Local Jacksonville Ledgend Chef Howard Kirk

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Local Ledgend

Staying True to his Roots

Chef Howard Kirk

S

mall though 13 Gypsies may be, with just seven tables and 14 seats and couple of years in business, it’s become a place that the top chefs in Jacksonville frequent on their days off. Not surprisingly, it’s the food that brings them back. By five o’clock savory smells are already wafting out of the kitchen.  By the end of the night each table will be filled with patrons.

Charlie trotter, chef trotter,chef charlie

It’s a bistro in the classical sense of the word. Informal, small and a part of the neighborhood. The walls are filled with old black and white pictures of the Chef’s family, art (some of which was created by the Chef himself) and Catholic iconography.

Chef Howard Kirk doesn’t neatly fit into the stereotype of the typical chef. He’s tattooed and sports a lip piercing. But he has spent his time in the culinary trenches both in Europe and in Jacksonville.

He looks non-traditional, but his solidly Spanish and Italian dishes are just that: born of tradition. Chef Howard would rather capture the old ways of making a dish rather than letting those traditions dissolve an Americanized mish-mash of fusion cuisine. 

While Chef Howard doesn‘t mind eating fusion,  he says that “It just that it doesn’t speak to me as something I would want to prepare day-in and day out. I find true, traditional flavors and the carrying on of that to be very romantic when it comes to food. Fusion to me, is not romantic.”

Saying that something is traditional food doesn’t sound exciting or innovative, until you consider that almost every dish served in the U.S. is fusion. The majority of isn’t traditional because it is altered to suit American taste. Ingredients are changed for convenience and we are left with a dish, that while tasty, is nothing like what it would taste like in it’s country of origin. So when an American does taste a genuine Italian dish, it’s unlike anything they’ve ever tasted--and it’s not what most Americans would call unadventurous food. True, traditional food has not been a tradition for most Americans.

On these shores then, Chef Howard is a non-traditional traditionalist.

Learning Tradition

Chef Howard started cooking as a child in Spain, learning from his uncle, Chef Antonio Gomez.  Chef Antonio is a renowned chef in his own right, who trained at a Five Star Hotel in the tourist town of Torremolinos, Andalucia after learning to cook in his mother’s kitchen.

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