CJ’s on the Bay
The Esplanade, 740 N. Collier Blvd., Suite 105, Marco Island. Phone: 389-4511. All major credit cards accepted, reservations recommended. Daily hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for lunch and dinner; 11 a.m to 10 p.m. at outside gazebo bar and 11 a.m. to close at restaurant bar.
Began working at present restaurant?
Well for accuracy’s sake, I started here in June 2007 when it was Bayview. The new owners, Curt and Jacquie Koon bought the restaurant in March 2008 and changed the name to CJ’s on the Bay, for Curt and Jacquie, in October 2008.
What is it about food that made you decide to cook for a living?
I always enjoyed cooking with my parents when I was growing up but music was also a big part of my life into high school. After I graduated, I enrolled in the University of Georgia as music major but I worked part time in a restaurant and that’s when I realized that food is where I belonged — in a kitchen — and earned my culinary degree from the CIA.
What was your first restaurant job?
One of the Wendy’s in Marietta, Ga., in the mid-eighties.
How long have you been cooking professionally?
What is the most unusual dish you ever cooked?
Turtle soup with real snapping turtle meat from Lake Okeechobee at the Naples National Health Club.
Did you make changes to your menu for the summer season?
Yes, we came out with our summer 2009 menu on June 17 and there are several all new, lighter, healthier entrees, especially my new natural braised buffalo short-rib paparadelle using very lean fresh, farm-raised buffalo meat that’s become one of our most popular entrees.
What is the most popular dish on your menu?
Probably our catch of the day. The customers who eat at CJ’s are really into the fresh local seafood we feature at the restaurant.
What is one food that you’ll never eat? Why?
I like to keep an open mind when it comes to new culinary experiences.
Who would you like to cook a meal for? Why?
Probably my grandmother. I would have liked to cook a meal for her and let her see how far I’ve come and I would hope she would be pleased with the meal.
What is your most essential cooking implement? Why?
My hands more than anything, but I guess my chef’s knife.
What is your favorite TV cooking show?
I love “Hell’s Kitchen.”
What would you like to be doing if you weren’t a chef?
I have no idea. Maybe — I really have no ambitions about opening my own restaurant — this (CJ’s) is the only thing I think about.
What annoys you most in the kitchen?
Messy. I don’t like a messy kitchen.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
I really find something very pleasing in the creative process and it’s nice to see the end result in the dining room.