Southernmost Beach Cafe, Key West
Chef Ben Schneller is creating new flavors and fans at the Southernmost Beach Cafe in Key West, Florida. Chef Ben went to the Southern California School of Culinary Arts to begin his culinary career. From there he went back to his home state of Wisconsin to open his own restaurant, which featured fresh locally-grown and caught ingredients. From there he decided to move south and closer to the ocean. No better place than Key West, Florida in 2003.
Once in Key West, Ben became the Executive Chef of local steakhouse “The Commodore,” serving high end steaks and local fare on the historic seaport.
From there Ben moved on to help open a new Brazilian steakhouse just off of Duval Street called Braza Lena.
In December 2009, Ben took the opportunity to become the Executive Chef of The Southernmost Beach Café, an up and coming beachfront restaurant at the south end of the island. Ben combined his classical French training with Caribbean and local Florida Keys influences and created fresh new breakfast, lunch, dinner and catering menus.
By utilizing only the freshest in local seafood and produce, Ben has created menus that have become not only local favorites, but the go-to choice of tourists and seasonal snow birds also.
Whether you want to enjoy sunrise with a cup of coffee, watch sunbathers with a frozen drink, or dine under stars while enjoying a glass of wine, the Southernmost Beach Café has incredible entrees that will suit your every dining desire. Fine cuisine at affordable prices overlooking the ocean where Duval Street meets the Atlantic.
Please describe your restaurant concept.
It is fine cuisine, at affordable prices, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Do the Keys and being so close to the Caribbean inspire your menu?
Yes, we try when we can to use many Caribbean-themed items on our menu: local mango, avocado, and other tropical fruits, as well as local fish - yellowtail, mahi and shrimp.
Please describe some of your most popular menu items.
Breakfast: Biscuits ‘n gravy (in-house made redeye-gravy using mild Italian sausage and fresh sage).
Lunch: Fish tacos - grilled, blackened or fried - finished with fresh sweet corn and black bean salsa and topped with a smoked tomato aioli.
Dinner: All seafood is served fresh with local yellowtail, mahi, and even sushi-grade tuna. Personally, I prefer the yellowtail because it is light and delicate, served with a blackened shrimp salsa and lemon butter.
What is your “sizzle” – for example, cuisine and food that are your signature or “specialties”, unique food presentations or any new ideas that you are using?
I love using French flair in as much as I can, still keeping Caribbean cuisine in mind. Being a classically French trained chef, I like using butters, creams and big rich flavors in sauces. Also, on the flip side, being in the Caribbean it is easy, fresh and delicious to use indigenous ingredients to create very light health conscious cuisine.
What do you attribute your success in the restaurant business to?
A great mentor (owner operator in Wisconsin, now Culinary Teacher of the Year at Madison Area Technical College), many years in great kitchen atmospheres, culinary school which is a must, and my wife, who is always so inspiring with her own culinary expertise.
What is your favorite dish to eat that you’ve created?
Our house made corned beef hash!! It’s from another planet.