Nestled within the AAA-Four Diamond WaterColor Inn & Resort is the award winning, fine dining restaurant, Fish Out Of Water. Overlooking the stunning emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it sets a glamorous scene for enjoying the delectable fare offered by Executive Chef Brian Murray and team.
Murray grew up in Connecticut with parents that immigrated from Ireland to live the American dream, and joyfully says, “My parents separately left Ireland for London, met each other there, and were married. My father bought tickets for a trip to America, and after departure, my mother found out they were one-way!”
Murray’s parents may have come with little, but built a great life as his mother became a registered nurse and father an agriculturalist with a primary focus in horticulture. Murray says, “ My father was a terrific gardener and grew our family’s fresh produce. My mother is a great baker and still makes the best Irish soda bread and brown bread.”
A series of restaurant summer jobs as a teen peaked his interest in the culinary world, and held his attention. Murray says, “I loved the intensity and comradery.”
He attended culinary school in Providence, Rhode Island at Johnson and Whales University, and landed his first job as a cook at the Ocean Grand in Palm Beach-a Four Seasons Hotel, where he picked up Southern and Caribbean influences of cooking. Murray says, “I had not worked with fresh mango, papaya, or Florida avocados. It was an incredible place to learn and we had no budget.”
With most of his family still rooted in Ireland, Murray took some time off for a visit, and set his sights on London as well. While traveling, he received a call from a good friend and chef working in New Orleans about an opportunity he should not pass up.
It was the summer of 1994, when Murray went to work under Emeril Lagasse at Emeril’s Restaurant in New Orleans, but his career came to a halt as he was diagnosed with cancer, a rare form of lymphoma on his 30th birthday. Fortunately the cancer was highly treatable, and with chemotherapy, Murray says, “I am a proud cancer survivor!”
He continued his work under Lagasse opening a series of restaurants where he held key positions, but after eleven years longed to return to the Gulf Coast where he and his wife wanted to raise their family and enjoy beach life.
He accepted the position of Executive Sous Chef at WaterColor Inn & Resort, and with more than twenty years of experience in the culinary industry was recently appointed to the position of Executive Chef. Murray oversees all culinary operations throughout the resort including the award winning Fish Out of Water, the Gathering Spot and Sushi Bar, the Beach Club Grill, banquets, and catering.
Murray says, “If you are going to be in this business, you have to have a great work ethic and feed off each other as a team. I had great mentors and teachers that took an interest in me. I was the guy that came in early and stayed late to learn new techniques, and how to do it right the first time.”
Murray brings to WaterColor Inn & Resort his skills and knowledge to create a Southern yet elegant showcase for the local fishermen and farmers.
Murray says, ”One of the most popular seasonal dishes at Fish Out Of Water is the grouper with corn pudding. The black grouper is line-caught and we use local summer sweet yellow corn.”
With a strong background in American regional cuisine, he enjoys working with the Gulf Coast’s freshest seafood and produce. A true farm to table approach has defined his style of cooking. Murray says, “we procure the best local ingredients, treat them well, prepare them simply, and that is the approach. The ingredients speak for themselves, and there is no hidden agenda in the food. If it is not good we just won’t use it!”
WaterColor Inn & Resort is a premier luxury destination located at 34 Goldenrod Circle in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, 32459. You can reach them by phone at (850) 534-5000, or for reservations call (866) 426-2656.
Susan Benton is the owner of 30AEATS.com where she shares her passion for food and travel, and her commitment to promoting local fisherman, farmers, chefs, artisans, and restaurants along the Gulf Coast.