One on One with Chef Sol Shenker of Bridges Restaurant in Sarasota
When you think of the best chefs in the Sarasota area, there are a few predictable restaurants that usually get mentioned. But there is an unsung hero cooking for as many out-of-towners as local residents.
That’s because Executive Chef Sol Shenker is eight stories up at Bridges Restaurant in the Embassy Suites. This is a guy who loves his work—and it shows. He likes to come out and meet his guests, talk it up and it all began decades ago on Long Island.
Erin and I recently enjoyed a great staycation at Embassy Suites at the foot of Fruitville Road and had a chance to sit down with Chef Sol Shenker and find out how he got here:
Where are you from?
Great Neck, Long Island, NY.
How did you first get interested in cooking?
When I was 15. My mother was a great cook and she encouraged me to help in the kitchen. We had to feed a large family.
So then when was your first paying job in a kitchen?
It wasn’t as a cook. I started off washing dishes and then moved up to help prep (meals).
Besides opening Bridge Restaurant in 2018, what was your previous career highlight?
My biggest executive chef job was for Valley Ski Resorts in Breckenridge, Colorado.
What famous people have you served?
Jim Belushi, Christopher Walken, Joan Rivers.
How did you wind up in Sarasota?
My parents moved to Siesta Key, and I eventually followed suit in 2000. It all began to happen for me in Sarasota when I opened the kitchen at Hotel Indigo in 2011.
Why do you like to cook?
I like seeing people light up when they eat my food, and it’s a good creative outlet.
What do you most like to cook?
Cheesecake, deli and creating new seafood-based dishes.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to be a chef?
It’s hard in the beginning and it’s hard in the end, but if you have the thick skin to do it, keep at it.
(Ray Collins has been published over a hundred times, covering hotels and restaurants from coast to coast. He’s also a Realtor, video producer, media consultant and elected official.)
Photos from Ray Collins