Top Chef Opens Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen
He’s cooked for Oprah, became a Chef de Cuisine at only 23, appeared on Top Chef, and devised his own spice line. Now Chef Kenny Gilbert has returned to the First Coast where he has family roots to launch his first solo venture on Amelia Island.
Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen (UK for short) is located near the historic district of Fernandina Beach, and Gilbert describes it as a “a soulful culinary experience of Deep Southern food.” While the restaurant only opened a few weeks ago, several dishes such as Chef’s BBQ Alligator Ribs, served with Carolina Gold Rice Porridge and the Fried Organic Chicken with House Datil Pepper Hot Sauce and a Drop Biscuit have earned a delicious reputation.
The restaurant features a daily seasonal menu based on the best local produce, as well as a special weekly menu celebrating a particular region or cuisine from around the world. Recent themes have included Indian and Caribbean, and menus featuring Mexican, Italian, Asian, Mediterranean and Latin cuisines are in the works. UK is also designed to be a culinary think tank where visiting chefs from around the country can demonstrate their talent at monthly guest chef dinner events.
Chef Kenny’s passion for cuisine started at a young age with his mom teaching him the basics in the family kitchen, while his father introduced him to the grill and new flavors with rubs and sauces. He began his culinary career with The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, then later worked as Executive Chef at The Lodge Sea Island Golf Resort, where he cooked for the G8 Summit while President Bush was in office.
In 2010, Gilbert won a spot in Bravo’s Top Chef where he made it through nine rounds and became a favorite with viewers and judges alike. Following the show, he returned to the Jacksonville area and opened Nippers Beach Grill, where he served Southern-influenced international cuisine, infused with all the flavors of the islands before continuing on to explore that flavor during stints in Miami and Barbados.
For those wanting to take home a taste, the Chef has his own line of rubs and spices called Cook Like the Big Dogs, that include a Cinnamon Coffee Rub, Jerk Spice, and Moroccan Spice Rub (and he shares some of his best recipes.) To get a taste of UK, visit Wednesday-Monday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner or on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the express BBQ lunch menu. UK also serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reserve a table here.