Islamorada Times recently sat down with Chef Andy Niedenthal, Executive Chef at the Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost. Chef Andy has an extensive resume with over 25 years of cooking experience at the highest levels. He has traveled extensively cooking at four star resorts in the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, as well as several of Islamorada’s best restaurants.
Chef Andy is a very interesting person with a real passion for cooking. You can tell right away when he describes one of his signature dishes.
Islamorada Times—Chef where did you grow up and did your upbringing have any influence on you becoming a chef?
Chef Andy—I grew up in Baltimore Md. I remember as a young boy I was always watching cooking shows. Evening Magazine with the famous Chef Tell was one of my favorites. Baltimore is known for its blue claw crabs, so I have been a seafood fan for a very long time.
IT—At what age did you know you wanted to become a chef?
CA—I first knew of my cooking interest when I was in the 7th grade. I recall a conversation I had with my father asking if there were schools that had real culinary programs instead of the basic home economics. These schools were only available in later grades, so in the meantime I kept myself busy playing lacrosse and ice hockey.
IT—Tell us about your schooling and experiences you have had in your career?
CA—In 1988 I graduated from Baltimore’s International Culinary Arts Institute. After working at a few local restaurants, I made my way down to the Florida Keys and worked at the Cheeca Lodge as an Executive Sous Chef. This experience helped me become the Executive Chef at Pierre’s. I moved to Georgia for a spell, but when my pipes froze I thought that was a good sign to head south again. Other positions I have held were the Executive Chef for the Peter Island Resort and the Scrub Island Resort, both in the British Virgin Islands. Again, I returned to Islamorada as the Executive Chef for the Green Turtle Inn when they relaunched in Oct 2007.
IT—What are some things that influence your style of cooking?
CA—I am an avid reader of cookbooks and watch all the Food TV shows. I am always learning my craft and picking up ideas from various sources. My motto is “Whatever it is, make it the best it can be”
IT—What are 3-4 ingredients you cannot do without in the kitchen every day?
CA—Salt/Pepper, butter, fresh seafood, great wine
IT—Do you have a signature dish or two at the restaurant?
CA—Yes, the Jumbo Lump Crab Rarebit is a favorite. It is jumbo lump crab with a caper cream sauce, over grilled artesian bread and fresh flat leaf parsley. Another favorite is the Lobster Corn Tacos. Sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, Cilantro, onions, avocado, baby greens in a flour tortilla with a citrus Vinaigrette and fresh lime. Folks love the freshness and the coolness of the dish.
IT—When you dine out which types of cuisine do you enjoy?
CA—I enjoy all types of cuisine. There is a place in Fort Lauderdale called the Rustic Inn that has great crabs. Guess I always go back to my roots in Baltimore.
IT—What can we expect to see you cooking at home?
CA—I barbecue everything. Love to do rotisserie chickens, fresh fish, and barbecue pizza.
IT—What is your definition of comfort food?
CA—Macaroni and Cheese and definitely Thanksgiving Dinner. It is my favorite meal of the year. I don’t even mind much if I have to work on Thanksgiving as long as I get to feast on Turkey and stuffing all day.
IT– Red or white wine?
CA—I prefer Pinot Noir’s. A couple of my favorites are Robert Sinskey and Peregrine.
IT—What do you like to do in your free time?
CA—When I get some free time I really enjoy golfing. And you can’t live in this place without a passion for fishing. I don’t hunt but I get a kick out of shooting clay pigeons.
IT—Any Final thoughts?
CA—Good luck with the new website. Got a chance to take a look and it’s really user friendly and has a cool look. Also, wanted to let everyone know that I am in the final stages of a new cookbook. Its title is “South of the Stretch Seafood in the Conch Republic” so keep an eye out for it.