A Taste of Tallahassee

By Visit Tallahassee

Three Local Chefs Talk About Tallahassee Cuisine

Tallahassee has quietly become a destination that foodies everywhere are flocking to. Creative cuisine crafted by caring chefs can be found at restaurants throughout the city. Here, we feature three chefs that are elevating the dining scene to the next level.


ELIZABETH HEEREMA , Sous Chef at Bella Bella

How did you get into cooking? What inspired you to be a chef?
E: My mother (Jenny) was the chef for Governor Martinez and Chiles, so I spent a lot of time in the Governor’s Mansion when I was a kid watching my mother cook.

What is your favorite unexpected local ingredient that you get to work with?
E: We get our garlic from a nearby farm and grow a lot of basil and microgreens in our hydroponic system, which allows us to grow herbs all year-round.

What’s your favorite part about the Tallahassee food scene?
E: There’s so much more to the scene here than just the food … it’s the atmosphere, the service and the entire dining experience. Tallahassee has grown so much in that way, and we’re proud to be a part of it.

Who would you like to cook a meal for, and what would you serve?
E: The first name that comes to mind is Edna Lewis (Renowned African- American chef, teacher and author who helped refine the American view of Southern cooking). She was my mother’s mentor in Atlanta, and I’ve been reading her cookbooks and her dedication to using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients is really inspiring … and I miss her.

What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?
E: Grilled EVERYTHING. Vegetables, simple protein, just throw anything on the grill. Simple, easy, all on the grill at the same time. I love my Kudu grill!

Favorite cooking- themed TV show?
E: Good Eats with Alton Brown. Learning the science and techniques behind the cooking helped me to become a much better chef. When the recipe says don’t open the oven … don’t open the oven!

Besides your restaurant, what’s your favorite Tallahassee restaurant?
E: When I get the chance to go out, it’s almost always going to be either Kool Beanz Café or Sage.


CHEF GEORGE BALDWIN, Chef de Cuisine at Il Lusso

What brought you to Tallahassee?
G: I was born in Oxford, England, and trained at the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts in London, then worked at the Michelin starred Ritz Restaurant at the Ritz Hotel in London for four years. While in London, I met my fiancé who was from Tallahassee and working in London at the time. She convinced me to relocate to Tallahassee, and the rest is history.

What’s your favorite dish you prepare?
G: Beef Wellington, while it’s a fairly simple dish, the care and technique involved really put your skills to the test. And you must order it 24 hours in advance, so you have to plan ahead.

What’s your favorite part about the Tallahassee food scene?
G: The age of Instagram has introduced how beautiful food can be. Progressive dishes prepared with innovative techniques and ingredients are what many people are looking for. So, we thought, “Why can’t it be done here?” There are plenty of people who want it, and now it’s happening in Tallahassee.

Where do you go to eat that might be unexpected? What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?
G: Chick-Fil-A … we didn’t have them in the UK, but it’s a really nice sandwich.

What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?
G: My fiancé loves it when I make a quick dish of mussels, shellfish and shrimp in a little butter, lemon and white wine with fresh parsley. It’s so fast and easy to make.

Favorite cooking-themed TV show?
G: Jamie Oliver was who I watched growing up. The way he would talk about food was very relatable, and until I saw him, I didn’t realize being a chef was even an option. Seeing him helped drive me into cooking.

Besides your restaurant, what’s your favorite Tallahassee restaurant?
G: I’ve never been much into vegan food, but Sweet Pea Cafe is doing some really great things. Delicious food, and it’s a fun quirky environment.


CHEF SKYLAR STAFFORD, Chef de Cuisine at Sage

What is your favorite unexpected local ingredient that you get to work with?
S: I am a big fan of mustard and collard greens. Field peas are classically Southern and deep rooted in my heart. It’s amazing what you can do with the simplest ingredient.

What’s your favorite dish on the menu? Why?
S: Something we just put on the menu is andouille sausage crusted catfish with cheese grits, collard greens and pickled pepper relish. Catfish is one of my all-time favorites … a very underrated fish!

What’s your favorite part about the Tallahassee food scene?
S: The entire scene is changing for the better, both in preparation AND in the expectations of the dining experience. Students and visitors come to Tallahassee from Atlanta, Miami and all over the country. They are accustomed to a variety of restaurants and cuisine, and we can provide it for them.

What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?
S: With a 2 1/2 year old running around the house, I don’t have a lot of time to experiment at home. But a good pork chop meal is always a good option.

Favorite cooking- themed TV show?
S: I was a big fan of Emeril Lagasse — how he interacted with his audience and added his personality into cooking is something I could identify with.


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