Executive Chef & Partner, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Jeff McInnis was born to do two things: fish and cook. And, in the best situations, he’s doing both.
He grew up in the Florida panhandle in a place called Niceville (true story) where waterfront property was not yet reserved for the elite. With the ocean as his ‘playground’, you could almost always find him on a fishing boat reeling, peeling, cleaning and cutting Redfish, Cobia, shrimp and whatever else was caught that day. So, it was no surprise that at 16 he was already cooking on the line at The Marina Cafe.
In the summer, he would head inland to join his grandparents in Alabama on their working farm. They raised chickens, hogs and horses, grew their own vegetables, churned their own butter and made their own blackberry jelly preserves from fresh picks of the day. They got up early. They went to bed late. They ate what they raised. To others it’s the definition of the “farm-to-table” concept that’s become the new restaurant buzzword. To Jeff it was just the way things were, a way of life.
When he was 18, Jeff left Florida to go cook in Charleston, SC, where he dove even deeper into low country cuisine. “I found it very hard to leave this Southern Belle and spent 6 years cooking, fishing, and livin’ in Charleston,” says McInnis.
Jeff sought to broaden his palette and began a series of culinary adventures; First as Sous Chef at Asolare, a Caribbean-Asian restaurant in St. John, Virgin Islands. Next, in San Francisco, at fine dining Asian-French restaurant Azie, where he learned Japanese cuisine from renowned sushi chefs while at the same time polishing his French techniques. And then to rural Virginia, where he worked at Keswick Hall, an exclusive 5-star hotel built on Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Estate and owned by the Orient Express. Named Fossett’s in honor of Jefferson’s chief cook at Monticello, Edith Fossett, the restaurant served up Southern/French cuisine in a fine dining atmosphere.
It was here that Jeff was able to begin mixing his passion and talent for fine Southern cooking.