Tastemaker

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Ask Chef Kevin Sbraga to describe his cooking style and he answers with one word: “Bold.” Fitting then that he chose the “Bold New City of the South” as the home for his third restaurant. Also fitting that he wore this shirt to our photo shoot.

“My grandmother was born in Jacksonville but my first visit wasn’t until 2010, to visit Kenny Gilbert, who was opening a restaurant [Nipper’s],” says Sbraga.

Fast-forward to 2014, when Hallmark Partners was vetting tenants for its mixed-use project in Jackson-ville’s Brooklyn neighborhood. “Two of the guys from Hallmark came up to Philadelphia and ate dinner in both of my restaurants [Sbraga and The Fat Ham]. Soon after that, I decided to fly down to Jacksonville and take a look at the project.” It didn’t take long to convince the Top Chef: Season 7 winner that Jax was an ideal location for his next farm-to-table eatery.

Sbraga & Co. is slated to open this month (at press time, an exact date had not yet been determined) and will feature many of the flavors for which the chef is known. “I’m really excited to work with the ingredients in Florida,” he says. “You’re getting great tomatoes six months out of the year, the salad greens are amazing and the micro-herbs grow year-round.”

Though a newcomer, Sbraga has friends in the area. Kenny Gilbert, chef and owner of Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen, also competed on season 7 of Top Chef, and Tom Gray of Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails has also cooked alongside Sbraga.

“Both Kenny’s restaurant and Moxie are awesome,” says Sbraga of his favorite local haunts. “I get to Black Sheep pretty often, too and I’ve been to Candy Apple Café for lunch. Dos Gatos has amazing cocktails.”

When it comes to the cuisine coming out of his kitchen, Sbraga is confident that it will win over local diners. “We like to work with heat and pepper and chiles, acid, vinegars and pickles. We season our food heavily. When you wake up the morning after you eat at my restaurant, I want your first thought to be, ‘Damn, that was a great meal.’”