Gilbert's Underground Kitchen

July 25, 2015 9 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

From Chef Kenny Gilbert is a Top Chef star and is launching his restaurant empire in the NE Florida . His first concept, Gilbert's Underground Kitchen opened in Fernandina Beach in early 2015.

Soft Serve with Berries. Photo by Nancy Parliment Photography.

10. What’s your least favorite part of being a chef?

Dealing with people with weak work ethics.

11. You were an Executive Chef at the Ritz-Carlton at the age of 23. How did that happen?

Hard work and having people that believed in my abilities. I was actually the Head Chef of the Grill Room, which was rated separately from the Hotel. The Executive Chef/F&B Director and GM asked me to take on the role. I was the Sous Chef at the time.

12. How did you get to appear on Top Chef?

Michael Voltaggio called me one day and said that I should go on the show. He introduced me to a producer by the name of Donna Lee. We spoke and then I went through the rigorous process. It took about 6 months to prove that I was worthy of going. There were lots of interviews and lots of waiting.

13. How did you do on Season 7?

I did well. I won Episode 1's first 3 skills challenges during the Quickfire. I was on the top for the elimination round. I won the Farm Challenge with Patrick O'Connell from the Inn at Little Washington as a guest judge,  I won a Quickfire Pie Challenge, I won a Baby Food Quickfire Challenge for $10,000 and there is another Quickfire that I won, but I don't remember the name. I was the first anchor of the Blind Fold Relay Race which we won and split $10,000 amongst 4 of us. I was eliminated in Restaurant Wars.

14. Has the Top Chef experience changed your career?

Yes for sure. When millions of people see you on TV for several weeks, you gain a fan base. It's very humbling and an amazing experience.

15. What’s your proudest moment as a chef, so far?

Opening of my first solo restaurant project. My wife Anna ended up pushing me to take the leap of faith with minor funds that we both invested to make it happen. Best thing I ever did.

16. Why Fernandina Beach for Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen?

It's where I began my career with The Ritz-Carlton back in 1992. It's a home coming of sorts.

17. How would you describe Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen?

Local neighborhood Southern restaurant with a Pop Up element based on the weekly specials.

18. What’s an “underground” kitchen?

Underground Kitchen is a term used for Supper Clubs and Pop Up kitchens. We use this as term that we link with our weekly themed specials that change every Wednesday. They run only for dinner, Wednesday through Saturday and on Monday evenings.

19. What do you mean by “deep Southern” cuisine?

It means that I am putting out hardcore Soulful Southern Cuisine. Items like I grew up on. You see Cornbread Dressing, Black Eyed Peas, Biscuits, Smoked Ham Hocks, Pigtails, Smoked Neckbones, Pig Ears, and those types of dishes used throughout my menus.

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