International Cuisine Goes Interactive
With his international background, it’s easy to see why Stuart Gordon loves his work as Executive Chef at Ocean Flame Interactive Dining restaurant at Shephard’s Beach Resort on Clearwater Beach. The restaurant’s international buffet offers a global variety of ethnic cuisines from the Caribbean, India, Mexico, Spain, Great Britain, China, Japan, France, South America and other countries.
It’s a fitting place to work for Chef Stuart, who grew up in Barbados, was trained in England, and spent the next couple of decades cooking at resorts throughout the Caribbean before coming to Florida in 1981. His experience includes cooking at country clubs, resorts and fine dining establishments in Fort Myers, Naples, and Marco Island. Along the way, he served as personal chef to a number of wealthy clients and even did a stint catering for NASCAR corporate events in Daytona Beach.
He gained his encyclopedic knowledge of international cuisine by working with people of many nationalities, he says.
“I have been cooking since I was 17 and most of what I know is self-taught,” Chef Stuart explains. “I grew up in the Caribbean which has a heavy Indian influence, for example. When I worked with a French chef, I learned how to make sauces and French dishes. As a personal chef, my clients would request certain ethnic dishes, so I learned how to make them. ”
Chef Stuart’s technique, from cooking to presentation, rests on classic international dishes including India’s Shrimp Vindaloo to French Beef Bourguignon and Brazilian style rotisserie beef – all served at Ocean Flame’s interactive dinner buffet along with soups, side dishes and appetizers, a full salad buffet, pastries and desserts from around the world, and even a sushi bar.
With the opening of Ocean Flame in July, the newly renovated Shephard’s Beach Resort has introduced the concept of interactive dining in a sophisticated waterfront venue on the beach. While not exactly an open kitchen, the interactive style means foods are freshly grilled, stir-fried, pressed, rolled, and baked in an open cooking area adjacent to the buffet for all to see.
This style of food preparation fits Chef Stuart to a tee, as his hands-on style and sharp eye for detail are needed with a staff of 25 cooks, chefs and servers that he oversees like a mother hen.
“I am an old-school chef,” he admits. “I am adamant about organization and cleanliness. We make everything fresh daily — soups, dressings, sauces — we make our own pastries every morning. I train each of my chefs personally, but I also like to give them some creative control.”
Chef Stuart clearly enjoys the challenge and creativity of preparing world cuisines. He oversees both the nightly dinner buffets and the Sunday Champagne Brunch Buffet, which offers a lavish selection of global dishes such as stuffed French toast, shrimp and grits, steak and eggs, Belgian waffles, crepes, omelettes and pastries.
So with such a vast array of international recipes at his fingertips, what does Chef Stuart enjoy the most?
“I love making sauces,” he says. “That’s what I really love to do. A sauce can make a dish exceptional. But I also love making desserts, salads, soups, I love making everything. I have had the passion since I was 17 and the energy in the kitchen. All I know is food, and I really enjoy what I do.”
Catering for small and large groups and private parties, weddings, corporate events or other special events also is available. For more information, go to www.shephards.com.
619 S. Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach FL (727) 447-2009
Photos by Dorian Photographic Inc. Article written for Destination Tampa Bay magazine