Chef of the Month: 'Fresh seafood makes the difference’

Pam Griffin
Chef Kyle Strong at Fisherman’s Wharf not only “cooks what you hook,” but also catches his own red snapper and amberjack.

As head chef/kitchen manager at Fisherman’s Wharf in Destin for almost five years, Kyle Strong oversees every stage of production in a dish and controls the quality.

The Chef of the Month for July, Strong has been a chef for about seven years. He does not have formal culinary training, but received a business management degree with a minor in computer science from the University of Alabama.

“I started working in restaurants when I was a teenager and after graduating from college I decided to stay in the hospitality industry because I enjoy the culture of restaurants,” Strong told The Log. “Not everyone can say they truly enjoy coming to work everyday and are proud to provide high quality products to customers in an environment that they can have a great time and celebrate the most special occasions of their lives.”

Strong’s training in the kitchen began when he was 23, when he had been working for a Fortune 500 Steakhouse company for two years and was promoted to salary management.

“This company has a very intense and thorough training program that I completed in three months,” Strong said. “It was a little difficult at first since most of my education and experience was focused on financial, human resources, and computer systems management. After the first few weeks, I found that I had some natural talent and quickly mastered every station in the kitchen.”

In his late 20s, Strong decided he wanted to switch his focus from restaurant operations management to the kitchen, and then became a chef.

Strong’s signature recipe at Fisherman’s Wharf would have to be the Grouper Destin.

“I start with fresh gulf red or black grouper that is sautéed with Bronze seasoning,” he said.  “It is then topped with fresh hollandaise and lump crabmeat that is poached in butter and white wine.” 

Strong is known for fresh gulf seafood and his ability to consistently execute and cook large amounts of fresh fish that charter boat customers catch and bring into Fisherman’s Wharf.

Q: Are there any foods you just don’t like, either to eat or cook?

A: There are very few foods that I do not like, and I will try almost anything once. I am not a fan of roe or octopus.

Q: What is your favorite food to eat?

A: My favorite food to eat is Maine lobster. I had lobster in Gloucester, Maine, about 15 years ago and to this day I have never tasted its equal.

Q: What is your favorite cuisine to cook? 

A: Seafood is definitely my favorite. When you are able to purchase fish from the docks behind your restaurant or a local seafood market you can really see the difference in quality.