The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island announces the appointment of Okan Kizilbayir as Chef d’ Cuisine at AAA Five-Diamond Salt restaurant. Okan previously served as Sous Chef at Le Bernardin, the 3-Michelin Star fine-dining seafood restaurant led by Eric Ripert in Manhattan. Prior to Le Bernardin, Okan was Ripert’s Sous Chef at Blue by Eric Ripert at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, where he was integrally involved in the creation of the restaurant’s renowned fish-centric menu.
In this new role Okan looks forward to immersing himself in the restaurant, and continuing to transform the food and guest experience at the resort. Okan will partner with the resort’s talented Executive Chef Garrett Gooch and Executive Pastry Chef Sheldon Millett to update menus, dishes and options for guests throughout the year.
“Chef Okan’s experience working with Eric Ripert in a restaurant that consistently ranks internationally in the top 20, will be an inspiration for everyone,” says Gooch. “His joining our team will only add to the unique, legendary culinary experiences at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, that are known to create memories of a lifetime.”
Ahead of the property’s 30th anniversary and full property renovation this year, General Manager Greg Cook knew 2021 would be the time to lead the resort into new culinary mastery, thus driving the appointment of culinary talent and implementing unique experiences to property outlets. “It’s our promise that each restaurant has its own proprietary specialties, atmosphere and engaging experiences,” said Cook. Additionally, Cook recruited Fabien Gnemmi as Executive Director of Food and Beverage in November 2020. They partnered to reposition the F&B and Culinary experiences at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale. It was during this time that Gnemmi, a chef by training, was designated a Master Chef of France and applied his culinary talents to impact the F&B experience. He joined the Amelia Island team to assist in setting up the resort for success in its new era of culinary mastery.
The property continues to take the culinary experience one step further by constantly implementing immersive epicureal programming for guests to partake in. For example, Salt Kitchen Table is respected as one of the top Chef’s Tables in the U.S., where guests are invited to wander the kitchen and observe the preparation of their eight-course menu. Annual innovative culinary events on property include the Salt & Savor Culinary Weekend, which combines cooking classes, tastings and dinners from Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island chefs; BBQ University brings together grilling lessons and tastings; Oyster & Champagne nights at Coast; and Build-a-Gingerbread House, where guests make holiday memories alongside property pastry chefs. All of the events are created to exhibit the property’s true passion of culinary excellence and desire to include guests in the experience.
Okan and Gnemmi’s appointments are part of the resort’s continued commitment to constantly provide guests with memorable and elevated dining. This comes on the heels of the opening of Coquina, North Florida’s largest al fresco restaurant and ocean view bar serving Spanish-influenced cuisine, led by Chef Papi Gonzalez. Also on property, Chef Andrew Brooks of Coast restaurant partners with local fisherman, farmers and craftsmen to serve the resort's seafood specialties, and the Lobby Bar’s sushi masters create rolls that pay homage to the local flavor of the coast.
This spring, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island will unveil two additional outlets, Tidewater Grill and First Drop. Low country casual Tidewater Grill, opening in May, will feature local shrimp, fresh catch of the day sandwiches, and smoked pulled pork slow cooked on the restaurant’s bubba grill. Additionally, as a new counter-service option, First Drop will feature authentic artisanal beverages, including locally roasted coffee, fresh juices, milkshakes, smoothies and carry-away food selections.
For more information about The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, please visitwww.ritzcarlton.com/ameliaisland or call your professional travel agent.