By: Kathy L. Collins
In recent years, the Tampa area has seen a growth in great, independent restaurants with talented chefs serving delicious food. Among those great chefs is Greg Baker, who along with his wife and business partner Michelle, own and operate The Refinery and Fodder & Shine located in the Seminole Heights area of Tampa.
Chef Baker’s talents have been recognized nationally. He has been nominated for a James Beard Award five times. The Refinery was a Best New Restaurant semifinalist in 2011, and Baker has been a Best Chef nominee and semifinalist for the South in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The James Beard Award is like the Oscars of the food world. The James Beard Foundation Awards were established in 1990. The awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement, and emphasizes the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage. James Beard was an American cookbook author, teacher, columnist and television personality. He essentially brought French cooking to the American middle and upper classes in the 1950’s. His home in New York’s Greenwich Village is North America’s only historic culinary center.
Chef Baker said of the distinction of being a James Beard nominee, “It is wonderful to have the recognition of one’s peers. However, we cook for our customers, not for the accolades.”
Baker, who was born and raised in Clearwater, began cooking in high school. He graduated from Oregon’s Western Culinary Institute in 1988. Baker said, “After returning from culinary school, I settled in Seminole Heights, which was ground zero for Tampa’s creative class, musicians, scenesters, and the like. After several comings and goings from Tampa, my wife/business partner, Michelle, and I settled in Seminole Heights again and launched The Refinery in the neighborhood that we love.”
Baker added, “While working the line at an upscale French restaurant about 20 years ago, it dawned on me that good food should be made available to everyone, not just the well-heeled patrons who can afford it. So I founded The Refinery on the principle that good food is a necessity, not a right. We focus on serving elevated food at prices that don’t break the bank utilizing only high-quality and ethically-produced ingredients.” The Refinery has been a hit and success ever since it opened.
In an effort to pay homage to the cuisine of the south, Baker opened Fodder & Shine. According to Baker, “Fodder & Shine is a Southern Public House that aims to pay homage to the food and drink ways of the South. The menu, put together by myself and Chef de Cuisine Eric McHugh, presents our interpretations of simple, just plain good, Southern classics. There are nods to Florida Cracker found in regional favorites like cornmeal fried chicken, biscuits, ham and butter ‘sammichs’, and our version of pot roast – they all sound simple, but we put in hours of work to make sure they’re unexpectedly complex – and the best versions you’ve ever had.”
Fodder & Shine is about more than just good food and drink. Baker said, “We obviously hold those to a high standard, but like Southern Public Houses have always been, Fodder & Shine is made for guests to hang out and stay a while. The space is comfortable. There’s entertainment, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, cocktail classes, live music and trivia on the weekends. We offer an entirely local beer list, selected by certified Cicerone Eric McKinney, and a cocktail list that encompasses old school classics, as well as some new creations by Spiritual Advisor and Bar Director Kamran Mir. It’s a comfortable neighborhood bar enhanced by delicious food.”
Fodder & Shine is located at 5910 N. Florida Ave. For more information, please visit www.fodderandshine.com. The Refinery is located at 5137 N. Florida Ave. For more information, please visit www.thetamparefinery.com.