Chris Nealon

Chris’s Story

“I am a bonafide Broward guy. When I was a kid, my parents operated a 12-unit Pompano Beach hotel called Ocean Terrace, and on the weekends my friends would come to the beach there. This was when Broward County had one small airport terminal and I-95 ended at Davie Blvd.

While I was still a student at Pompano Beach High School, I apprenticed with French chef Alain Petibon and learned the nuances of the country French cooking skills I still use today. Petibon and I worked at MaPomme. It was a gourmet place in the 1970’s that attracted the likes of Rodney Dangerfield, Mary Martin, Jerry Lewis and lots of other celebrities when they came to Fort Lauderdale. The only time I have ever been nervous cooking for famous people is when I cooked for Rod Stewart because I’m a big fan of his. He was specific about how he liked his 4pm English tea prepared.

I embraced those skills and went on to make an incredible life for myself as a chef. My life became a combo platter of catering local society parties for Wayne and Marti Huizenga, living aboard yachts in the Caribbean and summering in a 72-room Southampton mansion where I would create clambakes on the beach for the owners. Since they owned 13 Rolls Royce, their Rolls Royce mechanic sometimes lived there too.

In 1989 I came back to my roots and became the head chef at Aruba Beach Cafe. I have remained here because I am appreciated and also because we are in such a cool location. People from all over the world come here; some in suits some in shorts.

Sometimes customers get dinner and a show. On one of my days off, I was out fishing offshore from the restaurant and saw a crowd watching a 14-foot hammerhead shark. We often see police boats and helicopters at night. The ocean current has brought ashore Cubans and Haitians looking for a new life and their first glimpse of life in America is outside of our restaurant.

People often ask me if being a chef is a good thing to do. I tell them there is always work, whether it is in hospitality, on a yacht or in a restaurant. And, they will never go hungry.”

You can learn more about Aruba Beach Cafe at arubabeachcafe.com.

Watch Chris at Work

One thought on “Chris Nealon: Chefs Never Go Hungry

  • Maria HäggJanuary 29, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    So great reading about you Chris!
    You are one of the most hospitable people I know.
    Always so gracious to your guests and friends it doesn’t surprise me one bit you are still there.
    Keep up your hard work, we appreciate you!

    Reply

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