CHEF OF THE MONTH: Give your soul a 'gourmet' treat

Pam Griffin
Fireside Café's Chef Max Hornsby is the Chef of the Month for August.

Have you ever had a "gourmet" lunch at church?

No? Then take your appetite to the Fireside Café in the lobby at Destiny Worship Center in Miramar Beach. Meant at first for just congregation and staff, it soon became very successful and was opened to the public five years ago.

"The atmosphere is not that of a typical restaurant in that there are never any late nights, and it is more centered around showing people the love of Christ through great food at a great value as opposed to making money," said Chef Max Hornsby, Chef of the Month for August.

Since it is a non-profit, most prices are $5 and under, with all profits donated to the church's mission programs.

"Everything seems to sell well with the variety we have, although guests seem to gravitate toward our daily specials," Georgia-born Hornsby told The Log. "We mainly get a lunch crowd looking for great food at a great price, so anything I want to introduce I will do with my daily specials, including Max's Spicy Chicken Caesar Wrap, Meatball Sub or Pot Roast Flatbread."

Hornsby never liked cooking growing up ... until he had to start working and it came naturally to him. "The first thing I ever cooked was lasagna when I was 15 years old."

While Hornsby was in college and taking core classes, nothing seemed to really catch his interest for the future. However, he was working in a restaurant at the time and decided to switch to culinary school.

"I trained in Atlanta and Dallas and it was more about long hours and not many days off than anything else," he said.

A chef for 25 years, Hornsby has worked at mom and pop restaurants, country clubs and corporate establishments like Houston's restaurants and Eatzi's Market and Bakery.

"In this area, I have worked at Seagar's, Vintij and Mitchell's Fish Market."

Known for his Macaroni and Cheese and Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits, Hornsby loves to eat anything grilled or smoked — but just doesn't like deer meat.

Q: What is the most necessary ingredient for recipes?

A: Kosher Salt

Q: What is your favorite cuisine to cook?

A: A traditional Thanksgiving dinner — it inspires me to come up with new and exciting recipes.

Q: Best piece of advice you would give a home cook?

A: Be clean and organized. OCD is good in the kitchen.

                           Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits

1.5 cups heavy cream 

2  cups water

2 Tbsp. fresh minced garlic 

1 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese

Salt to taste

2 tsp. fresh thyme

1 cup Quaker quick grits

Put first three ingredients in heavy pot. Bring slowly to a boil.

Add salt, fresh thyme and grits. Whisk rapidly and repeatedly. Turn burner to simmer. Continue whipping for 10 minutes off and on. Add cheese. Mix well and serve.