Tampa Yacht and Country Club
Born and raised in Nice, France, Jean-Christophe Setin, Executive Chef of Tampa (Fla.) Yacht and Country Club, describes his food as simple and accessible. He pulls inspiration from raw ingredients, which he learned about as he grew up working in his father’s butcher shop.
His career spans the globe. He worked in some of the best establishments in Monaco and Nice before coming to the United States in 1995 as a Chef de Partie for a restaurant in Orlando, Fla. After that, he worked in Denver as the Assistant Pastry Chef for the Adams Mark Hotel, then as Chef de Cuisine for the Left Bank in Vail, Colo. He then ran two French restaurants in Denver before relocating to Florida, where he was Executive Chef at San Jose Country Club (Jacksonville, Fla.) for eight years before taking on his current post in 2007.
Setin is driven, resourceful, crafty and hopeful. His work ethic is motivating, and his dedication to his family is inspiring.
1. You’d be surprised to learn that I was a paratrooper. (I served in December 1992 in the Pyrenees between France and Spain.)
2. If I could trade places with one chef it would be Anthony Bourdain. His shows feature culturally anchored food that defines who people are. Plus, he travels everywhere.
3. One of my most memorable meals was at Bouley Restaurant in New York City with two very good friends. (I know they will recognize themselves when they read this.) More recently, my wife made some Greek Meatballs with Orzo from the Kokkari cookbook. They were out of this world.
4. My go-to drink is an Old Fashioned.
5. My last meal would be bone marrow with smoked salt and frisée for an appetizer, followed by a simply roasted poulet de bresse with whole garlic, fingerling potatoes, rosemary and oranges. I’d finish with my mother’s lemon tart.
6. If I could change one thing about my members, I would force them to always make a reservation.
7. My favorite junk food is Nutella and butter on a fresh baked roll, with a glass of coconut milk.
8. If I wasn’t a chef, I’d love to work with researchers and find a cure for my son, Sebastian, who has a rare Mitochondrial disorder. (Read more about Sebastian at http://www.chefjeanchristophe.com/.) Since I am a chef, I raise money for research.
9. I knew I wanted to be a chef at a very early age. Growing up in Nice, my father had a butcher shop and as I learned butchering, I was exposed to the best products available. Our meals were amazing. My love for food was born behind the butcher-shop counter. The idea of applying creativity and ingenuity to transform raw ingredients into something mood-altering is really something you never get tired of.
10. You’ll never see anything with an origin I cannot identify or trace on the menu at my club, because safety is paramount to the well-being of those we feed.
11. The most ridiculous member or guest request I’ve ever had was when someone drove four hours to come by and make sure the baguettes served with our bruschetta were not soggy for an upcoming wedding.
12. I love being a club chef because we have access to equipment and food that other types of operations could not afford.
13. When I’m not in the kitchen, I’m on my bike, fishing with my kids or enjoying a good bourbon and cigar.
14. My biggest mistake when I first started as a chef was when I was working as a Communard at La Reserve de Beaulieu under Joel Garault. This position is responsible for making food for the staff. My menu said “Sliced Salted Ham.” So I proceeded to slice two entire Prosciutto Di Parma Hams. I really thought Chef was going to kill me.
15. If I were stranded on a desert island, I’d want these five foods with me: unfiltered EVOO, Nutella, bread, Greek yogurt, olives and curry paste.
16. If I could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, it would be Bruce Springsteen.
17. The most valuable piece of advice I’ve ever received was keep your head down and keep going.
17. My favorite celebrity chef is Gordon Ramsey, because his vision and relentlessness are amazing.
18. I love unfiltered EVOO. I couldn’t live without raw oysters. And I hate seaweed salad.
19. I think beef tenderloin is the most overrated ingredient, while cauliflower is the most undervalued.
20. In my kitchen, my staff members are asked to look clean, work clean, pay attention, be consistent, ask before they make a mistake, and respect both the product and their colleagues.
21. My most embarrassing moment in the kitchen was when I was an apprentice. I cut all ten fingers in about 15 minutes while slicing potatoes for a gratin Dauphinois on a mandolin slicer. I tried to keep going, but I passed out.