Breaking Bread: Chef David Nelson Interview

Breaking Bread: Chef David Nelson Interview

We were really connected to the foodie scene in Phoenix/Scottsdale, but haven’t really embraced it since moving to Naples. We had family in town last week and grabbed drinks at Bar Tulia before dining at The French Brasserie Rustique. The meal was fantastic. The next day I discovered Timeless – An MHK Eatery. The place looks awesome and in an effort to learn more, I reached out for an interview with Chef David Nelson. Funny story… My point of contact at Timeless also represented Bar Tulia. Look for an interview with their chef coming soon! In the meantime, I am excited to learn more about Timeless and what we can expect when this new restaurant opens. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Chef David Nelson.

I am new to Naples, but was connected to the F&B scene in Phoenix/Scottsdale. It seems there are a lot of great restaurants in SW Florida. What restaurants should I put on my list to visit?
Couple of my personal favorites are Zen Asian BBQ (best ramen in SW Florida), FUSE Global Cuisine has a really unique menu and the chef is very talented, Osteria Tulia and The French are definitely a must as well.

Timeless is about to open. Tell me more about that restaurant. It looks awesome, by the way!
Timeless is inspired by owner Matthew Kragh’s casual “Old Florida” architectural designs and will feature his signature white, fresh and simple yet modern style, transporting guests to one of the many homes he’s built in downtown Naples.

We will be serving menu of classic, comfort foods with a contemporary twist, in addition to our artisan coal fire oven pizza and New York style bagels hand made in the bakery next door and cooked in the same coal oven. We will also be offering guests the ultimate coffee experiences with our coffee/espresso program. We invested in an Italian lever espresso machine and traveled to Seattle, the mecca of coffee, for training to learn how to use the machine and make the perfect espresso. We will serve local craft beers and wines predominantly from boutique wineries in Oregon, Washington and California. We’ll also provide takeout and delivery of our pizzas, salads and sandwiches.

Timeless is an MHK Eatery. What does that mean?
The name Timeless comes from Matthew’s architecture, which is often described as “timeless.” Eatery refers to the many different eating options we’ll provide, whether it’s a bagel and coffee for breakfast, a salad or artisan sandwich for lunch, pizza and a beer for dinner, or a quick bite with a glass of wine, we have something for everyone

When you are working on a new menu, how do you decide what to include? Do you take the beer/wine list into consideration when planning new menu items?
The focus around pizza and bagels is what Matthew envisioned when he hired me. Other than that, he gave me carte blanche to develop this concept. I did a lot of traveling over the last year trying all kinds of different concepts. The modern gastropub type of concepts is one of my favorite; and pairing that with pizza is a natural fit. The menu is based on some the favorite foods I like to eat. The beer/wine list was crafted around the food.

Speaking of wine, what are some of your favorite wines?
I am a Pinot Noir guy. Belle Gloss is one of my favorites, but it really depends on what I am eating.

Being close to the beach, guests are going to expect a lot of seafood on your menu. Do you work with a lot of seafood and what sort of seafood items can we expect to see on the menu at Timeless?
We will have some seafood on the menu but it will not be the focus. I spent the last fifteen years in seafood heavy restaurants and am excited to venture out into something a little different. Naples has plenty of seafood restaurants. I don’t think there is another concept like ours in Naples.

MHK Eatery is also a culinary marketplace. What exactly is a culinary marketplace?
A culinary marketplace offers an array of distinguishing casual dining, snacking and drinking options just like we will have. In addition, we are adjacent to a French bakery next door and the two spaces will be connected with a partial wall. So when you walk into Timeless you will have multiple options where you can eat, drink and snack. Think of an Eataly in NY where there are multiple concepts under one roof.

It sounds like you’ve worked in a lot of kitchens over the years. Besides the menu, how does one restaurant compare to the next?
Each kitchen comes with its own unique sets of challenges, but at the end of the day, I have operated each kitchen the same – with attention to detail and a laser sharp focus on every dish leaving the kitchen. These have always been the principles on how I operate my kitchens.

You started in this business as a dishwasher. What has that journey been like over the years?
It has been quite the journey with my fair share of failures and successes. Someone once told me that the master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried and that certainly holds true for me (not that I am a master). I have always tried to challenge myself even when I was just washing dishes or working as a line cook early in my career

What is your favorite restaurant? Not just in Naples, but in general.
It’s really hard to narrow down just one. I had the pleasure of eating at Eleven Madison Park Restaurant in New York last fall and it was one of the best dining experiences I have ever had. Coincidentally it was just named “Best Restaurant in the World” by San Pellegrino’s yearly ranking. O Ya in Boston was also amazing.

Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. What is your favorite meal of the day?
I could eat breakfast food anytime of the day. Who doesn’t like eggs?

I like my steak medium-rare… You?
Medium-rare for sure.

I’m obsessed with YouTube and love watching cooking shows. I like Hot Ones with Sean Evans and love watching anything featuring Gordon Ramsay. What cooking shows do you like?
Netflix has some really great shows, Chef’s Table (Grant Achatz episode stands out), The Mind of a Chef. I also really loved Iron Chef. That show has inspired many of my dishes over the years.

Besides opening Timeless, what’s next for Chef David Nelson?
My main focus is getting Timeless open. It’s been a long year waiting to get this place open and I really can’t think beyond that until we are open and operating at a high level.

Thank you for doing this. In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
Check out our website in the coming weeks for updates on our opening, menus and much more.

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