Chef Jim Shirley
2015 The Bay

Chef Jim Shirley co-owns The Fish House and Atlas Oyster House in Pensacola, Florida, as well as Great Southern Café and The Meltdown on Highway 30A at Seaside, Florida. At the southern foot of the U.S. Highway 331 bridge over Choctawhatchee Bay is his most recent South Walton sensation: The Bay.
But Shirley is more than a great restaurateur, he’s a great chef. That’s why Governor Rick Scott chose him to represent Florida in the Cook-Off. “He is incredibly dedicated to his craft,” Scott said.
After all, he is one of the five distinguished Pensacola Celebrity Chefs who have been invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City. Shirley has been invited four times.
“As a native Floridian, it is truly an honor to represent our great state by sharing a signature dish that features Florida seafood," Shirley said. I have built my career around some of the Sunshine State’s most unique flavors and am proud to cook with fresh regional ingredients each day. I look forward to the competition and can’t wait to showcase what Florida has to offer.”
His cookbook, Good Grits! Southern Boy Cooks is a compilation of his best recipes along with entertaining stories from his Good Grits! column once featured in the Pensacola News Journal.
Shirley, with a collection of great young chefs at his side, has cooked up something entirely new with The Bay restaurant. His menu captures classic Southern coastal flavors, but he brings in international influences as only he can—with his uncanny, intuitive ability to meld flavors creatively. As the son of a Navy pilot who was stationed all around the world, Jim learned to enjoy a variety of foods from many cultures. But he always goes back to his roots—his grandmothers’ traditional Southern cooking.
He uses Southern accents with great skill and spirit, traveling far afield to graze and glean, absorb culinary ideas, select fine wines and look for pockets of sustainable farming practices. As a Pensacola native, Shirley uses his knowledge of local waters and his families’ farming histories to promote New Ruralism, a movement to champion sustainable agriculture and sustainable fishery practices at the urban edge.