Congratulations Chef Jimmy Rodriguez for being our Chef of the Month for May! Find out what Chef Jimmy has been up to while introducing big, new flavors to the BG Florida State Parks!
- Where were you born?
I was born in Havana, Cuba. I was in Cuba until I was 12 years old. I came over to America in ‘85.
- Where do you work and where are you based?
I currently work for BG Florida Parks. The three state parks included are Oleta River State Park, Hugh Birch State Park, and John U Lloyd State Park. I am involved in turning the state park concession stands and Blue Marlin Fish House into a better dining experience. I am implementing the use of higher quality products and standardized recipes that the entire company will follow and produce to my personal standards.
- What is your favorite kitchen tool in creating your masterpieces/dishes?
My favorite kitchen tool is my chef coat. This is an important tool to help protect me from being burned and scratched in the kitchen. It also gives me a sense of pride and lets people understand that there is a professional behind the wheel, but also a graduate that loves his craft. In my chef coat, I always carry a thermometer, a flashlight, a knife and a sharpie.
- What is your sharpest sense out of all the 5 senses?
Taste is my strongest sense. I have trained my palate to know exactly what a dish will taste like before even needing to taste it. With my training and experience, I am able to follow a standardized recipe and use the knowledge of the ingredients I am incorporating and not need to taste the dish. Nothing has too much or too little seasoning. This knowledge has led to much of my success.
- What advice would you offer for aspiring chefs?
You must love your craft. I hate culinary programs that fill students’ minds with the idea that “he who wants a college degree, not knowing the fire they are about to jump into, can get a degree.” College kids think they can get a degree and get a top dollar job, and it’s the furthest thing from that. Students should have a job in the industry before going to school so they know what they are getting themselves into. You have to have a love for food and for the craft.
- What is one culinary tip every chef should know and perfect?
If you wouldn’t serve it to your mother, you should never serve it to your guests. If you are in doubt, throw it out. The quality of your product is a MUST.
- What does good food mean to you?
Good food is about texture and the timeliness of getting the dish to the customer. The little details are important. You want to be able to differentiate between every ingredient in each bite. No one wants overcooked chicken and vegetables and mushy carrots.
- What trends do you see emerging in the near future?
I call it the Pan-American menu. Many menus now relate to all types of people and can have French style cuisine, Caribbean style cuisine, etc. all on the same menu. With my real knowledge of different cuisines from Cuba, I want to make sure all restaurants have a mixture and that everyone has an alliance to the food being served.
- What features are important to you when selecting a Chef Coat? (particular fabric, style, sleeve length, pockets)
It needs to be durable, breathable, good quality material, and washes and dries well. I prefer long sleeves with arm pockets to protect my arms and hold everything I need.
- What is your go-to chef outfit? Do you prefer coats, tees, pants, shorts, aprons, hats, etc.?
I always wear a bandana to keep my hair out of my face. Also, I use aprons only when prepping. Don’t walk out of the prep area with an apron. The apron protects the food from you, not you from the food.
- Favorite ingredient to work with?
Lately it has been Greek yogurt. I try to incorporate it into everything, even my Caesar dressing has Greek yogurt in it. I no longer use preservatives in my food, so you will not find any mayonnaise or sour cream in my kitchen. I preserve everything with lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, etc. to keep it fresh. Smaller batches with no preservatives is the secret to success.
- Favorite city to dine out in?
Miami. There is a wide range of restaurants in all the different areas that have been built up like the Art District and Liberty City.
- Best dish you have ever made?
My Cilantro yogurt sauce. I make an emulsification of Greek yogurt, extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. Always organic ingredients, no preservatives. It goes with everything- fish, chicken, been, even French fries.
- Place you eat most often on your days off?
I eat mostly at home and don’t dine out a lot. Lately I have been perfecting recipes for croquettes using different meats and fish with all fresh ingredients. I will have a line of croquettes and sauces out before 2017.
- Person you would most like to cook for?
My Wife! Dee Rodriguez, she is my biggest fan as well as my critic. My inspiration.
- What made you decide to become a chef?
In Cuba, I had been cooking since I was sitting in my grandmother’s lap. When I came to America, I used to be a tour guide and air boat Captain. At the end of the tour I would reach in and hold an alligator so people could take pictures. Eventually, my wife told me it was too dangerous, so I went to culinary school.
- What is new on your DVR?
The Marlins baseball season from last year. I didn’t watch it live, but I watch every minute of every game at my leisure. I’m still finishing last season!