Located in the picturesque and quaint cobbled court of the Shops of Olde Marco, Chef Annie Feinman, of Chef’s Express, is breaking all the rules. The staff that is like family at Chef’s Express are simmering and ready to boil with excitement about a series of innovative ideas that are definitely not your typical dining experience.
Chef’s Express is entering its sixth winter season, and beginning this autumn, a new recipe is brewing in the little bohemian shopping village that just might take the cake, especially when it comes to creative ideas for customer participation in a unique dining adventure.
During a recent luncheon interview with Chef Annie, I sat back with interest and amazement as I discovered a new menu and a new agenda for Chef’s Express. I also took in the colorful surroundings and open-air atmosphere and the sensational taste of a Chef’s Express favorite lunch selection.
With an enthusiastic recommendation from server Kevin, I opted for Rick’s Hot Italian sandwich and French fries. This is an Italian-style sandwich that captures the Island-chic theme and partners well with everything on the Chef’s Express menu. The ham, salami, pepperoni and provolone might sound like something out of a New York deli, but with a hot and crusty Italian roll — not over-roasted. When the Bermuda onion slices start complementing the lettuce and fresh tomato drizzled in a light oregano dressing, this is a sandwich that has definitely originated in paradise. For $ 10.95, Rick’s Hot Italian Sandwich with fries is heartily recommended.
With the first real cold front of the season taking away the clouds and humidity, I settled back and listened as Chef Annie reveled her ambitious plans for an updated and cyber-land Chef’s Express.
“Before anyone can taste anything,” Chef Annie explained, “people eat with their eyes. They see the food before they taste it, and that’s why I make everything pretty. Presentation really is important and when people come to Chef’s Express and see orchids on the salads and bright food items that really pull up the color, that gives a treat for the eyes.”
And now, customers can experience a new cooking show and class for late breakfast and early lunch guests. For the fall and winter season, “Outdoors with Chef Annie at the Grill,” will be an interactive cooking show streaming live at thechefsexpress.com Web site. Chef Annie’s cooking classes will teach the fundamentals of cookery techniques, including how to fold flavors and textures into the perfect make-at-home masterpiece that will be requested again and again.
The right way to hold a knife safely and slice, dice and chop will be demonstrated with participants from the brunch-time cooking show, with a special focus on how to use the best herbs, spices and special ingredients to make cooking not only fun, but creative. Chef Annie has also prepared classes that are designed to take the frustration out of the culinary process, as the Chef’s Express chef shares the secrets that every good cook should know.
“Many people want to be creative in the kitchen,” Chef Annie offered, “But often get discouraged when they get ready to start.”
Basic food items that every aspiring chef should have at home or in the freezer will set a cooking fundamental, and how to set up pantry that is well-organized, up-to-date and easy work with will be another of Chef Annie’s focal points of discovery.
Chef Annie speculated, “How many people keep a bottle of salad dressing in the refrigerator and never even look at the expiration date.? The ease of how to make your own salad dressing will be fun part of the series, and when everyone realizes how much better fresh dressing tastes and how cost-effective it really is, I believe the results will be amazing.”
Cooking shows and classes will begin at 11 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, lasting approximately 45 minutes. The cost of the class will be the price of the meal at the Chef’s Express. All the cooking show classes will be archived on the Chef’s Express Web site for easy referral, and the site will show menu items for specific given days.
Chef Annie has a new deluxe professional gas grill and underside refrigerator system she has proudly positioned behind participant tables beneath the sunshades in the Key West-style cobbled court. Anyone who is patronizing Chef’s Express for breakfast or lunch is welcome to attend, participate, and volunteer to apprentice, as Chef Annie shares her secrets as she coaches, prepares and supervises the noontime meal.
The Chef’s Express will continue to offer the traditional breakfast and lunch items that have made the Shops of Olde Marco a must for an outdoor breakfast or lunch. A new beer and wine license is now place for The Chef’s Express and a daily happy hour will feature domestic bottled beer for $ 1.50, imports for $2, and house wine for $2.50.
On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, during the 2-4 p.m. Chef’s Express happy hour, a new rotating menu will offer specialty themes from across the country. A lobster boil will feature fresh lobster, New England-style, with corn on the cob. A fish-fry with all the fixin’s and a Carolina style, low country boil, will feature fresh gulf shrimp, andouille sausage, corn on the cob and red potatoes, all cooked in a pot and served onto a table covered in newspaper. Cutlery will provided upon request, but a traditional low country boil is poured out onto the table and eaten with the fingers.
Chef Annie welcomes any celebratory occasion and catering individual events and private parties are a Chef’s Express long-standing specialty. For information about catering, takeout, specials and the upcoming cooking show classes, call 393-chef (393-2433). With the registration of a personal e-mail address, daily specials will arrive every morning. For more details on the specialty theme happy hour meals, and the Outdoors with Chef Annie at the Grill cooking show classes, visit thechefsexpress.com.
If you go ...
176 Royal Palm Drive
Open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tom Williams has been a local sailboat captain and Marriott associate for 29 years. His debut adventure novel “Lost and Found” has been released by Archebooks and is available at Sunshine Book Sellers and Amazon.com. Tom is available at lostandfoundadventure.com.