encouraging healthy lifestyle choices. His clients are health conscious but also food-savvy. He strives to push his food’s creativity, while also keeping them fit.
And, what is fine dining without exquisite wine? All of the signature event meals will offer unique pairings personally fashioned by 30afoodandwine.com’s partner, Chan’s Wine World. Guests should expect the unexpected and be ready to find some new favorites.
Informing diners, supporting local fishermen, improving our ecosystem, eating healthily…all while enjoying mouthwatering dishes and wine? Sounds like a pretty smart move!
Gulf to Table Signature Events with Chef Christopher at the helm can be reserved through 30afoodandwine.com. The inaugural meal will be held Saturday November 8th. For tickets please call 850.687.3776 or email email@example.com.
24215 S Hwy 331
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Navigate your way through The Bay
By Sarah Murphy Robertson
SANTA ROSA BEACH – The Bay is Chef Jim Shirley’s popular, family-friendly spot overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay. It’s the place to head to have fun, enjoy live music, and watch the sun’s rays glint off the water. But when you dine at The Bay, guests will also find its menu offers a variety of dishes not seen elsewhere in South Walton.
This innovative menu all comes from Shirley’s time spent overseas.
“The Bay is definitely Chef’s creative outlet,” revealed Dan Tinghitella, director of culture and operations. “Chef’s extensive travels inspired much of this cuisine.”
One of The Bay’s entrees came about during a trip to Europe. His oldest daughter was craving his signature dish, Grits a Ya Ya. “Chef sourced what he could find in Italy in order to cook her favorite dish … and the result was making polenta cakes instead of grits, aka our Faux Ya Ya,” Tinghitella recalled. The Bay’s version of shrimp and grits consists of fontina cheese polenta cakes served over arugula with pancetta, prosciutto, crimini mushrooms, topped off with Gulf-fresh sautéed shrimp.
Sushi is another specialty at The Bay.
“We have a dedicated sushi chef and team, so we can create a good variety of rolls – something for any sushi lover’s taste,” Tinghitella offered.
Two guest favorites include the Kelli Roll and the Hot Mess. The Kelli Roll is comprised of ginger-seasoned shrimp, spicy tuna, avocado, eel sauce, cream cheese, and spicy mayo. Named The Hot Mess, this description is certainly tongue-in-cheek; this masterpiece is filled with jumbo lump crab, spicy krab salad, and avocado and then panko crumb-breaded, deep-fried, and served with spicy mayo, eel sauce, green onions and sesame seeds. It’s Hot Delicious.
But The Bay’s Asian-influenced dishes go beyond sushi rolls, with starters like the crisp and refreshing Thai Shrimp Lettuce Wraps, filled with savory shrimp and garnished with chopped peanuts, toasty garlic and fresh mint served in butter lettuce. The whole table will love their take on hummus: edamame puréed with tahini, garlic, and lemon and garnished with kicky wasabi peas and ginger, served with naan bread.
Diners are often eager to try The Bay’s Point Washington Rolls for a taste of a fairly novel ingredient: alligator tasso. Tinghitella explains the alligator meat is prepared as a tasso in a smoky-spicy style. The creole-inspired spring rolls are then filled with the tasso and poblano peppers, fried, and served with a Hog Island sauce.
As you can imagine, having over a thousand guests for dinner each night in the high season requires a huge team effort. Along with the talents of Executive Chef Michael Mix, The Bay requires the dedicated teamwork of skilled chefs, waitstaff, and front of house crew. Leading all these moving parts, Chef Mix is also consistently pushing the envelope himself.
“He loves the idea of using different flavors to perfect The Bay’s standout dishes,” Tinghitella said.
The Bay is a place where guests can find their sweet spot. Beautiful bayfront dining with fresh seafood and a place to try new twists on familiar fare, is a welcoming port of call.
The Bay is located at 24215 U.S. Highway 331 in Santa Rosa Beach. Open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. Contact them at 850-622-2291 or online at baysouthwalton.com.
Santa Rosa Beach,FL 32459