2016 South Florida Rising Star Chef Jimmy Everett of Valentino Cucina Italiana

2016 South Florida Rising Star Chef Jimmy Everett of Valentino Cucina Italiana
April 2016

Jimmy Everett, a native of South Florida, began his culinary career young and humble. At 15, Everett became a busboy at the Atlantis Country Club in Lake Worth and eventually pestered his way into a job on the line. Inspired by teachers and a fellow busboy who went on to attend culinary school, Everett matured, and set out for New York, enrolling at the Culinary Institute of America. 

During his studies, he interned at American Seasons on Nantucket, where he was first introduced to the world of fine dining. Upon graduation, Everett joined the team at Eleven Madison Park with Chef Daniel Humm, and after a year and half cooking in that rarefied gauntlet, he entered Wylie Dufresne’s world of whimsy and experimentation at wd~50. In 2009, he was on the opening team of Michael White’s Marea, where he worked closely with friend and mentor Jared Gadbaw and eventually rose to executive sous chef. Staying within the Altamarea global empire, Everett opened Al Molo Ristorante Italiano in Hong Kong as executive chef in 2011. 

Following that experience Everett, traveled throughout the Americas, including the Caribbean, and opened a restaurant in California before returning to South Florida. Now, as chef de cuisine of Valentino Cucina Italiana, Everett is pushing boundaries in Fort Lauderdale. It’s a culinary homecoming with potential to transform dining for an entire city. 

Interview with South Florida Rising Star Chef Jimmy Everett of Valentino Cucina Italiana

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start?
Jimmy Everett:
I started at the Atlantis community at Lake Worth as a busboy when I was 14. I wanted to get into the kitchen and spent three or fours going to restaurants like Macaroni Grill and pizzerias to find a job. I even offered to work for free at Macaroni Grill and bugged them for weeks. Finally, they gave me a job, and then the country club offered me a job. Another busboy had gone to culinary school, and that really motivated me. I went to culinary school at CIA, and the culinary instructor at my high school helped me a lot. 

CH: Who’s your mentor?
Michael Lascola. He started my appreciation for food. It was the first time I felt passionate. The first time it really clicked. He always led by example: first in and last to leave. He taught me as much about life as food. He pushed me to go to NYC. He hasn’t stopped pushing himself. He keeps growing and building. He’s someone I respected. Also, Jared Gadbaw is one of my best friends and someone I picked up more from than any other person. He was my superior, but treated me like a friend. He taught me a ton about food and helped me through troubling times. When I was homeless, I slept on his couch. He helped me find the answers within me.

CH: What’s the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
Keeping staff. Outside of New York, the challenge is generally finding and keeping good staff. We don’t offer benefits or a lot of money. We don’t have people who want to grow their careers, just a few core people.

CH: What’s your five year plan?
My goal was to have a barbecue place in South Florida, maybe in Delray or Key West. I want to do barbecue and sides. That’s what I know the best: barbecuing and smoking. It’ll be traditional enough, with a bar.