BY SUE ERWIN – Tim Spain learned how to become a chef after spending a year working at a restaurant in Bordeaux, France. Now the Zolfo Springs native is sharing his culinary talent in Boca Grande.
Tim is the new executive chef at Fusion Restaurant at the north end of the island.
He’s been working there since September, and he’s slowly been creating new items for the menu as well as adding different ingredients to current dishes.
“All of the original menu items are still available. I’d just like to offer people more of a variety to choose from,” he said.
When Tim returned from France, he spent nine summers working in the kitchen for a yacht club in Mackinaw Island, Michigan, eventually becoming the executive chef.
He also worked as a chef in Big Sky Montana and Key West during the winter months.
He previously worked for a large healthcare company, where he managed the food and beverage services in several large hospitals.
“It really opens your eyes to the importance of sanitation and cross-contamination,” Tim said. “I also learned a lot about the severity of allergies when it comes to certain ingredients.”
Tim said if you suffer from any type of allergy and are dining out at a restaurant, you should always let the chef know, because there are many ways to work around it and still prepare the dish while keeping the flavor in the food.
Tim is also a wine steward. He passed his sommelier exam, and he enjoys pairing certain wines with different kinds of foods.
Before working at Fusion, Tim was a chef at La Corte Garden Bistro in Cape Coral for several years.
Tim said cooking is like art, and the final presentation of the meal is very important. He also chooses to never include garnishes that are not edible, because it would be wasteful.
“No one is going to enjoy chewing on a sprig of rosemary, so why not use something else?” he asked.
His ideal job would be to own a large boat and take guests out fishing and then prepare a fresh seafood dinner on the water for everyone to enjoy.
Tim is an artist as well as and an excellent chef. One of his hobbies is wood-burning, which is the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of a heated object such as a poker.
After working in restaurants all around the nation, Tim realized how much he missed his family and friends in Florida, so he returned to Zolfo Springs. The small town is about 20 miles north of Arcadia.
“There is only one red light and about 400 people – and everybody knows everybody,” he said.
Tim attended the same high school as his parents and grandparents. He is a ninth-generation Floridian. His grandmother grew up in Bunker, Florida, which is just west of Arcadia.
“We are true Florida crackers,” he said.
His great-grandmother owned a general store in Ona, Florida.
Tim is fascinated with Florida’s heritage and nature and spends much of his spare time reading and researching how life in Florida was hundreds of years ago.
He is a catch-and-release fisherman and said he has never killed a fish on purpose.
Almost daily, he’ll cast a fishing line from his dock before going to work, even if it’s just for ten minutes. He never refuses an opportunity to fish.
“I enjoy the challenge of catching a fish. It helps me relax, and it’s so peaceful.”
He used to play golf but hasn’t played in years. Having the Charlotte Harbor accessible to him just 30 feet from his home, he chooses to spend his free time near the water or in his kayak.
Tim met his wife, Lauren, four years ago, and they currently reside in Port Charlotte.
After making the commute to Fort Myers for so long, he was looking to find work a bit closer to home. So when the opportunity at Fusion became available, he thought it would be a good match, and he’s enjoyed working in Boca Grande these past few months.
“I’m very open-minded as a chef. If a customer wants a specific dish and I have the ingredients in the building, I’ll make it,” Tim said. “I like to keep my customers happy.”
Fusion offers Thai, Indian and Mexican food, but Tim has also added new items like rack of lamb and grouper with a lobster sherry sauce.
“I wanted to give people more options to choose from on the menu,” he said. “One of my favorite things to pair with scallops is a bacon/caper relish I make with added dried cranberry. We all know bacon goes with just about everything.”
He’s also starting to add more desserts and pastry items, and being a Florida native, of course he has an amazing recipe for key lime pie.
Tim shares his ideas and gourmet recipes on his website, cheftimspain.com.
“My idea for the website was to market myself and be available to teach people culinary classes or help organize their kitchens,” Tim said.
There are farm-to-table recipes and chef’s choices on the website. One part of the site also lists a variety of exotic wines paired with fresh tapas.
“I just love what I do, and I like to share my ideas with other people,” he said.
Since he’s been working at Fusion, he’s catered at private functions and for small groups. He recently held an event at the restaurant for the Boca Grande Woman’s Club.
Last Thanksgiving he created a special Native American Indian meal. The menu items included chicken
livers and dates, bison tartare and squash soup.
“That’s the kind of food they ate back then,” he said.
Tim enjoys staying busy, and he said he has two speeds: fast and sleep.
He is the resident chef for the Fox 4 Now WFTX Morning Blend television show.
If you have a recipe you’d like to see on the show, send a request via the Fox 4 Facebook page.
Always wanting to share his culinary knowledge, he also writes a local fishing and recipe column for Waterline, a weekly section in The Sun Newspaper. The column is called “From Hook to Table.” The most recent article
featured a recipe for tuna au poivre, which is fresh tuna steaks prepared in a beef stock reduction.
Chef Tim offers private catering and personal culinary classes. Contact him at (406) 580-1994.