Cooking With Local Chefs

Cooking with Chef Erik Walker | Beach House gets fresh, new menu

I never saw the old Beach House the one before the remodel. Even though it gave guests the same warm welcome due to the positive energy that has flown through it for years, I am told it was a sight like something between a barn and a warehouse. Today, even unfinished, the entire staff is proud to be a part of the new facility. Between the gorgeous wine wall, the polished steel "Beach House" logo on the adjacent wall, the paneled ceiling, the new bar and several other eye-catching designs, it's easy to see why there is a buzz when speaking to the staff.

Even the kitchen got a facelift. During the kitchen renovations, the cooks were moved to portable trailers, like ones used for large-scale catering events. Grateful for their new home, the cooks take pride in where they work, and keep it extremely clean.

There was one thing missing from the renovations though the food. Aside from the dishes that Chef Will Manson rotates on and off the features menu, the base menu hasn't been significantly updated since the Beach House opened. With all of the initiatives with which the Chiles Group is involved and with all the updates that have been taking place, it was the perfect time to start thinking about ways to elevate the menu for the Beach House as well.

There are several new menu items that directly support the local economy. Beagle Bay Organic sauerkraut and kimchi, made right here in Bradenton using cabbage from Gamble Creek Farm, are featured in new and unique items. The new banh mi sand

wich (Yes, the Beach House has joined the ranks of chefs all over the nation that have fallen in love with the herbaceous Vietnamese sandwich) utilizes Beagle Bay kimchi and wild hog from Three Suns Ranch in Punta Gorda.

Most of the new menu items are meant to give a more authentic and local feel by serving composed dishes and items that the entire table shares using products sourced nearby.

Dishes are sometimes served family-style. Our new house-brined free-range chicken is antibiotic free with no added hormones. Stuffed tilapia has been replaced by stuffed grouper.

These are just a few examples that represent the philosophy used when developing the new Beach House menu. We are using locally sourced items wherever possible with our main mission being sustainability.

All of the updates to the menu are intended to elevate the guests' dining experience by improving the quality and taste, while at the same time, being a steward of the area and environment by supporting local purveyors and creatively utilizing their products.

While you can still get a lot of the old favorites, we are very excited to bring you some new and inventive items that promise to keep the Beach House among the top of your list for restaurants to dine. Why not strive to continually improve and grow? Why not bring unique items presented in a way suited for what the Beach House represents for being fun, innovative and progressive! What are the "don't miss" items? We suggest the Hog Thai's, the "Soon to be World Famous" Hush Puppies, Potato Cakes & Kraut, Grilled Veggie Ciabatta, Ashley Farm's Chicken. These, and others, are knockout items that you can only get at the Beach House.

I asked one of the managers to describe the old Beach House, and he relayed a funny story of an elderly local who had not been to the Beach House in a while.

After taking a look around, the man said in a faux-grumpy tone, "I don't like it!" The manager, joking back responded with, "That's funny, sir, you're the second person to ever say that!"

To that end, I hope that our customers respond to our updated menus with the same enthusiasm as our staff has.

Things change as time goes by, and sometimes, as in the case with the Beach House, the change is on behalf of the customers, the environment, and the overall happiness of the staff.

I can't wait for you to come join us for lunch or dinner and a sunset.

Hog Thai

1 head Bibb lettuce, separated

6 ounces wild hog, pulled (you can substitute pulled pork)

2 ounces red onion, small dice

6 grape tomatoes , sliced

6 ounces fresh pineapple, small dice

3 ounces Thai peanut sauce (store brands are adequate)

1 ounce rice cake, chopped fine for a little crunch

Heat pulled hog. Place 1 ounce of hog in each piece of lettuce leaf. Add tomatoes, pineapple and onions. Drizzle peanut sauce over the lettuce and hog. Finish with chopped rice cake. Leave the leaves open for good presentation. Makes 6 servings.

Erik Walker, Chiles Group Culinary Director, can be reached at