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Caleb Taylor
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Apr. 30, 2014 8 years ago

Recipe for Success: Caleb Taylor

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by: Mallory Gnaegy A&E Editor

Caleb Taylor
(New) Executive Chef at Jack Dusty
1111 Ritz Carlton Drive, Sarasota

Where are you from? Morgantown, W. Va.

What job did you have before this one? I was with a different company in Maryland, where I was the executive sous chef at a small hotel with Orient-Express Hotels Ltd.

What is your culinary background? Living in West Virginia, I started working at The Greenbrier hotel for about six years. After that, I joined the Ritz-Carlton in Naples. I was cooking in local restaurants, and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was just cooking for beer money. Then I thought, ‘I could do this for a living. I could do this for the rest of my life.’ And I did.

When was the first time you prepared a meal for someone? I started out as a dishwasher. I can remember trying to see what the guys on the line were doing and trying to get involved. They’d say, “Come on over,” and started letting me help them when they were busy. Then it morphed into letting me cook.

What’s your earliest memory relating to food? Growing up in West Virginia, my grandfather had a garden. I remember going out and picking scallions or spring onions with him, walking around with a saltshaker and we’d (sprinkle it on) and eat them right there.

What are your biggest responsibilities as the new executive chef? Staying current, and keeping the locals of Sarasota interested in what we’re doing. Also, keeping the menu exciting and seasonal.

So what kind of menu developments are you making now? Right now, I’m working on a summer menu … I’ll talk to local farmers and see what they’ll have in the coming months. Then I’ll take those items and write a menu around that.

Right now we’re working with shishito peppers. There’s a farm in Terra Ceia growing them for us, Faithful Farms.

We take Anna Maria Island bottarga, a cured mullet roe. We blister the peppers and toss them with lemon juice in sea salt, then shave the bottarga over the top. Everything we use is from Sarasota. Everything’s local.

What’s your favorite thing on the menu? The Sarasota Cioppino, $26. It’s very Jack Dusty. It’s one of our signature dishes.

If there were an ingredient or item on the menu that best describes your personality, what would it be and why? I’d say the Jack Dusty make-your-own s’mores because it’s interactive. I like to get my cooks thinking and involved in the planning of their work. It’s a very hands-on job. (Just like s’mores), you’ve got to work to reap the rewards.

What’s one of your favorite places to eat outside of Jack Dusty? We just had our second child, and while my wife was pregnant she always wanted me to take her to Drunken Poet Café to get the coconut curry soup.

Your dream customer (dead or alive) comes in — she wants to meet the chef — who is it? I’d say America’s first celebrity chef, Julia Child. I’d love for her to come in and talk shop. It would be such a generational gap, so it would be neat to talk about the development of food from when she was cooking and in the scene until now.

Describe Jack Dusty with one song: Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” It’s from the period correct to our character Jack Dusty and his lifestyle. Plus, everyone who has ever worked in a restaurant has had a moment when they’ve been in the zone and have had that song come in their head. Sometimes (work is like) a beautiful symphony. Other times, you have a rail full of tickets and it’d be a heavy metal song … or maybe The Beatles’ “Help.”

Give us two truths and a lie about yourself — you don’t have to tell us which is which.
1. I love being a father to my kids, Scarlett, 2, and newborn, Grace.
2. I listen to and collect vinyl records.
3. I’m good at lying.

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