A returning local chef brings a new flair to coastal modern cuisine at Crush Wine Bar By Susan Benton
A returning local chef brings a new flair to coastal modern cuisine at Crush Wine Bar. Alex Naeger was recently welcomed as the executive chef for the restaurant. Naeger brings passion to the plates at Crush and has implemented a new menu that is getting rave reviews. Crush is also excited about the twist Chef Naeger has put on old menu favorites, and the new combinations that pair so well with the extensive wine list.
At lunch, go for the fried oyster BLT with applewood-smoked bacon, braised pork belly and goat cheese topped with a dash of Crystal Hot Sauce remoulade. Or for dinner try the pan-seared black grouper over crawfish risotto in a smoked tomato fume’ with pickled red onions.
Naeger’s travels, as well as his former training, inspire many of the menu creations at Crush. He found his passion for food at an early age. “I was born and raised in Missouri with a mother that worked in the restaurant industry,” he says. “I grew up in that atmosphere and was driven to work with food.”
He pursued his interest and attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Miami, graduating in 2007. “It was a culture shock,” he recalls. “There were millions of people, but I grew into it.” Naeger was an apprentice under his college instructor and mentor Chef Christian Bex, originally from France, who trained under French chef legend Paul Bocuse. Bex was a consultant opening restaurants and developing menus.
Naeger transitioned by taking a position at a French-Creole fine dining restaurant in South Florida, where he established a strong insight for flavor profiles and gained additional culinary experiences in molecular gastronomy, a scientific method of exploring the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking.
He felt at home in Florida but was ready to leave Miami when he landed a position at Vintij Wine Boutique & Bistro in Miramar Beach. “It was a great experience to work under Chef John Jacob,” he says. “I really enjoyed my time there.” He followed that position working under Chef David Cunningham at V Seagrove, and most recently assisted his mentor Chef Bex in opening a Peruvian and Italian fine dining restaurant in Peru.
Thrilled to take charge of the menu, Naeger says he’s happy to be able to showcase his talents and experience at Crush. “I am so fortunate to have free reign of what I want to put on the menu,” he says. “I’ve found my niche.”
Crush is located in the heart of Seaside in Central Square and also offers a happy hour nightly with half-priced wine, sushi and beer from 4-6 p.m. With its welcoming staff and diverse selections of food and wine to choose from, you will want to explore all that Crush has to offer.
Susan Benton is the go to resource for foodies visiting Pensacola to Panama City Beach. She is a food and travel journalist with published articles and photography in many local, regional and national publications. Her website is 30AEATS.com where she writes about the secrets of Gulf Coast food.
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