Spotlight on Chef Nikhil Abuvala of Roux 30A

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A look at his early beginnings

What’s in a name?

The name Roux 30A is a play on words.  “Rue” means street in French and “roux” is of course a well known sauce base in French cuisine.  Roux 30A is a nod to the 30A locals who make up 75% of Nikhil’s customers. It’s a chef’s table dining experience where one can enjoy a private dinner or a 5 course tasting menu open to the public. Chef Nikhil wanted to name his first child Roux, and in a way he did.

An early passion

“I’ve always been cooking. That’s definitely a truth for me.  My first memory was when I was four years old making flatbreads in the kitchen with my Indian grandma. When I was seven years old my dad took me to India for a month.  We also went to Europe, and South and Central America.  We had some great cultural experiences growing up and we always ate really well.  My parents were heavily invested in what we were eating and why we were eating it.  Half of their job was to entertain and they were both really good cooks.”

Sushi rolling

When I was young I had a crazy fascination with sushi…it was my thing.  For my thirteenth birthday my mom got me a hands-on sushi making class at Kitchenique taught by chef Dan Pettis who worked for Tim Creehan at the time. At thirteen I was the youngest person there but I loved it! I had such a blast and Dan was tickled that I was there.  He said “Hey, you know you’re the youngest person here.  I can see you really have a passion for this.  You picked this up really quickly and I started cooking when I was thirteen as well. Do you want to come and work for me?” I was like, yeah!  We started an apprenticeship under Dan Pettis and Tim Creehan at the original Beachwalk. I rolled sushi at a makeshift bar at the bottom of this winding staircase two to three nights a week throughout middle school and a little bit into high school.

A change in direction

In high school I played bass clarinet for the marching band at Niceville. At the time, both music and cooking were my life. I got a music scholarship to Berklee School of Music in Boston for bass clarinet and I ended up hating it.  I came back home and started working at Fire. I was also working at Abercrombie and Fitch and they offered me a full ride scholarship into an MBA program.  I thought it was a good opportunity so I put in my two weeks notice at Fire.  After my shift that night, chef Carl Schaubhut asked to talk with me and we sat down outside on some milk crates. He asked me “Why are you quitting?”  I told him I had school paid for and why wouldn’t I take this opportunity? He said “Where do you see your life path, your career?  Do you want to be middle management at Abercrombie Corporate, not saying you couldn’t do more, but what’s the reality here?  You have an incredible passion, an incredible drive in the kitchen.  You should really consider this as a career.”  

Pivotal decision

I thought about it and I was ready for a move.  It was a pivotal two weeks. I told my mom I wanted to do this and we visited every culinary school in Florida. We drove down the coast and I settled on the Fort Lauderdale Culinary Arts School. I chose it because of its international program.  In school the basic courses were my favorite.  The theories of why we do everything fascinate me.  The fundamentals of cooking were amazing but that was 11 weeks and I was soon done with those courses. Whenever I wanted to learn something I would just go and explore it. I worked as a butcher for a while because I wanted to learn it.  If I wanted to learn it I just did it.  I would try and incorporate what I learned wherever I worked at the time.  I was always working in kitchens.

Roux 30A is open Tues 6pm-10pm and Sundays 10am-2pm for brunch.  Call (850) 213-0899 for more information.


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