Scotty Schwartz, executive chef at the Surf Club in Wrightsville Beach and owner of El Jefe in Jacksonville, became interested in cooking at a young age by helping his mother in the kitchen. He entered the University of Georgia intending to focus on psychology and Spanish literature but soon realized that, for him, cooking was more than a hobby. His change of career plans led him to the School of Culinary Arts in Atlanta, where he graduated valedictorian. As a student, he apprenticed at Carbos Café, one of Atlanta’s oldest fine dining establishments, and it was there that he gained an appreciation for the finer side of the culinary arts. “I became passionate about food and this passion has provided the drive that has led me to success,” Schwartz says.
Early in his career, Chef Schwartz’s culinary accomplishments included serving as executive chef at many of Atlanta’s best restaurants, as food stylist for National Pork Producers Council during the 1995 World Expo, and as a featured chef during the 1996 Olympic Games festivities. In 1998, he was ranked by Gourmet magazine as one of the top 25 chefs in Atlanta, and he also was featured on "ABC World News Tonight" in a report about cultural tourism. In 2004, Chef Schwartz cooked for the James Beard House and Foundation as chef for the American Express Celebrity Chefs Tour. Throughout his career, Schwartz has earned several culinary awards and is a member of the prestigious Les Toques Blanches. He was twice awarded Folio Magazine “Best Chef Jacksonville” for 2007 and 2008. The previous year Folio Magazine awarded his former restaurant, 29 South, “Best New Restaurant Jacksonville.” In 2009 29 South was awarded the “Spirit of Slow Food Award” and a “Snail of Approval.” In 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Florida Trend magazine awarded 29 South the coveted “Golden Spoon.” In 2011 his Coffee and Doughnuts dessert was given the title of one of the “South’s 50 Best Dishes” in Garden and Gun magazine. Chef Schwartz served on the International Advisory Board for the Florida Wine Fest as Culinary Chairman. He is also a Co-founder of the Legend Series.
His philosophy about cooking is to “baby” everything. Schwartz says “When it comes to food, everything you smell, touch, or do has to be handled carefully, because one act of carelessness can destroy the final product.” He adds that he always keeps in mind that he is cooking for others and not his ego. “If I start with a perfect product, take care of it, and present it in a way that glorifies it, the least people can expect is something great.”