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In The Kitchen with Bret Thorn

Okan Kizilbayir focuses on seafood at Salt restaurant on Amelia Island in Florida

The Turkish chef draws inspiration from local products and his own background


Okan Kizilbayir has been the chef de cuisine of Salt at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island in Florida for almost a year now, but he has been cooking with seafood for decades.

Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, from a family of cooks, he grew up on great fish and shellfish from the Mediterranean as well as the Black Sea.

Not long after culinary school in Turkey he ended up getting hired at a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C., and then went on to work at Blue at the Ritz-Carlton, where he came under the mentorship of Eric Ripert.

After nine years on Grand Cayman, Kizilbayir ended up moving to the New York City area to work at Ripert’s flagship restaurant, Le Bernardin. Now he is using his knowledge and connections from there in his current job, as well as befriending new suppliers in the South.

He recently discussed his approach to sourcing and preparing seafood, from caviar to sea bass, including cooking fish with beeswax. He also discussed Salt’s special Hook, Line & Supper meal, which includes a fishing expedition as well as dinner for $2,000 per couple.  

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

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