Celebrity Chefs of South Florida: Curtis Peery of Calaveras Cantina

Although our journey into the culinary world tends to focus on West Palm Beach and South County, there is an amazing food scene developing just to the north as well. No, I’m not talking about Orlando, though our next experience in the world of foodie fun will be happening there this coming weekend. I’m referring to Jupiter.

Located in the Harborside Place development, which has been on the news as of late due to their live music venue, lies Calaveras Cantina. This nearly waterfront restaurant provides visitors with a glimpse into the world of Mexican cuisine that you don’t find everyday.

At it’s helm is Chef Curtis Peery.

How did you get started in the food industry? At age 14, I started working in the restaurant business as a dishwasher. My first employer was my uncle John Horne, the owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Sarasota, Florida. In my 18 years in the restaurant business I’ve worked as a bus person, waiter, bartender and cook/prep cook.

In 2014, I decided to open Calaveras Cantina in my hometown of Jupiter, Florida. Thelocation had what we were looking for and although it was small, our team has made the space work and we are grateful to have such a loyal following!

And, thanks to a wonderful team, our business continues to grow year after year. We continue to offer high-quality, fresh and innovative cuisine. We are also gaining a greater number of repeat customers, which is what every restaurateur strives for! Today we are thankful to be running an amazing restaurant that everyone (including us!) love.

Can you tell us a little more about your restaurant? Calaveras Cantina is a family owned business in the heart of Jupiter, FL. Located in Jupiter’s newest shopping destination, Harbourside, we are known for sexy Mexican cuisine and fresh, handcrafted cocktails. Right now, we have close to 80 employees. I am very proud of our team and how the restaurant has grown. However, what I am most proud of is when I am able to promote a, “line level” employee to management. To me, it’s very gratifying to see someone start a career in a business that I helped create and keep moving up the ranks.

We encourage everyone to visit our website at www.calaverascantina.com , see our menu, and check out our daily and weekly specials. We have some amazing items to offer our visiting and local clientele, an incredible cocktail menu and a delicious brunch that’s a fan favorite on Saturdays and Sundays. Our phone number is 561-320-9661 and we are located at 125 Dockside Circle Jupiter, FL 33147.

What is your philosophy on cooking? Cooking is an art. At Calaveras Cantina we strive to use only the freshest ingredients available. All of our sour mixes and purées are made fresh daily to ensure the most delicious cocktails. Our bartenders spend each morning slicing fresh fruit to uniquely garnish your Watermelon Jalapeno Margarita , and other favorite cocktails. Whenever possible, we source our produce locally. Our avocados come right from the source, Mexico, and help to keep our food authentic. Our most popular menu  item is our savory Guacamole, which is prepared for you tableside by your own personal “Guacamolador”.

Of all the dishes on the current menu, which is your favorite?  My favorite dish is our Chipotle Carne Asada. The dish has our fresh Skirt Steak topped with a Chipotle Cream Sauce, Roasted Farm Vegetables and our Red Rice.  

Are you enjoying your time in Florida? Yes, very much so. I am actually a fifth generation native Floridian, born in Miami and raised in Palm Beach Gardens. I travel quite a bit and am always looking for new opportunities. Florida is home though.

Can you tell us a little bit about your previous experience in fine dining? My experience in fine dining goes back nearly two decades with experience in the restaurant industry, starting my career as a dishwasher at Anna Maria Oyster Bar for my uncle in 1998. Most recently, I was the Vice President of BB King’s Blues Club, where I collected valuable knowledge. I use all of my experiences to ensure guests at Calaveras Cantina recieved attention and cuisine like they would receive in a find in a fine dining restaurant, in our fun and exciting restaurant.

What is the funniest thing to happen to you in your cooking career?  Cooking is always fun but I enjoy playing pranks on our new cooks. I think it’s good for morale. Play pranks on each other keeps things fun in our business. 

I know that many restaurants in South Florida now focus on using more local cuisine. What foods are you planning on highlighting this season?  In terms of local foods, most of our produce is local. We have been able to source local and organic tomatoes for our salsa and corn for our famous roasted street corn. 

More and more chefs in the Palm Beaches have become involved in cooking contests featured on the Food Network. Do you have any interest in that?  We are very involved in off site events and charity events. We just featured our new Ceviche Samurai at the Taste of the Nation event at the Kravis Center. 

What new and exciting plans do you have for your restaurant? We are looking to expand our brand and flavor for delicious food and craft cocktails to a potential new location and/or a new concept. Details are still in the works, but we are very excited about what is to come.   

We’d like to thank Amy Junk of JLM Communications for helping us to get the answers we were looking for, and  Chef Curtis Peery for sharing his passion for cooking with our readers. We look forward to working with him in the future.

If you’re a local chef whose cuisine matches up to the best out there, we’d love to talk to you. Contact us and perhaps you can be the next celebrity chef!