Chef Q&A: Sous Chef Omar Monzon of Sand Bar

Sand Bar's Sous Chef Omar Monzon is pictured with his signature Seafood Diablo platter, including succulent shrimp and a shellfish mélange sautéed with spicy tomato sauce and served on a bed of al dente linguini pasta with garlic bread.

Jenine Ouillette/Special to the Eagle

Sand Bar's Sous Chef Omar Monzon is pictured with his signature Seafood Diablo platter, including succulent shrimp and a shellfish mélange sautéed with spicy tomato sauce and served on a bed of al dente linguini pasta with garlic bread.

Sand Bar - Marco Island

826 East Elkcam Circle, Marco

Sand Bar, 826 E. Elkcam Circle, Marco Island, Phone: 643-3625, Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Began working at present restaurant?

It will be seven years in December

Who or what inspired you to become a chef/cook?

Well, I come from San Pedro, Mexico near Huehuetenango, a city that’s become known for growing the best coffee in Guatemala. I was the youngest of seven brothers and when I was growing up my mother let me help her in the kitchen and that’s when I first became interested in cooking. Then I started school and continued on to the academy where I graduated and got my teaching certificate. I enjoyed teaching kindergarten but it didn’t pay well. Then, one of my friends got a job in a Marco Island restaurant and invited me to come along, saying I could easily get a job here too, and that’s why I decided to come to Marco Island.

What was your first restaurant job?

The Sand Bar. I worked my way up — starting as a dishwasher — moving up to prepping when they saw I was dependable and really interested in cooking. I really enjoyed learning to cook and working my way up to sous chef in the Sand Bar’s kitchen.

How long have you been cooking professionally?

Four years now, including when I started cooking on the line before I was promoted to sous chef.

How would you describe your cooking style?

I love to cook Italian with an emphasis on seafood, so I’ve created a few signature Italian daily specials like my Seafood Diablo

What is your most popular dish?

Probably my Blackened Fresh Catch Hail Caesar! Salad and my Seafood Diablo with shrimp and shellfish sautéed with spicy tomato sauce served on a bed of al dente linguini pasta with garlic bread. But our “What Made the Sand Bar Famous” sandwiches that we serve with fries or pasta salad and cole slaw have always been popular with the customers.

What is your favorite wine/food?

I don’t drink any liquor, but I could eat chicken Parmesan everyday of the week.

Do you cook at home?

If so, what would we always find in your fridge/freezer?

Pizza, but if I have friends over I might make a Guatemalan chicken and vegetable stew.

What is your secret ingredient? Why?

I wouldn’t call it secret but I like to finish a sauce with a bit of sweet butter — it adds that extra touch.

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