Regional Celebrity Chefs Excel at Cookbooks

By Marsha Fottler –

chef-by-paul-mattisonOne of the best things about travel lately for culinary adventurers is the plethora of wonderful regional cookbooks written by local celebrity chefs. Collecting one in each city that you visit is a sure way to maintain a connection with the cuisine of that area. You cook from the book and recall good times. A regional cookbook is a memory keeper and a practical guide to expanding your repertoire in your home kitchen. Start collecting.

If your travels this year are taking you to the west coast of Florida (that’s the serene and lovely Gulf of Mexico side), you’ll discover amazing local chefs from Tampa to Naples. Working in and around Sarasota is the hugely popular young restaurateur and caterer Paul Mattison. Of Italian heritage, he generally leads a culinary tour to Italy in the summer months (he was married there one year), coming back with new recipes for his upscale-casual eateries in town and for his elegant catering business. But his specialties are created from locally-sourced Florida fruits, vegetables and seafood. His recipes entirely capture the taste and sustainable culinary style of southwest Florida.

Recently, Mattison published a cookbook called, simply enough, Chef. (Espichel Enterprises Publishers, $35). Within it’s pages, Mattison traces his culinary journey from this grandmother’s kitchen, through the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), travel, and his 30-year history in hospitality. He was five years old when, “my Italian grandmother Esther walked me through her garden and taught me how to use herbs and fresh vegetables in cooking,” he relates in the book. “At age 15 I started working a Symeon’s a Greek restaurant in my New York hometown. Symeon was like a father to me and inspired me to choose the restaurant business for my career.” After his CIA training, the young chef worked in Aspen, Colorado, before moving to Sarasota to take the Executive Chef job at the famed Summerhouse. He’s made the city of Sarasota his home base ever since, but now he owns two restaurants, a culinary travel company and he’s a sought-after caterer.  Here are three recipes from his new book, which has appetizing color photos and easy to follow cooking directions. This book could be your souvenir of a special Florida vacation.


Mattison’s House Salad

Serves 4

mattisons-house-salad1 pint grape tomatoes

4 cups lettuce spring mix

4 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

8 teaspoons toasted pine nuts

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon minced shallots

½ minced garlic clove

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ cup balsamic vinegar

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

½ but extra virgin olive oil

½ cut vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Halve the grape tomatoes lengthwise and combine with the spring lettuce mix. Top with the Gorgonzola cheese and pine nuts. In a blender, combine the egg, shallots, garlic, mustard, both vinegars and basil. Puree on high until smooth. Reduce speed to low and slowly drizzle the olive and vegetable oils to incorporate. Season to taste. Chill before dressing the salad.


Shrimp Limoncello Pasta

serves four

shrimp20 large shrimp 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoons chopped shallots

3 chopped garlic cloves

1 cup Limoncello (a tasty liqueur so popular on the Amalfi coast of Italy)

2 cups heavy cream

1 pound fettucine

1 teaspoon  lemon zest

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chiffonade mint

1 tablespoon chiffonade basil

Salt and pepper to taste


Season each shrimp on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil and butter in a large sauté pan to medium-high heat. Turn and brown the shrimp for about 5 minutes and remove from the pan. Add the shallots to the pan and cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Deglaze the pan with Limoncello and reduce by half. Add the cream and cook until just thickened. Salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine in salted water until al dente, then drain. Add the paste, shrimp, lemon zest and herbs to the sauce. Toss well and divide among 4 bowls.


Roasted Pear and Croissant Bread Pudding

serves 12

bread-pudding7 eggs

1 ½ cups sugar

¼ cup honey

2 cups heavy cream

3 pears

8 croissants

¾ cup shredded coconut


Preheat over to 325-degrees. In a large mixing bowl, blend the eggs, sugar, honey and heavy cream with an immersion blender. Peel and dice the pears into ½-inch cubes. Cut or tear the croissants into large pieces. Combine the pears, croissants and coconut. Pour the cream mixture over the pears and bread and toss to coat. Press into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Cover with parchment paper and then cover with foil. Place pain in a large baking pan and fill with enough water to come ¼ inch up the sides of the pan with the bread pudding. Bake for one hour. Uncover and remove from the water bath. Bake for an additional 10 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with  crème anglaise


Crème Anglaise

1 quart cream

1 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean

8 egg yolks


Combine the cream, 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla beat in a stock pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Separately mix the remaining ½ up sugar and the egg yolk in a stainless bowl. Slowly temper this mixture by adding small amounts of the warm cream mixture, careful not to cook the yolks. Strain into a clean pot and return to medium heat. Stir constantly with the rubber spatula until the mixture thickens enough to coat the spatula. Chill before serving.



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