Chef T. — from a line cook to a chef

PAM GRIFFIN 654-8444 | @DestinLogPam
Executive Chef Teofilo Tundidor, known as Chef T., is The Log's Chef of the Month for December.

Born in Miami and growing up on the Emerald Coast, Executive Chef Teofilo Tundidor has spent most of the last 10 years at Cafe Thirty-A in Santa Rosa Beach.

Chef T., as he is known, spent early years in the kitchen with his mom and dad, both good cooks, and he was always interested in what they were cooking. However, his first cooking experience at age 10 was a bit different than most chef's, and didn't start in the kitchen.

"I went to a pig farm, killed a pig, cleaned it, gutted it, and helped my dad cook," Chef T. told The Log.

Chef T. continued working in kitchens, and one day he finally decided he would see where the cooking would take him.

"I worked my way up the ranks from a line cook to chef in 15 years," Chef T. said. "I have been here (Cafe Thirty-A) on and off for 10 years, I would leave, go train and come back with more knowledge and share it with the restaurant."

Loving what he chose to do for a living, Chef T. takes pride in what he does everyday, and doesn't get caught up in the titles.

"The title of chef is more out of respect that you receive from your staff because they know what you have sacrificed out of your life to achieve that level. They know you will be right there in the trenches with them."

As responsibilities grow and continuously challenge you, you train and teach your staff so one day some of them can move on and become chefs.

"I have spent the majority of my life in kitchens and have worked with some very talented chefs. I had the opportunity to train in some top notch restaurants in Miami, Virginia and Georgia. The chefs that I trained with have made me the chef that I am today."

Training was not always easy for Chef T. There were many 16 hour days, six days a week, for months on end.

"These chefs taught me how to push myself when you think you don’t have more to give. Everyone in the kitchen was as good as you or better so you had no other choice but to step up to the plate and execute to the level of expectation that these chefs have set. Believe me — the standard is very high."

Chef T. works to try to keep Cafe Thirty-A one of the best restaurants in South Walton.

"We are constantly moving forward trying different things with the food and the service we don’t rest on the fact that we have been open for 20 years. Every service is just as important as the last one.

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

A: No, I am like Mikey. I try any food once.

Q: What is your favorite food to eat?

A: Pork rinds and diet coke I also like the occasional popcorn pig out. I am a big fan of bourbon as well.

Q: What is your favorite cuisine to prepare?

A: All of them. I do not bind myself to one style or one cuisine. It's fun to explore different cuisines and the culture of what other people eat in different parts of the world. You get a better understanding of the how diverse food can really be.

Q: What is the hardest part of cooking for a beginner?

A: Learning the basic fundamentals of a professional kitchen. It takes years to master some of the most basic skills, until you can do them without thinking.

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

A: Read, study and keep cooking. You don’t have to follow a recipe word by word. Recipes are a tool to guide you. Have fun with them and try out new variations of your own.

                 Peruvian Langostino Pasta

 2 oz. duck confit

5 oz. Langostino

4 oz. Orecchiette pasta

1 oz. English peas

3 oz. mascarpone

1 oz. roasted red peppers

A splash of white wine

Unsalted butter

Chicken stock

Fresh herbs, such as chervil, parsley, chives, thyme, lemon zest and fresh basil for garnish

Kosher salt to taste

If you can not find Duck Confit you can use whatever type of ham or other meat you would like. I would personally use pancetta or prosciutto.

To start the dish, first cook the pasta and cool it back down. Place a big spoon of butter in your sauté pan on medium to low heat. Once the butter starts to melt and slowly starts to create bubbles, you add the duck roasted red peppers, English peas and sauté for a few minutes or until hot.

Next, add a splash of wine to the pan and reduce that until the butter and wine has become emulsified. Turn the heat down and add the pasta and langostino. Continue cooking until the pasta is hot. Splash some of the chicken stock to your dish and start working the mascarpone into the dish.

At this point everything should be hot and ready to serve. Adjust seasonings; add salt if necessary. To garnish, zest some fresh lemon on top and add the basil.