Chef Wanted: James Beach Update

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At James Beach in Venice, Calif., owners James Evans and Daniel Samakow called in Anne Burrell to find a new executive chef for their modern comfort food spot. Anne brought in four candidates, and after two grueling challenges and exhausting nights of service, James and Daniel extended an offer to Vincent Walker.

Vincent, a three-time cancer survivor, impressed the owners and Anne with his determination and delicious food. "This kid is a fighter," Anne said. "He’s ready to resume his dream of becoming an executive chef." Several weeks after the show was filmed, we checked in with the owners to see how Vincent is doing in his new job.

Right after Chef Wanted was filmed, Vincent got married. "We gave him time to wed and leave his prior position," the owners explain. "He has been meeting with us throughout, but has officially started this week."

The owners are thrilled that James Beach is having a record year in terms of sales, and they only expect things to get better: "Summer , our busy season, is right around the corner, and with the new chef and the show, we expect it to be off the charts."

Vincent has already hit the ground running by rearranging the kitchen for greater efficiency. His camaraderie with the kitchen staff was apparent during his night of service on the show and it has continued now that he’s their full-time chef: "The staff appreciates having someone with his spirit and knowledge working with them. He’s shown that he looks and listens to the staff before he acts."

As Vincent gears up to launch his new menu, the owners have been tasting new dishes from him every day. "Yesterday he added thyme and buttermilk to our fried calamari and grilled the lemon. We loved it and James just heard customers at the next booth rave about it," says Daniel. Vincent has also been playing with the restaurant’s classic mac-and-cheese, adding a confit of Nueske bacon: "It was a revelation."

The beet panzanella salad, grilled asparagus salad and mesquite-smoked lamb chops that Vincent prepared on the show will also be featured on his new menu, which is set to roll out in early July.

James and Daniel are confident that Anne Burrell found them a great new hire: "He is an amazingly hard worker and team player. We could not be happier as we start going down this road together."

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