Hogfish, late-night karaoke and a “magnet” of interesting people welcomed Food Network host Curtis Stone to Key West.
The New York Times best-selling cookbook author visited the southernmost city for the first time as part of his new six-episode Food Network series, Beach Eats USA, which premiered Wednesday night.
The show, which emphasizes good eating along the water, also features locations such as Corpus Christi, Texas, and Huntington Beach, California.
“It’s such a remote place, it really is closer to Cuba than mainland Florida,” Stone told The Keynoter by phone from Australia.
The native Aussie visited Hot Tin Roof, The Fish Camp and Turtle Kraals as part of the show. To choose the restaurants, Stone sought out suggestions from his social media followers for local hotspots. He then created a short list before talking to restaurants and chefs.
“We wanted it all to feel very genuine,” Stone said.
His Key West feast included chicken tacos, pink peel and eat shrimp, catfish and his first hogfish sandwich. Stone particularly liked the ceviche at Turtle Kraals, which features the traditional Peruvian base leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk, which incorporates onions and cilantro.
“Best ceviche I’ve ever eaten,” Stone said. “It’s almost like this cloudy milk.”
Stone called Florida Keys cooking simple, sort of a mirror to his popular Beverly Hills restaurant, Maude, a high-end joint where a single ingredient becomes a multi-course meal. Travel + Leisure rated Maude, named after his grandmother, as one of the best new restaurants for 2015.
According to Stone, you constantly learn when seeing things through a different set of eyes: “For me, sometimes a great fish taco or an incredible burger is just as good as something high-end and refined.”
Outside of filming, Stone made time to do late-night, Duval Street karaoke. Some locals even cooked for him in their home.
“It’s such a different way of life down there. There’s a lot of transplants as well,” Stone said.
Beach Eats USA airs at 10:30 p.m. Wednesdays on Food Network. Key West spots are featured on next week’s episode, as well as on Aug. 26.