Meet Chef Benjamin Loftus from Robbie’s Hungry Tarpon

Ben LoftusIslamorada Times: Where did you grow up and did your upbringing have any influences on you becoming a chef?

Chef Benjamin Loftus: I was born and raised in southern Vermont, in a small town named Wardsboro.  My family was involved in catering for music venues, mainly Hartford civic center in Connecticut.  I was a little kid running around back stage at concerts while my parents cooked for the band and crew. 

IT:  At what age did you know you wanted to become a chef?

CBL: I was 16, a junior in high school when I took culinary arts in the vocational center.  Soon after that I got my first job as a cook. 

IT:  Tell us about any schooling, on the job training, and the different positions you have had in your career?

Hungry Tarpon 3CBL: I attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence RI., where I was accepted into their early access program for high school seniors.  I was able to do my freshman year of college and senior year of high school in the same year.  I have worked every position in a restaurant with the exception of bartending.  I’ve worked at a handful of establishments including one season at The Ocean Reef Club. The majority of my experience came from Pierre’s Restaurant and Morada Bay Beach Café.  I was executive chef of Pierre’s for 9 years and both Pierre’s and Morada Bay for 3 years.  During this time Pierre’s was the 4th best restaurant in the state of Florida for 5 years in a row according to Zagat. 

 IT: What are the things that influence your style of cooking?

CBL: There are many variables that influence my style of cooking.  Seasons, availability, location, style of restaurant, ect…  In this industry you must adapt to your surroundings.   

IT: What are some of your top ingredients, those that are must haves in your kitchen at all times??

CBL: This is a tough question to answer; much of it depends on the answer to the previous question.  Style of restaurant, fine dining, family, casual, French, tropical, ect… But in all of these salt and pepper are a must… 

Hungry Tarpon new 3

IT: Do you have a signature dish or dishes you would like to highlight, if so, where did the inspiration come from?

CBL: I have many signature dishes.  It is tough to pinpoint a single dish.  A restaurant like Pierre’s your creating new dishes every day that are all signature.  At the Hungry Tarpon we do breakfast, lunch and dinner for over 1,000 people a day on busy days.  We focus on serving the best possible food in a timely manner.  Different styles of restaurant that have different style dishes.  It’s impossible to call out just one or two. 

Hungry Tarpoon 1

IT: When you choose to dine out yourself, what type of cuisine do you enjoy?

CBL: I enjoy all style and cuisines but French and Asian are my favorites. 

IT: What can we expect to see you cooking at home? Any specialties that we won’t see at your restaurant?

CBL: My wife does the majority of cooking at home.  Once in a while I’ll make a big dinner but the best meal you can eat is the one your wife cooks for you.  

IT: What do you consider to be comfort food?

CBL: Dishes that remind me of my childhood.  Venison & eggs, baked ziti and stuffed shells are some examples. 

IT: What is your wine preference? Any favorites you would like to recommend?

CBL: I prefer a heavy thick red wine.  Cabernet or Red Zinfandel. 

Hungry TarponIT: What do you like to do in your free time?

CBL: Spending time with my family, out on the boat, playing baseball, fishing, any kind of sport that keeps my 2 boys busy.  I’m also big into music and love seeing live shows.  I play a little bass as a hobby but it’s hard to find time. 

IT: Any final thoughts?

CBL: Every restaurant is unique in its own way with different styles and situations.  Being able to adapt and think on your feet is a must.  This business waits for no one, be prepared…

Hungry Tarpon 8