599 South Collier Blvd #105, Marco
Rookies Bar & Grill
599 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island. Phone: 394-6400.
Hours: Open seven day a week, 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday; 11:30 a.m.to midnight Saturday; noon to midnight Sunday.
Began working at present restaurant?
When we opened on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1992.
What is it about food that made you decide to become a chef/cook?
I’ve always been interested in knowing about and trying most kinds of foods, but my interest became a necessity when we opened the bar. Because we served food at Rookies it was easier to cook and make sure that the kind of food we served was the kind of food we wanted Rookie’s to be known for – easy, home-cooked simple food made with fresh ingredients – the kind that goes good with a glass of beer!
What was your first restaurant job?
This one. Actually, my wife, Laura, is the one who trained me and taught me everything she wanted me to know about cooking in a restaurant kitchen — which was a lot more difficult than people realize.
How long have you been cooking professionally?
That’s easy. Seventeen years, since we opened Rookies on St. Patrick’s Day 1992.
What is the most unusual dish you ever cooked?
I had a guy ask me to cook a hamburger in the deep fat fryer. I had never done that before — it was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen but the customer loved it! He was actually here on vacation, but he always comes in when he visits and always orders the same thing.
Are you planning changes to your menu for the new season?
Yes, we’re adding a few things just to change the menu and because it’s summer we’re including a few lighter things. I’m doing a turkey Club Wrap and also a Jumbo Lump Crab Sandwich that we’ll probably sauté to make it a patty and serve it on a nice puffy bun. We’re also featuring a Country Reuben Sandwich stuffed with nice big chunks cut from a big corned beef brisket that we cook here on the premises like everything we serve, including our soups made daily – when we run out that’s all there is.
What is the most popular dish on your menu?
It would be easy to say it our Grouper Platter or sandwich, but our star Home Run Signature Dish, Dijon Horseradish Melt piled high with thin-sliced roast beef on a toasted Kaiser roll is also a winner like our unique sports-themed menu with all the various sections named after a different sport or event.
What is one food you’ll never eat, and why?
Liver and onions. My mom used to make it and I would tease her and tell her she could never make enough gravy or use enough ketchup to make me try it!
Who would you like to cook a meal for? Why?
I’m a sports kind of guy. I’d like to cook a meal for someone like Dan Marino. I’d sit him down and just listen to him tell stories about his life in sports.
What is your most essential cooking implement? Why?
My food processor: No kitchen should be without one, at least our kitchen won’t be.
What is your favorite TV cooking show?
Guy’s Big Bite. He’s not only entertaining, but his recipes are simple and things I’d like to eat.
What would you like to be doing if you weren’t a chef?
I’d like to be a teacher or a coach — actually, that’s what I went to college for. I majored in a program called Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
What annoys you most in the kitchen?
The same thing that irritates every cook — disorganization.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
Being the owner and working here in Rookies I truly enjoy getting to know my customers because Marco Island is really a small town. We’re really a typical neighborhood corner bar where the regular customers are like family. We actually have a few people coming in regularly who — if they don’t show up — we’d go to their home and make sure they’re OK. I like to think we’re the kind of bar you’d find in any small-town USA where the customers are also your friends.