Chef Michael Bennett of Surf and Turf Market in Belleair Bluffs displays the new layout featuring a large central island with a demonstration kitchen on one end. Also shown is a produce truck, which will be used for displaying fresh fruits and vegetables. A café is included in the new design.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS – A sluggish economy is not stopping one local business from moving ahead with a major renovation.
Surf and Turf Market on West Bay Drive in Belleair Bluffs is undergoing a complete makeover, in both physical appearance and concept.
“Everything you see is going to change. It is going to be a brand new store,” promised Chef Michael Bennett.
Between February and May, customers will see a stage-by-stage transformation of the meat, produce and gourmet food market into a total meal preparation center, Chef Michael said. The emphasis will be on inventive, tasty, healthier foods and methods of preparation, using local ingredients, organic where possible. Customers will be coached on the art of cooking, with all the ingredients at hand, or be able to select packaged home meal replacements, ready to grab and go.
“Local” is the key operating word behind the concept, and Chef Michael used the term repeatedly in describing his plans. Locally raised and harvested produce, available seasonally, will come “right out of the farm.” Local seafood catches and Florida-raised meat will be featured.
Meal and wine tastings and an in-house cafe will contribute to a communal setting where locals can meet, visit, shop and eat.
“We want people to experience the art of cooking, and make it enjoyable,” Chef Michael said. “There’s the social aspect as well – come in, see your friends here. Taste the food we’re specializing in, try it, like it, and learn all about it.”
The centerpiece of the new architecture will be a demonstration kitchen and open grill where people can pick up food, talk to the chef, and learn the how’s and why’s of food preparation. A goal, Chef Michael said, is to “make everybody’s life a little easier at home.” Open grill hours will be expanded to noon-7 p.m. daily, he said.
Kiosks are planned where customers can taste foods, learn how to cook them, and get all the ingredients to make it work.
The focus will be on food that is tasty, but good for you, he said. That includes healthier choices with less fat and a lot less cholesterol.
The current large selection of wines and cheeses “is only going to get better,” Chef Michael promised. Customers will see wine and food pairings, and learn which wines go best with what foods.
Right now, before the renovation construction begins, Chef Michael and his assistants are revamping the food selection. An ongoing array of new dishes is being created and prepared for customers to try.
“We’re introducing new things, testing out new dishes every day, and getting feedback on what people like,” he said.
The renovation work is scheduled to begin in early February, with completion in May, coinciding with the Surf and Turf Market’s fifth anniversary in Belleair Bluffs. The store will remain open during construction, with the actual work being done off-hours and behind temporary walls so customer impact will be minimized.
A name change for the operation will be coming too, Chef Michael said, to one more fitted to its new role in the community.
Scott and Janis Swanson, seasonal residents from Chicago, recently discovered the Surf and Turf Market, and were making a return visit. After tasting samples of a pork ragout and tiramisu being introduced by Chef Michael, both agreed, “We love it.”
“They have the best quality, real restaurant quality food,” said Scott. “We plan to be back several times a week,” added Janis.