True Grit: Jim Shirley, Port St. Joe
With three Pensacola restaurants and another in Seaside, as well as his newspaper musings, writing the "Good Grits" cookbook, raising a 16-year-old daughter and helping various charities, you wouldn’t think that celebrity chef Jim Shirley had time for anything else.
True Grit: Jim Shirley, Port St. Joe Owner and Executive Chef, The Great Southern School of Fish
With three Pensacola restaurants and another in Seaside, as well as his newspaper musings, writing the "Good Grits" cookbook, raising a 16-year-old daughter and helping various charities, you wouldn’t think that celebrity chef Jim Shirley had time for anything else. Yet he still found time to open his newest restaurant, the Great Southern School of Fish at WindMark in Port St. Joe.
The son of a Navy pilot and a Pensacola native, Shirley started traveling the world at a very young age. But he never forgot his grandmother’s Southern home cooking. Shirley combines these traditional Southern favorites with the many eclectic flavors that he has collected from around the world. "One week I’ll be in an Italian zone, or maybe a Thai zone the next, but I always keep a Southern core," he says.
A father as well as a chef, giving back is another important aspect of Shirley’s life. He currently sits on the boards of both the Autism and Children’s Home societies.
"My main concentration is children’s charities," he says. "They do a lot of important work. — Daniel Mutter
1. First job: Burger flipper in Gulf Breeze when I was 14. It was a good experience.
2. Best way to travel: Trains — where you can find them.
3. Staying connected: iPhone linked to Internet, remote control computer programs that let you into on-site computers, Skype.
4. Favorite chef: Jacques Pépin. I actually just had the privilege to cook for him earlier this year.
5. Smartest person you know: Ken Ford, head of the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, on the board of NASA, and culinary director of the universe. Name a city and he can tell you what restaurant to go to, what dish to eat and what wine to go with it, worldwide.
6. Most important tool: A sharp knife.
7. Dinner or dessert: Dinner. Now a pastry chef, they’ll say something different.
8. Getting away: A couple times a year I go to Manhattan and the Bay Area. Italy is the most inspiring place to visit in terms of experiencing incredible food.
9. Before I die: I would like to eat my way around the world.
10. Oft-used ingredient: Pork fat, or what I call vitamin G — "G" standing for "great flavor enhancer."
11. Furry friend: I have a six-toed cat named Polly who doesn’t answer to her name.
12. The most important thing about a dish is: Taste. Concentrate on that and then just before the dish goes out, make sure it’s visually appealing and beautiful.
13. Entertaining: I usually have a busman’s holiday, where I cook with friends.
14. Favorite sports diversion: I love watching college football, fishing and surfing.
15. Favorite part of day: The wrapping up at the end of a good day of service.