Jeffrey McInnis was born to either fish or cook, and to this day, he would gladly do either. Born in Niceville, Florida (and yes, that is a real city in the Florida panhandle) in 1978, where waterfront property was not yet reserved for simply the elite, he was surrounded by the magic of the ocean. He grew up on fishing boats, bringing in only the freshest catch and by 16, he was peeling shrimp, cleaning squid, cutting fish and cooking on the line at The Marina Cafe.
His passion for fresh local food was further inspired by his frequent trips and long southern summers spent with both sets of grandparents on their working Alabama farms. The newly coined restaurant term “farm to table” was more than an expression, but a reality for McInnis as a child. His grandparents only ate what they raised, from milking their own dairy cows and churning butter, to making their own blackberry jelly preserves from fresh picks of the day.
After high school, McInnis left the Florida panhandle behind to pursue his dream of perfecting his passion and attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina. But after a lifetime of southern food and determined to avoid being “type-cast” for only a single style cuisine, McInnis set off to travel the rest of the country and world after graduating from culinary school. His goal was to not only to learn about preparing a new food, but to experience the culture that provides the very heart and soul and the freshness of that cuisine.
He began his travels as Sous Chef at Asolare, a Caribbean-Asian restaurant in St. John, Virgin Islands. Next, in San Francisco, McInnis worked at a fine dining Asian-French restaurant, Azie. While there, he learned Japanese cuisine from the sushi chefs while at the same time polishing his French techniques. From San Francisco, McInnis moved to rural Virginia, where he worked at Keswick Hall, an exclusive 5-star hotel owned by the Orient Express.
In 2004, McInnis moved back to Florida and worked with famed Chef Norman Van Aken at Norman’s in Miami. In 2006, he became Chef de Cuisine of The DiLido Beach Club at the Ritz Carlton. While there, McInnis traveled to North Africa and Europe where he studied other cultures’ history, techniques and food and incorporated these experiences into creating a Southern Mediterranean and North African-inspired menu.
Shortly thereafter, McInnis cooked his way into the finals of the popular television show, “Top Chef,” putting McInnis and his talent front and center on a national stage. In 2010, McInnis became the Executive Chef for the Miami based restaurant, gigi. Utilizing his signature culinary style, McInnis developed a highly acclaimed menu, catapulting gigi into the limelight as one of Miami’s most popular new restaurants. Among other awards and honors Jeff was nominated Peoples Choice Best New Chef, Food and Wine Magazine 2011.
With the tremendous success of gigi and more than twenty years of embracing and absorbing cuisines as a student of food, McInnis’ returned to his true culinary roots, bringing a little taste of the south to Miami Beach with the opening of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in 2011. During his tenure at Yardbird as Chef/Partner, both he (Best Chef: South) and the restaurant (Best New Restaurant) received three James Beard nods in two years.
Now settled in NYC, Jeff has brought southern hospitality to the LES with the opening of Root & Bone with his partner, Chef Janine Booth, of “Top Chef” season 11. Root & Bone is a neighborhood restaurant celebrating Southern fare and country comforts; a roots revival of timeless Southern recipes & traditions. In just one short year since opening, the restaurant has received numerous accolades, including being named the Best New Fried Chicken in NYC by Eater, the #1 Dish of 2014 by Time Out NY, and one of the Top Five Restaurants in NYC by Elle UK, while Janine and Jeff have appeared on a bevy of national and local TV programs, including the “Today Show,” “CBS Saturday Morning,” “ABC World News Now” and “Good Day NY.”
Jeff and his partner Janine recently opened Sarsaparilla Club in the Shelborne Wyndham Grand in Miami Beach where they serve American Dim Sum inspired by the multicultural American table – a cuisine with no boundaries.
The pair are currently working on another exciting concept Stiltsville Fish Bar, which will be planted in the heart of Sunset Harbor, Miami Beach will be focused around Florida seafood and will provide a rooftop deck for guests to eat, drink and watch the beautiful sunset over Biscayne Bay.