If Chef Andy Hyde’s joy and excitement for food don’t ring your bell, then your clapper is broken. That’s because the young Florida chef’s infectious enthusiasm is palpable, even over the phone. In fact, enthusiasm doesn’t quite capture Chef Andy’s abundant energy. Maybe “fervor” or “zeal” are better descriptors for the self-proclaimed “wild child of Naples.”
“I am who I am,” Chef Andy said. “I have an eclectic and diverse background, and I want to share it with people who love food and love wine. It’s my way of life.”
Chef Andy is the man behind Chef Hyde Gourmet, an upscale private chef and catering service in Naples, Florida.
Born in Ghana, Chef Andy spent his early years in Chicago before heading to Europe and The Culinary Academy in Hannover, Germany. While in Germany, he interned at Aqua, a 3 Michelin Star restaurant helmed by Chef Sven Elverfeld. His previous Naples credits include stints as executive chef at the former La Bazenne modern French restaurant, and La Playa beach and golf resort.
Coming to Florida from Germany, Chef Andy said Naples’ Gulf coast climate immediately felt like home and reminded him of his native Ghana. “It has a tropical feel combined with a city that brought back childhood memories,” he said. “I saw palm trees, and real coconuts!”
During this particular conversation, Chef Andy was planning a 12-course small bites menu for a private Valentine’s Day dinner for two couples on the waterfront in nearby Port Royale, Florida. Situated near Naples, Port Royale is on the highest end of high end, promoted on the city’s website as “one of the finest places in the world to live,” and “the playground of rich and famous people.”
Yet, even in a place where people seem to have everything, Chef Andy saw a need that he could fill. Although Naples’ wine culture is thriving and robust, Chef Andy said the area’s culinary terroir is still coming into its own. “Naples is a big wine city,” he said. “But we don’t have the gastronomy yet. But it’s coming. We’re making waves.”
Despite his upper-class surroundings, Chef Andy said he proudly draws inspiration from the good and simple foods of his youth. He’s particularly enamored with a cauliflower and coddled egg dish that’s been years in the making.
“I’ve been working on it for 14 years!” he said. “When I was 14, I was adopted by a vegetarian family in Germany. I hated cauliflower and wasn’t a fan of white asparagus. Those two always bugged me—until my mother made me a cauliflower puree with a poached egg. Wow, wow, wow, wow! The key was nutmeg in the purée.”
After 14 years of tinkering, he satisfactorily refined the rustic dish for his upscale clientele.
“So, I do a poached cauliflower purée with three variations of cauliflower ─ shaved, raw and couscous. I use purple, white and Romanesco, with a truffle brown butter emulsion, shaved truffles, prosciutto, pea tendrils or frilled mustard. The egg goes on the puree and the sommelier pours on the emulsion tableside.”
Chef Andy said his Ghana vibe plays out on his plates through use of vibrant color, particularly from The Chef’s Garden’s array of edible flowers. “Ghana is full of colors,” he said. “Color brings joy to any atmosphere.”
Chef’s Garden bachelor buttons are one of Chef Andy’s favorite ways to incorporate color, flavor and texture. “The flavor is light, not so penetrating,” he said. “It’s just perfect. The color is vibrant. If you use it smartly, it really lifts up your dish.”
He includes the blooms on a beetroot macaron “snack” along with nasturtiums, micro bull’s blood, cucumbers and gold caviar. “All In one bite,” he said. “It’s a nice little sandwich.” For his beet tartare with a quinoa cracker, Chef Andy employs bachelor buttons, hibiscus flowers and beet blush, along with pickled mustard seed, cucumbers and capers. The blooms also show up on a squid ink tapioca cracker with big eye tuna, caviar, micro coriander and avocado wasabi mousse.
He garnishes his bison tartare with a generous splash of vermilion citrus begonias. “I put an abundance on it,” he said. He’s made a vibrant green lemon grass velouté for a turbot on the bone. “I was going to use it (lemon grass) as a garnish, but then I said, ‘bring that back!’ And I put the whole box into the Thermomix and blended it,” he said.
To spice things up, Chef Andy said he wraps arugasabi sprigs with thin slices of kobe beef served with pickled mustard. “Then I lightly torch it, so you get the flavor of the fat and the wasabi,” he said. Tiny serrated leaves of citrus lace adorn kobe beef with pickled shallot pearls and caviar. “It’s another beat that was missing,” he said. “That bang!”
For an intricate, delicate morsel, he pipes fois gras mousse into the yellow flower of a tiny cuke with bloom. “It’s a pain in the butt, but I’ve been able to pull it off,” he said, noting that the dish is consistently a hit, “just by the sheer cuteness of it.” “And that cuke cleans the palate,” he added.
Chef Andy is backed by a three-person staff that includes Sous Chef Jamie Cruz, Advanced Sommelier Mladen Stoev, and Lead Event Manager Peterson Jermaine. He said being a nomadic team cooking in clients’ unfamiliar kitchens is all in a day’s work in the private chef business.
“I love the challenge,” he said. “With so many moving parts, you have to be a very good logistics manager. It’s like starting up a new restaurant every time.” Still, he said he’d like to have a bricks-and-mortar establishment in the future.
“As demand grows, I want to open a small seated restaurant,” he said. “But I want to go about it smartly. I’ve seen too many chefs fail. I don’t want to open with money someone else worked hard for and then fail. My vision is to be one of the first African, American, European chefs. I’ve always said, ‘one day I’ll come back to America and show them what’s up.’”