chef kenny gilbert
Cooking since he could barely reach the kitchen counter at age three, Chef Kenny Gilbert is best known for his appearance on “Top Chef” Season seven, where he displayed big personality and instantly become one of the most likable cheftestants to date.
Born and raised in suburban Cleveland, Kenny’s curiosity for the kitchen started young. His mom noticed how captivated her son was when she cooked or entertained and so in an effort to harness it, began teaching him the basics. Kenny’s father, an avid BBQ man, schooled him in the ways of the grill, including homemade sauces and rubs, presenting him with his very own small Weber at the age of seven. By age 11 Kenny was cooking the entire Thanksgiving dinner solo, and in high school, was cooking for his entire swim team, before and after practice and meets on a portable electric double burner in the locker room. Cooking had been in Kenny’s blood from day one and so, while still in high school, he enrolled in a local vocational culinary program.
After high school, Kenny attended The Pennsylvania Culinary Institute where he received a degree in Culinary Arts. Upon graduation, Kenny relocated to Jacksonville, FL, where he joined The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company as an apprentice in the garde manger kitchen of their Amelia Island property. Kenny worked his way up to Chef de Cuisine at the age of 23 at the Ritz, helping to consistently secure the AAA Five Diamond Award for the property throughout his tenure there.
After a two year stint in Naples, FL, opening Caxambas, a members-only fine dining establishment in the Fiddler’s Creek development, Kenny landed in Sea Island, Georgia where he served as Executive Chef, overseeing all four dining concepts at The Lodge Sea Island Golf Resort. During his tenure at The Lodge, Kenny had the opportunity to cook for the G8 summit while President Bush was in office. After Sea Island, Kenny returned to the Ritz-Carlton family, taking the position of Executive Chef at their Jupiter, FL location. It was then onto Telluride, Colorado, where he led the culinary team at The Inn at Lost Creek, one of Conde Nast’s Top 40 Resorts in the US – Kenny would then join the opening team for the new luxury boutique hotel, Capella, under West Paces Hotel Group.
While working in Colorado, Kenny learned of the open casting call for Bravo’s “Top Chef” season seven. He auditioned and made the cut. While he didn’t take home the winning title in DC, he did well in the competition and impressed the judges with his skills and finesse.
After “Top Chef,” Kenny landed back in Jacksonville, FL, where he designed and opened Caribbean-inspired Nippers Beach Grill. Within one year of opening, Folio Magazine awarded Kenny Chef of the Year, and Nippers, Best Caribbean Restaurant. Next up, Kenny made his way to Miami where he served as Corporate Chef for 50 Eggs Restaurant Group and was responsible for organizing and designing the future kitchens and infrastructure for James Beard recognized concepts like Yardbird, Khong River House and Swine. After Miami, Kenny headed back to the turquoise water and sandy beaches of the Caribbean, working as the Executive Chef at Bajan Blue at Sandy Lane Resort in Barbados (the famous internationally themed restaurant grosses over $10 million in sales annually).
In 2014, Kenny headed north to Edison, NJ where he served as the Executive Chef of Plainfield Country Club, an elite golf facility that hosts the annual Barclay’s Golf Tournament. He has now settled back in Jacksonville where he opened Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen with his wife Anna. UK serves seasonal deep southern cuisine and is located in Fernandina Beach, FL. This Fall, Kenny and Anna will open their second restaurant, Gilbert’s Social, this time in Jacksonville proper, serving seasonal and creative modern Southern fare with international influences.
Kenny is also a consultant for Micfood, an international company based out of Miami that produces organic tropical packaged goods like Plantains and Yuca, while also lending his expertise to the menu at Boston neighborhood restaurant, Tempo American Bistro.
Over the years, Kenny has developed a passion for herbs and spices, and has paired that passion with his culinary prowess to create Chef Kenny’s Spice Blends, a line of spice blends with equally big personality. The product line, which includes Jerk Spice, Raging Cajun and Cinnamon Coffee Rub, is used by luxury hotel brands including The Lodge at Sea Island Company and the Omni Amelia Island Hotel and Resort. The line of spice blends is also available for purchase at www.chefkennygilbert.com, or at Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen.
Throughout his career, Kenny has traveled the world, staging in some of the top restaurants in Japan, Spain, France and the Caribbean. He has cooked at the James Beard House, participated in wine & food festivals around the country, cooked for the Sports Illustrated Super Bowl party and appeared on the “Today Show,” Jacksonville’s FOX 30 and in the LA Times. Kenny has also recently penned his first book titled, A Chef’s Journal. He has cooked for the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King, Stedman Graham, Samuel L. Jackson and A.J Calloway, just to name a few. Kenny has competed on and won Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” and beat Chef Bobby Flay at his own game on “Beat Bobby Flay.”
With over 20 years of professional experience in the food & beverage industry, Kenny has run just about every area of Food & Beverage Divisions at the AAA Five Diamond and Mobile Five Star levels. His passion for fine dining is complemented by his vast experience across the entire spectrum of the culinary industry. From banquets to pastries, club and restaurant design to bar and lounge concepts, Kenny’s innovative and creative approach to the restaurant and hospitality industries is unmatched.