Come on out to the Fernandina Beach Market Place on April 29th and wish local celebrity, Felix, a happy birthday! Felix, also known as the Peanut Man, comes to the farmers market every Saturday to play his harmonica and sell his pineapples and boiled peanuts. Traveling on his famous blue trike, Felix arrives each week with a basket full of News-Leaders, mangos, and Felix-branded hats and T-shirts. Nana Teresa’s will be providing the birthday cake and music will be by the popular Alain Lelait. Felix’s family has encouraged pitch-in dishes, and the Market Place is providing party favors. One year, the Mayor of Fernandina Beach even proclaimed April 29th as Felix Jones Day.
We also encourage you to meet the chefs at the farmers market. With nearly 40 vendors on display this week, several of those delightful treats you find are prepared by culinary experts. Here is a little about a few of those chefs.
John Thomas, of Me, Myself, and Pies, has always known he was a chef. “I started cooking before high school. I attended a culinary institute in St. Augustine and interned at the Holiday Inn at the airport, and then worked at various restaurants throughout the town.” When his mother became ill, John needed he needed a job with more regular hours. He found a position at one of the area’s prominent healthcare providers. “I help people from all over the world… I’m pretty busy!” But even with a 9 to 5 job, John never stopped cooking professionally. “People always wanted my food, no matter what I cooked. People would tell me, ‘Man, you ought to open up a restaurant.'” There wasn’t any doubt John would eventually open a business involving food, and he knew exactly what kind of food. “Down home comfort food! I went through my mother’s and my grandmother’s recipes and I told my mother that if I ever did something commercially that used her recipes, she would have to approve of it. My mother has always been my biggest taste tester.” John and Carol Thomas started their pie company, Me, Myself and Pies, three years ago, and although he cooks his family’s recipes, he’s also trained to handle changing dietary demands. “We still do comfort food — a lot of butter and sugar. But I also have recipes for diabetic and gluten-free diets. We use Splenda and other sweeteners, and go all-natural to meet dietary needs of customers. Your taste buds must be right on point. I’m so grateful to culinary school for teaching me that. It’s a challenge, but it’s fun.” Me, Myself and Pies is run from a commercial kitchen in Five Points, although they sell most of what John cooks at the farmers market in Fernandina Beach.
Tanzanian born Chef Ibrahim, of African Love Kitchen, began his culinary experience working back in Tanzania with his mother and grandmother in the kitchen in his mother’s restaurant at a very young age. There he learned the essentials of cooking and the flavors of different spices and foods. Ibrahim then took his love for flavors and cultural food experiences and opened a catering company and Tanzanian restaurant for over four years. Ibrahim now puts his passion for cooking into his mobile kitchen. His variations of different foods takes your taste buds on a journey thru his culture. Ibrahim has a passion for flavor and loves to share it with everyone.
Catering by Liz is one of Jacksonville’s most sought-after full service catering firms and has designed and orchestrated some of the city’s finest culinary events. Founded by restaurateur and longtime Jacksonville resident Chef Liz Grenamyer, Catering by Liz has grown from a small company executing 25 to 30 events a year to a company that handles 600 to 800 events per year, gracefully. Their team of talented professionals are experienced in delivering fine cuisine, extravagant décor and extraordinary service. In addition to catering, they also offer an event venue, Bella Sera, and a gourmet take out and specialty food store, Bottega by Liz Grenamyer. Catering by Liz is also dedicated to giving back to the community through the support of local non profits, particularly those benefitting children, animals and the environment.
Chef Brian Grimley, of Lulu’s at the Thompson House, was born in the west country of England and moved to America over 25 years ago. His influences exhibit a southern bias with his love of the cuisine of New Orleans and Charleston. While Brian and his wife Melanie love providing the personnel touches of a smaller restaurant like Lulu’s, they are excited to be opening a larger, full service restaurant on Amelia Island later this year.
April 29th will also be the last market Steephill will be taking special orders for their Vermont syrups. A once a month exhibitor, their final, seasonal market is scheduled for May 27, 2017.
The farmers market will be closed, Saturday, May 6th, for the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival.