Best Chef - 2009
Dean James Max at 3030 Ocean Restaurant
Dean Max plunges into his projects like a surfer making for epic waters. Now in his 40s, he still looks like the farm kid and Treasure Coast wave hound who hauled vegetable crates for his father's produce business. Max moved into the kitchens at 3030 Ocean in 2000 and did something nobody thought possible: He persuaded his corporate overlords at the Marriott to let him source local and seasonal ingredients and put together a menu that celebrates our sandy soils and aquamarine waters in every line. He was so far ahead of the curve that his contemporaries are still flailing to catch up — he shot through our culinary scene like he was riding a big blue wave. Since then, Max has been an unflagging advocate for all things that creep and swim in the ocean, a dedicated member of South Florida's slow food movement. Appearing on the Food Network and at national festivals, flying off to the Bahamas for a day of fishing, showing up at panel discussions and running culinary camps for kids, he's constantly in motion. And yet, stop by 3030 and you'll likely catch him expounding on the assets of a piece of fluke or wahoo to some open-mouthed customer. It goes without saying that the man is a brilliant cook. What makes him a great chef is that he's engineered a gentle shift in the way we look at the sea that surrounds us.