Ft. Lauderdale Chef Comes Full Circle
Adrienne Grenier boldly left her job as a junior chef at acclaimed South Florida seafood eatery 3030 Ocean to challenge her culinary prowess. Six years later, she returned to run the kitchen there, stocked with a mental pantry of tips for sourcing and preparing sustainable ingredients for the finest palates.
Wednesday night dinner service at Ft. Lauderdale’s 3030 Ocean is only two hours away. The kitchen staff is bustling, and in the center of all the chopping and mixing action is a petite powerhouse, leading the crew in a productive yet calm way.
Executive chef Adrienne Grenier has a kitchen staff of 15, but she’s making the fresh agnolotti, thrilled by an unexpected supply of spring garlic, the onion-like bulbs that are here one day and gone the next, straight from Loxahatchee and sold to her this very morning.
Grenier purées the garlic, which has a nutty taste, to fill the tiny ravioli, whose dough she hand-machine-cranked and then cut into several hundred rectangles. Later, she’ll create a light sauce using Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds that have been purposefully collecting in the walk-in refrigerator. Tonight she will feature the agnolotti, with in-season peas, carrots and beets, as an appetizer.
As she cooks, Grenier describes how she loves taking ingredients “that are a little bit weird” and making them “approachable, understandable and delicious.”
Her drive to perpetually sniff out new challenges led to her being named executive chef last October at 3030 Ocean, South Florida’s 17-year-old temple to elegantly prepared and presented Florida seafood. The 33-year-old Grenier is just the third chef at the oceanfront restaurant.
Now she’s building on its reputation for serving the freshest and most approachable seafood dishes on Florida’s East Coast. “Growing up” at 3030, Grenier learned that sustainable seafood is caught or farmed to maintain the long-term health of the species and the waters in which they live. At the helm of 3030, she expands her list of sustainable ingredients to include meat and produce.
3030 is where Grenier began her career, but it’s also the restaurant she walked away from when she felt like she’d hit a professional plateau years ago.
“I wanted to keep cooking in Florida, but I needed to get some other experience,” Grenier explains. “I really wanted to go to another food city, but I didn’t like the cold. So I chose Los Angeles.”
It was gutsy and gut-wrenching to move across the country to California to get the experience she thought was mandatory for her long-term success. Grenier aced a job interview for Gordon Ramsay’s The London West Hollywood by answering a question about making fish stock, which she’d learned at 3030.
“I was an entry-level cook. They had me doing really tedious things that go into Michelin meal–making,” she recalls.
But the hard work and the relocation risk paid off—she was swiftly promoted to the fish station. In Ramsay’s space, she enhanced her respect for fresh ingredients and fully actualized into a chef who never stops learning, experimenting and taking culinary chances.
After The London West Hollywood, Grenier spent a few months cooking at a cozy beach restaurant, where she picked up influences from small California farmers.
“I learned a lot living in California,” she says. “Eventually, every single day, I went to a farmers’ market. I had a schedule.
I knew which market was where. I talked to farmers every day.”
Grenier can’t recall the exact moment when she realized she wanted to be a chef. But she does remember her earliest forays in the kitchen growing up in Hollywood, Fla., with her brother, Derek, and mom, Margaret, who was a Delta flight attendant. Margaret’s career rubbed off on Derek, who spent 15 years in the Air Force and is now a pilot for Delta. But having a single working mom impacted Grenier’s future in a different way.
“My mom would choose trips where she could be home in the evening to make dinner,” says Grenier. “Her food was pretty bland, so I would always try to jazz it up a little.”
At age 10, she was adding cheese to Mom’s mashed potatoes and doctoring steamed vegetables with homemade vinaigrette.
When not experimenting with condiments from her family’s fridge, Grenier spent her childhood with her mom and Derek, waterskiing on the nearby Intracoastal and snorkeling in the ocean. Eventually she moved to Tallahassee to earn a degree in food science and nutrition from Florida State University.
“When I was in college at Florida State, I would go flounder gigging. You use a flashlight to find them and then gig [or spear] them,” Grenier recalls.
But rather than pursue a career in nutritional counseling, the adventurous brunette set her sights on the tall white toque.
She didn’t know a soul in the restaurant business, so she immersed herself in the culinary program at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale. She started in September 2005, and by December, she was so impressive that her instructors
recommended she apply for a job at 3030, which has a close relationship with the school.
“I went to school in the morning from 7 a.m. to noon,” she says, never one to shy away from a challenge. “I took a nap in my car for an hour and went to work until midnight. I did that five nights a week.”
Fueled by ambition, she admits that she had a lot to learn about professional kitchens.
“I didn’t know what I was doing, so I was doing whatever they told me to do,” she says. “It took a while for me to put it together. Then I moved along pretty quickly.”
After acing culinary school, Grenier continued to work long hours at 3030. She appreciates her two executive chef predecessors, Paula DaSilva and Dean James Max, for their forward thinking and commitment to using only fresh, sustainable local seafood.
When she first returned home from California six years ago, the South Florida farm-to-table ethos was in its infancy, but Grenier knew how to cook with whatever fresh seasonal ingredient showed up in the day’s market haul, and she wanted to promote that style of eating. Grenier has “a huge sense of creativity about food,” DaSilva says. “She was always somebody great to bounce ideas off of.”
DaSilva also admired Grenier’s kitchen demeanor, likening her to “a parent who’s really nice, but lets it be known—without raising her voice” should you let her down. This tempered straightforwardness serves Grenier well.
“These days, you can’t just know how to cook anymore,” DaSilva says. “You have to know how to organize a kitchen and have a staff that respects you.”
In the summer of 2015, after a short-lived stint at 1500 Degrees in Miami Beach and a winning turn on Food Network’s Chopped, Grenier was back at 3030 Ocean, running the entire kitchen as executive chef.
Since taking over, Grenier has found even more sources for the local ingredients that elevate her cooking. She has proclaimed her passion for using Florida’s freshest foods, like spiny lobster, calabaza (which is a type of squash) and coconut.
As the head of a restaurant with a respected seafood legacy, Grenier doesn’t like being asked what’s “changed” at 3030.
“I don’t think of it as changing what has been done in the past,” she says. “It’s about carrying on a vision, looking at it with a different set of eyes. The seafood is super fresh. It’s paired with ingredients that complement rather than distract.”
Her menu features hogfish ceviche with Florida citrus and jalapeño, as well as crispy whole local snapper with pork fried black rice, bok choy and sesame Thai chili sauce.
With a menu that gets tweaked almost daily, dishes come and go. Even after 11 hard-laboring years in the food industry, logging 70-hour workweeks, Grenier still channels the natural curiosity of her creative youth and mixing flavors in her mother’s cozy kitchen.
“I still love food,” she says. “I still love being inspired by ingredients and eating and trying.”
See our blog post for recipes by Adrienne Grenier, 3030 Ocean.
Also find recipe for grilled ribeye with garlic yucca and black garlic truffle butter.