Nothing sells freshly grown or raised food better than a beautifully prepared dish dreamed up by an expert chef. Florida holds a special distinction in this regard by having the only full-time agricultural chef in the nation. His name is Justin Timineri, AKA, The Florida Chef.
“I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a chef,” he says. “All of my family were amazing cooks, so I was always in the kitchen poking around trying to figure out what’s going on. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to follow this path and have such passion and excitement about what I do even to this day.”
Timineri channels his passion for food into developing fun, fresh, and healthy recipes using the vast array of fresh produce, livestock, and seafood produced in Florida. He’s employed by FDACS and has a research and development kitchen at the Department’s Tallahassee headquarters.
Timineri offers a service to Florida growers in which he will create recipes using the farmer’s given commodity. The dish will be photographed professionally and shared with the grower to use in marketing materials.
“It is a lot of fun getting in the kitchen and working with all the great commodities we produce.”
Timineri travels the state and country promoting fine foods with a taste of Florida. His celebrity began to grow in 2006 when he won the Food Network’s contest for best domestic seafood dish. He is in demand at important food shows and key industry events like Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit.
Timineri says he loves to visit schools in Florida to teach kids about the healthy choices farmers provide with their crops. “One of my favorite school outreach programs is called Extreme Cuisine,” he says. “We go into elementary and middle schools around the state and set up a remote kitchen in the auditorium or gym and teach kids how to prepare their own meals.
“If you put a bowl of fresh guacamole in front of a young kid, they’ll look at you like you are crazy. But, when we make it together and talk about it, they are really interested and want to taste it and go home and duplicate it. This has been one of my passions because it is evident we have problems with food-related diseases and children are not getting this education in schools. We are trying to change that at the Department.”
Having An Impact
Timineri says the results of his labor take a lot of different forms, whether it is the annual cookbook put out by his team at FDACS or brochures to promote particular commodities. In addition, he uses Twitter and Facebook, as well as blogging to help spread the Fresh From Florida gospel.
In March, Timineri began filming his cooking segment to be aired on the third season of “How To Do Florida” (HowToDoFlorida.com), which airs on cable networks across the state. He intends to keep reaching out and spreading the word about all the good things grown in the state in any venue possible.
“We are so lucky to be here in Florida where we have 47,000 farms and more than 200 edible commodities produced and the amazing seafood coming out of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic,” he says. “We have this virtually year-round supply of fresh commodities we can take advantage of in the kitchen. Based on the eMails and thanks I get from people across the state, I believe we are making a difference in promoting what we grow here.”