Q&A: Andre David Halston, Innisbrook
By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
26 August, 2011
Serving as executive chef of the massive, 900-acre Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., located near Tampa and Clearwater, certainly has its challenges when it comes to seafood. With 65,000 square feet of meeting and event space and six restaurants on property, chef Andre David Halston has a lot of his hands.
Halston recently talked to SeafoodSource about the strict policies he developed for Innisbrook’s local seafood suppliers, the property’s use of local seafood and the importance of properly training wait staff.
Blank: Why are you so choosy about the seafood vendors you work with?
Halston: The one thing we are committed to is making sure that the food we are serving in our restaurants is the same grade of food that we are going to serve at our banquet events. I want to have a great piece of fish going to every guest that we serve. I am getting calls every day, twice a day, from vendors who would like our seafood business. I need to see their facility and their inspections, such as from the local health department. I need to see some of the other places that they provide product to, and I want to make sure they are capable of delivering to us. I need it delivered as early as possible in the morning. We parted ways with a very high profile vendor because they couldn’t deliver in time. We want to make sure the vendor has the connection with the local fishermen. We are also loyal to them — if I tell them that I am going to take all the grouper that their fishermen can get over the next two days because of a big party at Innisbrook, I am loyal to a T.
How is your wait staff trained to talk about seafood?
In our Market Salamander Grille, our wait staff wears chef tunics, representing that they are an extension of knowledge from the kitchen. If you put yourself in the guest shoes, there is such comfort when you look up at a server and they can talk about a dish with knowledge, and not from the paper in their hand. I want to make sure the wait staff is able to talk about whether the fish is line-caught, spear-caught or another method. It lends an awful lot of credibility to what we do here.
How much local Florida seafood do you serve in Innisbrook’s restaurants?
We do about 90 percent. We work with distributors Whitney & Son Seafoods and Sammy’s Seafood. We always have a catch or two of the day, such as snapper and black grouper. We bring in Florida spiny lobster. We always have a grilled sandwich of the day in our Turnberry Pub.
What are Innisbrook’s most popular seafood dishes?
In our Market Salamander Grille, we have Black Thai Shrimp, crusted with light sesame and our seasoning blend. It comes with a spicy cranberry sauce and a spicy Malaysian sauce. It is a unique flavor profile — sweet and tart, with a hint of heat. We pair that with Florida Avenue Ale. We also service a miso-glazed salmon in the Market Grille that we serve with edamame and a “caviar” of fine diced crisp vegetables. In our Packard’s Steakhouse, Lobster Thermidor is very popular. We make that with a Maine lobster tail or a 10-ounze Australian lobster tail. It is served with a rich, creamy gruyere cheese sauce.
26 August, 2011