By Pam Windsor
April 19, 2022
ROSEMARY BEACH – Chef Josh Smith has a true passion for his craft that’s reflected in the many unique dishes on the menu at Edward’s Fine Food & Wine in Rosemary Beach. His Za’atar Encrusted Tuna and his Bacon Wrapped Quail (stuffed with jalapeño and served with parmesan cheese grits) are just two that rank high as guest favorites.
He says one of the things he enjoys most about creating new dishes is the incredible access to locally sourced meat and produce.
“The access we have is amazing,” he explained. That includes a local farm about 20 minutes away where he gets his chickens the same day they’re butchered, to seafood fresh from the Gulf.
“We work with Water Street Seafood which has been in business for years,” he said. “There are guys bringing in boats every single morning, talking to our purveyors and saying ‘We’re pulling fresh grouper off the boat right now. I can have it to you this afternoon.’ That’s special and not something you can get everywhere.”
Chef grew up in the small rural town of Monroe, N.C. outside Charlotte. He was just a teenager when he first became interested in cooking for others.
“I have two younger brothers and we were right on top of each other about a year apart. Mom and Dad both worked full-time jobs, so we were sometimes left to our own devices as we got older.”
That often involved preparing food and, interestingly enough, it was right about the time Food Network took off.
“Before it became a huge thing, I was kind of watching it, guys like Emeril and others, along with Julia Child. And between that and cooking for my brothers before Mom and Dad got home, that’s basically how I got interested in it.”
The family also had their own garden where they grew okra, corn, tomatoes, peas and other staples. He says it helped him appreciate not only fresh produce, but the hard work that goes into planting and harvesting it.
As a teenager, the family moved to Panama City, and it was there a teacher noticed his interest in food and encouraged him to enroll in a magnet program just getting started.
“The teacher said hey, we’re starting this culinary arts program next year and if that’s something you want to do, you can get in on the ground level. So, I jumped right into it and that kind of fast-tracked me over to the community college, which is Gulf Coast State College now. It has an incredible culinary program.”
There, at the French-trained culinary school (with a sister school in France), he was able to learn from some exceptional chefs. Other opportunities followed, then in 2017, he was hired at Edward’s which, at the time, was owned by Chef Edward himself.
“He and I worked together previously and remained friends, so when he opened up his own place, Edward hired me. At the time, his kids were working for him, and when he sold it, his son stuck around and is now actually my sous chef.”
Chef Josh says he saw the potential back then and has been excited to watch the restaurant expand under the Spell Restaurant Group.
“We’ve grown tremendously. We’ve renovated and extended the kitchen and turned it into such a professional kind of restaurant environment. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
He has a lot of freedom with the menus and enjoys creating new and exciting dishes that keep guests coming back.
“It’s the best part of my job. Whenever you have the opportunity to mess around in the kitchen and come up with a new dish, it adds new life. Not just for me, but for the entire staff. Cooks get tired of doing the same thing every day, so when they’re exposed to something new, they get excited, and the house staff gets excited.”
He says this spring, there will be a renewed focus on lunch. Even though people spend much of their time during the day on the beach, he and his team want to offer terrific middle-of-the-day options they can come eat during a break or grab something quick to sustain them. As that evolves, look for current lunch hours to change to meet the demand.
Edward’s Fine Food & Wine is located at 66 Main Street, Rosemary Beach. They generally do not accept reservations and operate on a first-come, first-served basis seven days a week. You can check out their menus and learn more by visiting www.edwards30a.com.