Flavor Palette Ponte Vedra: Meet Chef Tom McDonough

IMG_2386By Gwinn Volen

A new restaurant, Flavor Palette, is coming to Ponte Vedra Beach! Like many of you, I am always giddy when I hear about new food choices coming our way. Not that I don’t love our local standbys, but a little variety never hurts.

I spoke with the Philadelphia raised chef and owner Tom McDonough recently about his new restaurant which is set to open in early 2016. His passion is clear, and I love the unique twist he brings to sandwiches on his menu.

Flavor Palette will be located next to Brucci’s in the Mangrove’s space (Mangrove’s is now all catering).

Here’s a bit about Tom, his background and how he got jiggy with Will Smith.

What is your favorite thing about PVB and the Beaches?

It is sooo hard just to name one! The first thing that hit home with me was the landing site of Ponce de Leon in the GTM reserve. I am a history nut and this was the first ignitor of our countries development. Just wow! Factoring in how committed the community is to protecting wild life and nature is something that is super important to me. The area is magical!

That part being said I am astounded by the business to business support and how gracious your community has been to me!

What made you decide to move here and open a restaurant?

My mother moved to St Augustine 2 years ago. From the first time I stepped foot in this area I instantly fell in love and wanted to raise my young daughter and son here. I have been turning down investors for years for opening my own spot because I am an all or nothing guy, and my big picture vision of where I wanted to live wasn’t in Philadelphia. On my last vacation in August of this year, I answered an ad for a restaurant that was for sale. As I came into Ponte Vedra it just instantly felt right! All the pieces started to fall into place and fast!

Tell us a little about you background?

I started cooking in Philadelphia sandwich shops a little over 18 years ago. I attended culinary school at “The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College.”   Since then, I’ve run my own catering kitchen. I’ve worked as a sous chef for one of my culinary school teachers at his very large high end catering business. I’ve cooked in a Hilton hotel as the executive sous chef, and worked with a friend of mine at a Greek/French/ Asian fusion restaurant. I eventually took the reigns as the executive chef at the Hilton and became their Corporate Executive Chef overseeing a restaurant, catering service and a school food service. After four years of being CEC, the amount of hours started to wear on me, and then my daughter was born. At that time, I made the conscience decision that quality of life was a more important goal that just career, and I switched gears to become a private chef for a family.  Enjoying this new found freedom, I continued building a strong client-base. I never truly learned to relax, but I did learn how to schedule things in such a way to keep life balanced. From there I made the decision to move my family to beautiful St. John’s County!

What might people like know about you and your business?

What makes my concept standout is beyond our signature items is the “create your own masterpiece” option, where the diner will take their custom sandwich to the “flavor station,” our condiment bar with sauces and toppings from around the world.

I am a jack of all trades in the kitchen and will make most of my product from scratch and will source as much as possible locally.

What are your hobbies?

Chef Tommy and his Kids

Chef Tommy and his Kids

I love ancient history, astronomy, fishing and spending as much time possible with my kids and family.

If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why?

Tricky question.. Alive or dead.. If it had to be one I would say Alexander the great ( although the language barrier would make things awkward lol) I just find his story fascinating. He was a pupil of Aristotle, amassed one of the largest empires in written history by the age of thirty, never lost a battle, and created a cultural diffusion.

What was your favorite subject in school?

World history

What is your favorite football team?

I’m embarrassed to admit it this year, but the Philadelphia Eagles

What is your favorite book?

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Favorite and least favorite trend in your business?

My favorite is how the public is demanding transparency of what they are consuming. My least favorite is the overwhelming chain restaurant stronghold.

If you can change one thing about Ponte Vedra and the beaches, what would it be? Absolutely nothing! It is perfectly charming just the way it is! 😉

Last time you laughed out loud uncontrollably? And why?

Last week.. I must have been deliriously tired, but I was watching a movie and a characters name was Mike Pancake… For whatever reason as silly as it sounds every time I heard his name I would loose it..

Your suggestion for a Ponte Vedra mascot?

Ponce de Leon swinging a golf club

Any other details you’d like to share?

This summer I was lucky enough to do catering function for and meet Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff.

Be sure to like the Flavor Palette Facebook page. Follow it to get the latest on the upcoming opening!


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