Chef of the Month: ‘Everything I cook has to be delicious’

Pam Griffin
Chef Orion Cordoves holds one of the signature dishes at Groovy Grouper Grill in Destin — the Commons Hamburger.

Orion Cordoves, executive chef at Groovy Grouper Grill at Destin Commons since August 2013, is The Log’s Chef of the Month for April.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Cordoves’ mother was an engineer, but loved to cook, and he would occasionally watch her.

Trained as a chef in Las Vegas, Cordoves has loved to cook from the very beginning.

“But I’m still in training and I always will be,” he told The Log. “It just doesn’t stop. Always there are new methods and techniques. It wasn’t easy at all, and I also had to learn the language, but I kept myself focused.”

A chef for 11 years, Cordoves began cooking professionally at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in some of its restaurants, including Regale and the Steakhouse at Camelot. When he moved to Mississippi, he became chef de cuisine at Murano’s, an Italian restaurant at Harrah’s Casino.

While his style of cooking incorporates his Cuban roots, Cordoves likes to expand on familiar and popular items.

“I approach meal preparation with gratitude and respect for earth’s bounty and seek the freshest local and seasonal foods for the meals I prepare.”

Cordoves said his success is due to his passion and respect for the tastes and traditions of international flavors, combined with his desire to experience and experiment.

“Everything I do has to be perfect, everything I cook has to be delicious.”

Q: Do you have a signature recipe?

A: At the restaurant we do have a few dishes that people order frequently. The Grouper Thermidor is one of them as well as the Chivito Stack sandwich. And of course, also the Commons Hamburger which is topped with pulled pork, fried onion rings and a fried egg.

Q: Are there any foods you just don’t like?

A: I could not tell you if there is one. There’s so much more to see and try still.

Q: What do you like to eat at home? What is your favorite food?

A: I eat bread everyday. Love it. My favorite food is Cuban.

Q: What are the most necessary things to use in cooking?

A: Freshness, and salt and pepper.

Q: What is your favorite cuisine to cook?  

A: Italian is my favorite because I can be “free” and cook. In my opinion, Italian food has it all — north to south.

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

A: Buy always the fresher ingredients, follow the recipe and don’t burn it! 

Chef Orion Cordoves’ Roasted

Garlic Lemon Chicken

4 (10 oz.) airline chicken breasts*

1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 lemons, sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

Whisk together the oil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic and sliced lemon. Add the chicken and turn to coat in the oil. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours and up to eight hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on a baking sheet and top with sliced lemon.

Cook the chicken skin side up for 20 to 25 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Makes 4 servings.

*Airline chicken is a poultry cut commonly used in fine dining restaurants that is comprised of a boneless chicken breast with the drumette attached.