We Travel for our Taste Buds | A Taste of Northwest Florida with Chef Phil

A telling sign of a good bakery is one that looks used. It's a staple characteristic that shows a lot of TLC went into that baked good you're about to sink your teeth into. And as we scout the scene of Black Bear Bread Co., it's clear we're in for a treat.

Cooking in Florida

"This is Blob, he just celebrated his first birthday," Chef Phil states as he cradles a plastic bin of yeast between his hands. He places the yeast down and starts slicing some freshly baked sourdough, and with a swift motion, he dresses it with butter and a sprinkle of Maldon salt. Oh yes, we're in for a treat.

Chef Phil McDonald is the co-owner of Black Bear Bread Co., the newest artisan bakery, coffee shop and café off Scenic Highway 30-A in Grayton Beach, Florida

A native of Destin, Florida, Chef Phil found his passion for cooking after starting his first restaurant job in the ‘90s as a dishwasher. It was at this job where Chef Phil noticed the difference it makes when using fresh and local produce in a dish. “Fresh produce was rotated out. Farmers were always bringing in fresh ingredients. It was like my grandma used to cook,” he says.

Now the executive chef at Bud & Alley’s Pizza Bar in Seaside and co-owner at Black Bear Bread Co., Chef Phil dined and traveled the country, working alongside the best chefs from California to New York City.

These days you might bump into Chef Phil looking for fresh local ingredients at the Destin Ice Seafood Market or picking figs right off the tree behind Bud & Alley’s. He may even be at the wood-fire oven, where he likes to get his hands in the dough as often as possible. “I need to stay sharp. Because if I don’t, I’ll just become another clipboard chef with a stupid hat on,” he explains. “I love making people happy with my food. There’s nothing more gratifying than that at the end of the day.”

To whet your palate like a local: