Chef Spotlight: Driftwood’s Jimmy Everett

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Jimmy Everett. Photo by Aaron Bristol

We get reel with line-casting Driftwood chef Jimmy Everett

Written by Jan Norris

Jimmy Everett has opened several restaurants in major cities —New York, Hong Kong, Los Angeles—for others. But opening his own, Driftwood in Boynton Beach, was his scariest move. With only a week’s padding for finances, he put it all on the line, offering his comfort food with a twist in a modest setting.

Word is out, and he’s drawing more than just the locals. Food enthusiasts seeking the creative spins he puts on familiar dishes are coming in regularly and bringing friends.

The Lake Worth native takes cues from his former boss, Wylie Dufresne at the famed WD-50 in New York, where food was science and cutting-edge dishes appeared. But Everett knows his audience here. That means no gels or foams, or unpronounceable foods: rather, subtle shifts in the traditional. An oil extracted from a powder he made from dehydrated olives that’s brushed on a swordfish. Subtle, but a surprise flavor on a day-old fresh fish.

“When I make food at Driftwood, I want it to be comfortable; I want people to recognize it,” he said. “We’re not in New York City or even Wynwood. A lot of the people we serve on a regular basis—they’re not looking to be blown away. They just want a good plate of food.”

He was fishing when we caught up with him for our chat.

Does being a fisherman help when dealing with a fishmonger?

“I grew up fishing. It always bothered me when you’d go to a restaurant and they were using imported frozen seafood. So seafood has turned into a big focal point at Driftwood. I don’t order fish. I don’t know what’s going to be caught. So I’ll send my main fish guy a text to see what he’s got. … I think it’s more important to run out of something, because I’m not willing to buy something that’s not up to par with what I want to serve.”

What one thing did you take away from working with the master modernist, Wylie Dufresne?

“The big thing Wylie taught me was to question everything—that things aren’t set in stone with food. You can always do something different than everyone else has done. Like, you don’t look at a carrot as a crunchy round vegetable that you can glaze, steam, or slice raw. There’s so many other options than what your mind is set from history and from what people have traditionally done with ingredients.”

Other than money—you opened with a week’s worth of funds in your pocket—what’s your biggest struggle being a chef/owner?

“The all-time, absolute No. 1 issue, no question about it, is staffing. Finding people like cooks who take pride in what they do. They want to learn, they want to grow and get something out of the experience other than just a paycheck.”

This story is from the March 2020 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.

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