Trading in his flight suit for a chef’s coat and an apron, Carey Stegall made the move from pilot to chef in 2011.
When Stegall — known as Chef Jekyll in culinary circles — retired after 30 years of service in the United States Air Force, he made his way back to the shores of the Emerald Coast, a place he called home as a child.
Spending his primary teenage years on Hurlburt Field — Jekyll grew up scalloping and fishing all along the Gulf Coast and the Choctawhatchee Bay with his father, who nursed his interests in cooking local seafood.
Born into a military family, Jekyll was used to moving around often with his family, and they left Florida the summer before he began high school. He ultimately stayed in the family business so to speak and joined the Air Force.
In lieu of a fighter pilot's control stick, Jekyll is now armed with a spatula and a spoon in his newest venture.
With military assignments in countries all over the world — Italy, Germany, Thailand and China, among others — Jekyll's culinary credentials expanded. "I learned to cook Italian food in Italy, and Thai food in Thailand — I learned at the source, I was lucky," said Jekyll.
Noting the somewhat diagonal career jump between being a 30-year veteran of the armed forces to personal chef, Jekyll told The Log that his passion for cooking started like any other hobby.
"Once I retired I knew I would need something to do any way," Jekyll said, "so I officially began offering my services in Northwest Florida on March 1, 2012."
Jekyll is quick to explain that he is not a caterer, saying he doesn't cook food in a third-party location, bringing it to your function, reheating it in chaffing dishes, and then leaving.
"I'm a private chef," said Jekyll, "what that means is that you request the meal that you'd like, then I do all of the shopping and preparations, I prepare and serve the meal in your home, then clean up the mess and I'm gone before you finish dessert."
From appetizers to desserts, Jekyll offers his clients everything from an intimate anniversary dinner for two or a large social dinner party for up to 10.
Jekyll said February is looking like it’s going to be a fairly busy month for him. His next engagement on the books is a private Valentine’s Day dinner party on Feb. 16.
Visit chefjekyll.com or call 200-7766 to have Chef Jekyll - A Private Chef, LLC., at your next dinner party or to schedule a cooking class.