Chef Jacques Perry was recently named 2013 Chef of the Year by the Southwest Florida Chapter of the American Culinary Federation.
Perry, who has been the sous chef at Sweet Melissa's Cafe on Sanibel Island for the last two years, was presented with the award on Dec. 8 at The Pink Shell Resort and Marina on Fort Myers Beach.
Chef Jack Elias, a culinary instructor at the Cape Coral Institute of Technology, also won the 2013 Chef Professionalism Award, and Sysco Foods won the 2013 Purveyor of the Year Award.
Besides working alongside Executive Chef Melissa Talmage in crafting delicious items for their fine dining menu, Perry currently serves as the local ACF's Sergeant At Arms and organizes events in the community like their annual golf tournament to benefit Hope Hospice.
Being named ACF's Chef of the Year is more than just creating great food in the kitchen, he said.
"It's what you do for the organization, the community, and yourself as a professional for your career," said Perry. "I was quite surprised. We have a great group of chefs in the chapter and it was great being recognized by them."
Most of Perry's culinary experience before Sweet Melissa's Cafe had been working in country clubs through Southwest Florida. He now works alongside Talmage to keep the menu updated and fresh.
Talmage said she only considers herself as good as her staff and she was proud of Perry's recognition.
"The only way the restaurant can succeed is having someone like Jacques, so that even if I'm not here everything will be perfect," said Talmage.
The restaurant celebrates its fifth anniversary on the island in February. It's located at 1625 Periwinkle Place and serves both lunch and dinner.
Talmage described it as a "foodie" restaurant with a seafood-heavy menu for the type of person who enjoys the fine dining experience with speciality items made from scratch. Whenever possible they use locally-grown produce or fish caught in Southwest Florida.
Perry received a winning plaque on Dec. 8 and he will be recorded as the 2013 regional winner in the ACF's national office.
For more information on the local chapter of the ACF, visit swflchefs.org. To learn more about Sweet Melissa's Cafe, visit sweetmelissascafe.com.