CHEF SPOTLIGHT: Andi Bell of Boshamps

PAM GRIFFIN 315-4491 | @DestinLogPam
The Log's chef spotlight is on Andi Bell, executive chef at Boshamps.

Editor's Note: Chef of the Month is now Chef Spotlight and will run quarterly.

For almost 20 years, Executive Chef Andi Bell has worked for the Phillips family in Destin, first at Flamingo Café and now at Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House. While at Flamingo Café, he received a Rising Star of American Cuisine award from the James Beard Foundation, one of the top culinary honors in the United States.

Bell has always loved to cook, and spent his early years cooking with his mother, Janet Bell, his grandmother, Meta Bains, and his father, Bernie Bell. He learned an appreciation for fresh seafood at an early age while visiting his grandmother in the Bahamas. The first thing Bell remembers making is a steak dinner with his dad, closely followed by Coq au Vin for 15.

"Rib-eyes with butter, Worcestershire and garlic under the broiler, when I was around seven years old," Bell told The Log. "Because I attended Highlands Day School in Mountain Brook, Alabama, through my elementary years, French was a part of the curriculum. In fifth grade French class, we were assigned to prepare a classic French dish, and I chose to prepare Coq au Vin for my class of 15."

At the age of 18, Bell worked the front of the house of restaurants and by the age of 24 he knew he wanted to attend culinary school. In the fall of 1989 he entered the Florida Culinary Institute in Palm Beach on the fast track, taking day and night courses, and graduated at the top of his class with honors.

"I learned the inner workings of a large ‘classic brigade style’ kitchen," Bell said. "The training itself wasn’t difficult for me. What I learned, that most people assume, is the preparation of food is more than just the application of heat, but rather how to create the most palatable outcome for the combination of the ingredients through execution and flavor concepts."

Bell is a classically trained professional chef since his graduation in December 1990, more than 25 years. He returned to Destin to assume the line cook position at Bud and Alley’s, and after four years became the executive chef at Hatteras Café,

"I became employed with the Phillips family back in 1996, at the Flamingo Café and was the executive chef until the family decided to close in September 2003," Bell said. "In 2012, Miller Phillips, who was still a kid back during the Flamingo Days, had returned to the area and approached me about being the executive chef at his new restaurant Boshamps. I jumped at the opportunity, we opened in April 2013, and I haven’t looked back since. The Flamingo Café was located in the very building that is now home to Boshamps."

Bell's creations are currently Southern inspired with classic French techniques combined with Gulf Basin ingredients.

"I’m not known for one specific recipe, but for my entire culinary style as a whole. I constantly study and am inspired by flavors from around the world."

Q: What is the most necessary ingredient for the majority of recipes?

A: Love for the art, and patience for the execution.

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

A: While offal is used in many traditional applications of classic cuisine, I personally do not care for it.

Q: Best piece of advice for a home cook.

A: Recipes for meals are just a guideline. Recipes for baking are a necessity, as baking is a science, literally chemistry.

                                     Pimento Cheese

1/4 cup grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese

1/4 cup grated white cheddar cheese

1 Piquillo Pepper, diced (jarred in pickle section)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp. spicy sweet pickle juice

Pinch smoked paprika

Salt and black pepper

Lightly hand toss cheeses and peppers, set aside in refrigerator.

Combine remaining ingredients in large separate bowl. Lightly fold cheese and peppers into mayonnaise and spice mixture.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

NOTE: This is a GREAT spread for a grilled cheese sandwich served with your favorite soup.

My perfect grilled cheese from my childhood is a light coating of pimento cheese between two slices of Pepperidge Farm Very Thin Sliced White Bread.