Drew Dzejak, Caliza at Alys Beach, Alys Beach, FL (Live from the 30A Wine Festival)
It was a packed Friday night event of the 30A Wine Festival in Alys Beach, FL, and I expected to see a tired and slightly frazzled Chef Drew Dzejak “in the weeds,” to use an f&b term -- he had a line where people were waiting close to 40-minutes for his grilled goodies. Instead, I came upon a chef giddy with delight in the moment, eager to share how good everything was tasting, and who looked as if he could be serving up burgers in the backyard to friends instead of hungry ticketholders. That’s the beauty of Drew’s cooking -- it has an exuberance about it, and at his current flagship restaurant, Caliza, located on 30A along the Florida Gulf Coast, you’ll taste his joy for combining Mediterranean, and now Peruvian flavors, with fresh, local seafood. He’s cooked at some of the fanciest places in the South, from the Inn at Palmetto Bluff to the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans, but he hasn’t lost the down-to-earth approach he learned growing up in the shadow of Disney. He’s a family guy at heart, that family extends to his restaurant staff and guests, and you can taste it in every bite.