Chef Q &amp: A: Capt. Brien Spina

Capt. Brien Spina

Executive Chef/Co-owner

Capt. Brien’s Seafood & Raw Bar

599 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Walk Plaza across from the Hilton Hotel. Phone: 389-6900. Hours: Open seven days a week: Breakfast, 8 to 11 a.m. Thursday through Sunday; lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., daily; and dinner, 3 p.m. to closing.

Began working at present restaurant?

Which one do you mean? We opened our flagship restaurant, Capt. Brien’s Seafood & Raw Bar, in Marco Walk Plaza in November 2004. Now we have a restaurant in the Louisville’s (Kentucky) Improv, featuring Capt. Brien’s Seafood & Raw Bar and Wet Willie’s Daiquiri Bar, and then we opened at the West Palm Beach Improv, featuring Capt. Brien’s Seafood and Wet Willie’s Daiquiri Bar. On April 1 we move into the Hollywood Hard Rock Seminole Casino with Capt. Brien’s Improv, featuring Capt. Brien’s Seafood and Wet Willie’s Daiquiri Bar — I plan on being there for the opening.

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

I watched Julia from the time I could work the remote and then I’d go in the kitchen and ask my mom to help me cook the recipes. What was your first restaurant job?

Bertucci’s Pizza — it’s a popular chain in the Northeast.

How long have you been cooking professionally?

Seems like I’ve been doing it all my life. I was interested in food at an early age, and the family’s always been in the maritime and seafood business as it relates to restaurants in the New England area and now, of course, on both the east and west coasts of Florida .

Do food trends affect your cooking style?

Yes, the economy is the trend most affecting the restaurant business — and that’s been reflected in our new menu — we’ve removed some high end things and eliminated loss leaders like steamers.

Are you planning changes to your menu for the new season?

Yes, we’re introducing a wonderful buffet on May 1, featuring an extensive selection of favorite hot and cold items. We’ll focus on the new trend for fresh and natural — especially fresh seafood and organic produce when available — also the kind of homestyle cooking that made us famous.

What is your most popular dish?

Our House Specialty Grouper that can be prepared any way the customer wants — blackened, crunchy, fried, grilled or broiled in lemon butter and herbs. Then, we’re also asking our servers to recommend “Today’s Sustainable Catch” because it’s certainly more environmentally responsible than catch of the day. We also support catch and release fishing practices and seasonality to limit overfishing vulnerable species.

What is your favorite wine?

I’m Italian so I’d choose Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio on the rare occasions I’d have a glass of wine.

Do you cook at home? If so, what would we always find in your pantry?

Yes, mostly my wife cooks at home but we enjoy cooking together — mostly traditional Italian dishes.

What is your secret ingredient? Why?

Madagascar vanilla — I think we have a unique twist on our drinks — the Madagascar vanilla-infused simple syrup we use in all flavors of our Mojito drinks.

What would you like to be doing if you weren’t a chef?

Probably some other type of sales and marketing.

What annoys you most in the kitchen?

A couple of things — a dirty kitchen and when recipes are not followed to specification. Consistency is very important — even more so now with our new locations.

What do you enjoy most about your profession?

Ah, I most enjoy seeing new faces every day and seeing smiling faces when people leave the restaurant because they enjoyed the food at Capt. Brien’s!

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