760 N. Collier Blvd., Marco
Guy Harvey’s Island Grill at the Esplanade
760 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island. Phone: 642-2248.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Saturday.
Began working at present restaurant?
When it opened in November 2007
Who or what inspired you to become a chef/cook?
My, that was a long time ago, but if you’re asking about cooking professionally I began working at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rochester, N.Y. Before that, I came to Rochester from Puerto Rico in 1985 where I began working, well actually cooking for my brother who owned a catering company there. During that time I also enrolled in the culinary school at Rochester Technical Institute. You know, I come from a large family, there were 11 children and four of them in back of me so it fell on me to help out -- cleaning and cooking and doing my share – and that’s how I got interested in food.
What was your first restaurant job?
I was a line cook at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rochester, N.Y.
How long have you been cooking professionally?
I was a kid when I started, but 28 years give or take a few. I was at the Regency several years before I decided to leave and go back to Puerto Rico to recharge – you get stale doing the same thing over and over. Then, in a couple of years I came back to the states — to Philly — that’s where I met Peter, (McFarland, entrepreneur and owner of the Island Grill along with other business interests). Only it wasn’t for cooking. I worked for him as an arborist for a while and finally the weather got to me. I came to Marco Island in 2001 and went to work as a line cook at Guy Harvey’s Island Grill.
Do food trends affect your cooking style?
I can cook anything, any style, but it’s always been with fresh, not frozen ingredients and my style prevails over any trends.
Are you planning changes to your menu for the summer season?
No, I usually come up with a special dish — mostly some kind of seafood. After all, we are practically in Smokehouse Bay.
What is the most popular dish on your menu?
That will have to be Last Shrimp Standing; it comes with Island Rice and fresh vegetables on the side. Also, our Snapper Mediterranean is very popular too.
What is your favorite food? Why?
It’s got to be ribs, any kind as long as they’re ribs. The flavor and texture of the meat between the bones — it’s unique.
Who would you like to cook a meal for? Why?
My wife. For Mother’s Day I made her three things: Fresh pineapple upside down cake, T-bone steaks grilled and shrimp and tilapia ceviche. In Puerto Rico we used to fish and catch tilapia in the rivers.
What is your most essential cooking implement? Why?
My knives — they’ve got to be very sharp so I don’t cut myself.
What would you like to be doing if you weren’t a chef?
Like a monkey I’m up in the trees! Well, to explain — in the daytime I work for the tree trimming company here on the island. It’s a different world up there you know?
What annoys you most in the kitchen?
Someone using my knives.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
I like — no, it’s a love I have — for cooking. I take in what I do, and if it pleases someone that’s enough for me!