Growing up with an appreciation for food passed down from generations of cooks and chefs, I first met Chef Nikhil Abuvala when he was just twelve. Alongside his Indian grandmother who was visiting America, he helped prepare an authentic Indian dinner in his home for both of our families.
We had received the invitation when my husband and Chef Abuvala’s father became acquainted at our sons 8th birthday party, as the pair reminisced about food culture, specifically the Indian cuisine that had captured my husband’s taste buds when he was serving as the physician to the ambassador of London.
By the age of thirteen, and several invitations to dine later, I had the pleasure of seeing Chef Abuvala in his element, not only as a young cook, but as a consummate host and entertainer, skills that came naturally to him as both of his parents excelled in this area.
When Chef Abuvala expressed an interest in sushi making, I mentioned that chef Dan Pettis, a cooking mentor to our children at the Seaside Neighborhood School, had also began sushi making at a similar young age under the tutelage of Tim Creehan at Beach Walk Café in Destin. Within the month, the forward-thinking teen was in an apprenticeship at the restaurant.
Upon high school graduation, Chef Abuvala heeded the call that lured him away to attend culinary school in Miami, but once enrolled he felt he already had mastered many of the skills that were being taught, having garnered a vast amount of knowledge from his upbringing. He craved hands on experience and found it under the care of Dean James Max, renown for culinary consulting, and his award-winning farm to table restaurants.
Driven by Max and his chefs de cuisines, Paula D’aSilva and Jeremy Ford, Chef Abuvala developed an understanding of the authenticity of food and the respect for eating it.
“My love of cooking has been with me as early as I can remember, standing in a chair rolling out fresh Indian flatbreads with my grandmother on a counter too tall for me to reach otherwise. The way she moved about the kitchen, like a general of an army commanding spices and herbs sparked a passion for food in me that is unmatched,” explained Chef Abuvala.
That passion and his love for the Gulf Coast brought Chef Abuvala home to South Walton in the spring of 2013 to open Roux 30A, a cozy and intimate 954 square-foot space in Grayton Beach. Abuvala has created a symbiotic relationship between the local farmers and fisherman on the plates presented, with a menu that is constantly evolving to keep current with seasonal availability.
“We attract a lot of locals. Our dining space is just 34 seats but feels larger as the whole place is an open kitchen. It’s a new level of transparency,” said Abuvala.
The open-air venue allows Abuvala to create his seaside inspired modern cuisine in the state of the art kitchen, interacting with guests who eagerly await their next presentation. Roux 30A has already garnered a loyal following that know to check Facebook and Instagram for the next pop-up lunch or dinner, or to reserve a coveted seat at the Around the World-themed monthly dinners where Chef Abuvala highlights cuisines from particular countries on his multi course menu.
Sunday brunch is offered weekly at Roux 30A where you might find a Croque Madame made with Grayton’s own Black Bear Bakery sourdough, topped with smoked honey ham, gruyere, cheese, a fried local farm egg, and béchamel sauce. Abuvala explained, “We’ve had a lot of success with our Sunday Brunch, but I’m really excited about and focused on my newest venture, Nanbu which means Southerner in Japanese. It’s a Noodle Bar located at The Shops of Grayton. We will make ramen, noodle and poke bowls, hand made dumplings, and have vegetarian, and gluten free options. It’s a word of mouth restaurant, no reservations, like nothing else around, and is going to be beautiful!”
Roux 30A is located at 114 Logan Lane in Suite 1 A in Grayton Beach. The culinary experience extends beyond the restaurant. Chef Abuvala offers in home meal preparation, cooking classes and catering. To learn more, visit Roux 30A online at www.roux30a.com, or to make a reservation call (850) 213-0899. For information on Nanbu (opening winter 2018) located at 26 Logan Lane Unit C, visit www.nanbunoodlebar.com .