By Julia Miller | Photography courtesy of Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House
For creatives, a dream job comes with a little bit of inspiration and a whole lot of freedom. Chef Andi Bell has been fortunate to find this ideal mix not once but twice with the Phillips family in Destin.
Bell’s career, which began with a precocious “Coq au Vin” for his fifth-grade French class potluck, uniquely positioned him to partner with Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House owner Miller Phillips to open the restaurant on the Destin harbor.
“I grew up in a family where everyone liked to cook,” he said. “I’ve always been around cooking – fresh vegetables and fresh fish.”
Bell’s first restaurant experience began at 18 shucking oysters for a seafood restaurant. From there, he knew he wanted to dedicate his career to the restaurant life. He went on to graduate from the Florida Culinary Institute in Palm Beach in his early 20s.
He first came to Destin to work for the Flamingo Cafe, a restaurant owned by Phillips’ parents that stood where Boshamps is today. When it closed in 2003, Bell worked in several restaurants around the area searching for a fit as perfect as the Flamingo Cafe. Never fully satisfied, Bell couldn’t have been more excited when Phillips asked if he was interested in opening a new restaurant on the old sight.
“Hell yea, I’ll do it again,” he said.
They tore apart the whole restaurant and added 200 more seats. They wanted to retain the same concept with a more casual feel. To help shed the fine-dining qualities of Flamingo, Phillips and Bell took away the tablecloths and opened the restaurant up to the harbor.
“We’re dog-friendly and, of course, family friendly,” he said. “There are all kinds of people – the regulars who bring their boats in to the families who saved all year for this trip.”
They added two bars, a tiki bar and a bar on the beach, as well as took advantage of the large, sandy beach area. Food maybe the number one priority, but the restaurant also makes sure their guests are entertained with colorful beach toys, ring toss and corn hole games and comfortable hammocks, so both adults and kids can have fun.
“It’s almost something you have to experience for yourself,” Bell said. “It’s like a really nice fish camp here on the harbor.”
The name of the restaurant comes from Phillips’ sister, Ashley, who combined three labs, BoBo, Otis and Shug, and added Miller’s initials to come up with Boshamps.
For Bell’s kitchen, he is dedicated to two culinary ideas: a scratch kitchen and Gulf-to-table. As the only scratch kitchen in the area, they strive to source all their materials as locally and sustainably as possible.
“Everything is handmade, from cutting vegetables to the sauces. Even my fried baskets,” he said. “The only thing I keep in my freezer is the ice cream.”
There are only about two-to-three hours where no one is at the restaurant — prepping, cooking, serving or cleaning for the 1,300 patron they have a day.
As for Gulf-to-table, Bell actually coined that phrase himself. In the spirit of farm-to-table restaurants, Bell sources his fish every morning. He said a lot of restaurants buy their seafood from wholesalers based in places like Atlanta or Birmingham. While the fish may have originated in the Gulf, they are bought from fishermen, frozen and shipped to warehouses hours away and back again to the restaurants.
All those extra steps, result in larger price tags and a decrease in quality. To avoid this, Bell gets his fish fresh every morning and takes advantage of creating features each day.
“Fresh is the key ingredient,” he said. “Love of food is the other key ingredient.”
As a classically trained chef, he utilizes French techniques while also drawing on the flavor of Southern foods. With Spanish and French roots, he relies on his history with Southern culinary dishes as the inspiration for his current dishes. As such, he avoids foods that are not indigenous, such as salmon and halibut.
As for his favorite dish on the menu, Bell said he enjoys the pan-roasted grouper, with a feta cheese soufflé and tomato jam.
For 20 years, Bell has found his place to thrive at a great location under a great family ownership.
“I worked for the parents, and now I work for the son,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better place to be.”
Boshamps is open seven days a week. During the week, the kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. On weekends, the kitchen stays open until 10 p.m. with live music on Friday and Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. On Sundays, they have live music from 3 to 6 p.m.
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