Kitchen is the mission for Florida's top chef
From promoting Florida's bounty abroad to teaching kids about healthy eating, state chef Justin Timineri has a full plate.
From promoting Florida’s bounty abroad to teaching kids about healthy eating, state chef Justin Timineri has a full plate.
Growing up in Tallahassee, Justin Timineri was always poking around the kitchen as his parents and grandmother simmered sauces, baked ziti and prepared other Italian-American comfort foods. “I was always wanting to taste and see how things are done and was interested in the science behind cooking and the taste and flavors and all that kind of stuff.” From an early age, he says, “I knew I wanted to be a chef.”
Today, as Florida’s official state chef, Timineri, 38, tries to educate diners across the state and the globe about Florida’s flavors. “I’m the only state agriculture culinary ambassador in the entire country, so it’s very unique,” says Timineri, who has traveled to South Africa, Egypt, Hong Kong, South Korea, London, Germany and France promoting Florida produce, seafood and livestock.
When he’s not displaying Florida foods to buyers at international food shows or speaking at farm and food association events, Timineri is hunkered down in his research and development kitchen in downtown Tallahassee, creating recipes for Sunshine State dishes such as Honey Orange Glazed Florida Grouper and Citrus Glazed Gator Ribs. He also spends a lot of time working on his website, creating new materials to educate Florida consumers and answering questions emailed to him. “I make sure people understand season of availability, so they know when to buy fresh Florida goods. I like to teach people how to shop. That money then stays in the state and helps our farmers,” he says.
Timineri worked his way up from a dishwasher in a local Tallahassee eatery to the kitchen ranks in several local restaurants, eventually serving as an assistant chef at the governor’s mansion. He landed his current job in 2006, beating out 60 other applicants. Department supervisors interviewing him “really liked me because they wanted somebody kind of young and energetic who would bring more of a modern voice to food preparation. We wanted to get out of this Betty Crocker age and really get into this age of utilizing fresh, healthy and locally grown ingredients,” says Timineri, who earns $47,982 annually.
Next page: The chef answers questions about working under four governors, and more.