The beginning of the Food and Brew Network!!!
Welcome all to the Florida Food and Brew Network. My name is Ron Nattress and I hope you enjoy this blog and future podcast show.
I came to a realization a while back that while living in Florida is amazing and never would I want to move elsewhere, there are things I miss. I am not a native Floridian, however, I did spend most of my childhood growing up in Tampa, FL so for me it feels like home.
Outside of Tampa I have lived in New York City, San Francisco, Oakland, and have traveled across the world in order to experience other lands.
While in California, I found a passion for joining the culinary industry. Living in the Bay Area you are surrounded with amazing opportunities in regards to food, beer, wine, and cocktails. Where I lived I pretty much had equal distance travel to San Francisco, Oakland, Napa, Sonoma, and Healdsburg.
This area was a true melting pot of cultures and as a true hippie town, farming practices were at their best. At anytime you could travel to a local farmers market and create an exceptional meal to accompany your local brew or wine. As it was such a hot spot for the culinary world, access to all kinds of spirits were easy to come by.
I started out at the bottom in the restaurant industry. In fact, I was not paid for 8 months. I was privileged to some free meals regularly which made it worth it. Best of all, I was able to train under some of the best chefs in the industry. I opted for the hands on training over going to culinary school and it was the best decision I had made.
From this moment I was set up to go anywhere and cook for anyone. However, being the ADD type person I am, I wanted to learn from everyone and about everything. I studied beer, wine, whiskey, tequila, bar tending, all kinds of cuisine, and whatever else crossed my line of sight.
Spent years bouncing from restaurant to restaurant in order to absorb it all. I worked as line cook, bartender, server, beer brewer, cocktail crafter, to even being an executive chef and opening multiple restaurants. Throughout these years I also spent much of my time in New York studying pre-prohibition style cocktails and becoming a local and comrade to many of the speakeasy type bars.
It was a lot of work but the endless amount of training I received was a huge boost for my career. Eventually, I decided I wanted to get more involved in the industry from an outside perspective. I developed a passion for writing and sharing my experiences. Giving out hot tips on where to go or what to get became my true joy.
When originally getting ready to move to Florida, it was hard to find much information about the beer scene. Almost as if it did not exist. There seemed to be only Cigar City and Tampa Brewing. I thought long and hard about the idea of opening a craft brewery. As a long time home and semi-pro beer brewer it was a dream. However, Florida’s law appeared to be a challenge to work with. While it still remains a dream, I was pleased to find out when I moved here, the Florida beer scene is growing fast.
Where I live in Pinellas county, we are surrounded by so many breweries. There are local distilleries nearby and a growing food scene. However, after living here for over three years since moving back, there is something lacking about the experience here.
Chain restaurants seem to be king out here. You have your Frenchie’s and Longhorn Steakhouse, Smokey Bones type places. And while not bad, it is not easy to find good small biz restaurants. The ones I have tried seem to just follow suit and do the same thing the big chains do. I have yet to find Good Italian like what I spent years in training on. Places that make there pasta from scratch, and have wall filled with home made salumi.
Or yet to find a really good sushi restaurant that wows me. A good place to get a pizza. Sure there are decent pizza’s out here but I am talking Ermagerd, I can’t be seen in public right now good. What I have found is pricey. Usually the type of place I take my wife on our anniversary because we could never afford it otherwise.
Maybe I am just not finding it but I would love to see it change. I would love to see Florida become one of those places where you can walk down the street and struggle to figure out which place you want to go to each night because they are all so good. It should not be that hard. And, we have the perfect circumstances here. The beach is everywhere, snow birds flock in by the butt load every winter, and when the sun is out during the summer people rush outside for some fun. This is tourist hotspot so people will seek out good food.
One thing that is definitely on the right path is the brewing industry. There are a host of great breweries popping up and they are getting popular. People are starting to choose real beer over bad beer(not bad like sour… just bad like piss water).The purpose of this blog is to help see that growth continue but in all food and beverage industry aspects. I am loving the sudden surge that is taking place and hope this network can be a voice for helping it grow.
This network being designed to promote the food and beverage industry, we hope you really enjoy what you we provide. We are working hard to get our podcast show started soon as well where we will interview brewers, chefs, writers, and take you on all kinds of tours through Florida spots.
We will talk about home brewing, craft beer, spirits, wine, food, cooking tips, seasonal tips, events to look out for, and anything else that crosses our eye within this realm. We want to hear from you also. Please reach out to us. If you know a good place we should check out, let us know. If you are in the industry and want to connect, we would be more than happy to interview you or check out what you have going on. Or if you just want to say hi, that’s cool too.