There’s no shortage of fine dining restaurants and experiences in this foodie paradise we call the Emerald Coast. We sat down with Chef Ken Duenas from Pescado to learn more about the vision behind its eclectic cuisine and dynamite Rosemary Beach location.
1. When did you arrive in the South Walton area? What did the culinary landscape look like at the time and how would you describe it now?
Chef: I arrived in 1985. At the time, there was “very little to no” culinary presence in the area. Today, it is “robust … leaps and bounds over where it was. There are many more casual fine-dining restaurants.” Pescado has been in business for three years.
2. Tell us about your restaurant – What is the driving force behind the cuisine you serve and the atmosphere you create?
Chef: My driving force is everything I have learned throughout my career. My family, but mainly my grandmother. You can’t beat the atmosphere – overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and the rooftops of Rosemary Beach.
3. The culinary community in South Walton has definitely transitioned to being more global in the past few years – what do you believe the reason for this maturation might be?
Chef: Chefs coming down from bigger cities, and the overall growth of the area in general, even more so now since the pandemic started.
4. What is your favorite aspect of being a restaurateur and why? Is it the food, the staff, the people, or the whole package?
Chef: It’s the whole package. While being in the kitchen is my main passion, I truly enjoy working with the staff that really makes the restaurant run.
5. What is your “guilty pleasure” when it comes to southern cooking?
Chef: It’s got to be fried chicken.
6. What do you think are the best features of your restaurant?
Chef: The view, staff and food, in no particular order.
7. What are your top sellers and why?
Chef: The Short Rib appetizer. It’s my grandmother’s recipe and everybody simply loves it. I didn’t change a thing about it. Then for the entree, the Lobster Cantonese – a whole Maine lobster, flash-fried – it sells itself. When one goes out of the kitchen, we can be sure we are going to get ten more orders in the next hour.
8. What would you want someone who has never been to your restaurant to know before arriving?
Chef: We are 18 and older. We have created an adult-only space to maintain an atmosphere that fits the experience you expect when coming here.
9. Anything exciting for you guys on the horizon?
Chef: Because of the pandemic, future projects have been put on hold, but we are always looking forward to the future and what it may hold.
10. Finally – red or white wine?
Chef: Red all the way – for me it’s Pinot Noir. I just love the flavor profiles.