Chef Justin Timineri has been working with Fresh From Florida for almost 15 years, but for him, it doesn’t get old. It’s easy to see why: He gets to advocate for Florida’s incredible variety of local commodities while crafting amazing dishes from the Florida cornucopia.
Together, Chefs Timineri and Bridget Baxley are the hardworking recipe developers behind the Fresh From Florida database of recipes, run by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
They serve as culinary ambassadors, showing locals and food industry professionals alike how Florida produce, meat and fish can be part of a healthy, delicious diet.
“The diversity of this state itself is amazing. We have so many incredible cuisine influences and so much incredible flavor,” Timineri says. “Pair that with all that we have growing in our fields and in the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean … it’s a food lover’s paradise!”
During a normal year, the chefs would be traveling and promoting Florida-based eating all over the country, but this year they have focused even more than usual on crafting recipes to share with regular Floridians who want to cook local.
Developing Delicious Recipes
Recipes for Fresh From Florida begin with all kinds of inspiration: a dish that the chefs cook at home, an upcoming holiday or event, or even a new produce sample sent by a farmer in Florida who wants to show their customers a great way to cook with that product. From that seed of an idea, the chefs get to work.
Timineri has a background in restaurant and event cooking, while Baxley attended culinary school after her career in the U.S. Air Force. Both bring intuitive knowledge to the task of making new recipes.
“The first part of the process is all virtual, because we can cook an entire dish in our heads,” Timineri says. “We (usually) know whether a new recipe idea is plausible or can work in theory.”
Once they are pretty sure they’ve got a winner, Timneri and Baxley head into the “hunting and gathering” phase, finding great produce, meat and fish from Florida producers so that they can test out their ideas in the kitchen.
“Once we cook and test variables, like the kind of oven or the kind of cooking technique, we try to keep things straightforward: not a lot of hard-to-find ingredients or tools, just a few simple good-quality ingredients that you can get at home,” Timineri says.
Then, they assemble the rest of the Fresh From Florida team to perfect the wording of the recipe, plate the food beautifully and take great photographs.
If they think the recipe is the right fit, they’ll also make a recipe video. All of their creations get shared with website visitors and on social media.
Fresh, Flavorful & Fun
The chefs focus on recognizable flavors using local products, but they sometimes try something out of the box, with special results they cannot wait to share.
“Last year, when peanuts were in season, we thought of creating a barbecue sauce with boiled peanuts since they are so popular,” Baxley says. “It’s not something you normally put in a sauce, but it worked and was really magical!”
Focusing primarily on simple, healthy combinations that are easy to make is also the key to keeping their recipes kid-friendly, it turns out, since it gives kids the space to do some of the cooking themselves.
“When you have your kids in the kitchen, they take some ownership and they want to learn more and try more foods,” Timineri says.
Every recipe will have a Florida connection, too, and Baxley reminds anyone who feels like they don’t see a lot of Florida products in their supermarket that they can be engaged members of their food community.
“People need to know that they can ask for Florida-grown anything: produce, meat, fish,” she says. “Talk to your grocery manager about whether they can get it or have a Florida produce section. That’s how we help our Florida farmers.”
The Fresh From Florida website has an amazing recipe directory where you can search by the Florida produce you want to use, from alligator to watermelon. You can also search by the kind of dish you’re looking for, from special dishes for the holidays to kid-friendly favorites. When a recipe button has a video icon, you can watch the Fresh From Florida team prepare the dish and learn about measuring, cooking and eating fresh food from Florida. These videos make great extracurricular learning experiences for kids and adults alike. Visit followfreshfromflorida.com/recipes to learn more.