Chef Andy Hyde is the product of cultures as diverse as Ghana, Germany, and Chicago. Before coming to Naples in 2014, he worked for culinary celebrities such as Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller, and Grant Achatz. “I spent many years shuttling back and forth between my mom in Chicago and my foster family in Germany, and I always wanted to move here permanently,” he says. “It comes down to opportunity: If you want something badly enough in America and work for it, it will happen—provided you’re not afraid to fail.”
The chef was drawn to Naples for numerous reasons. “Naples reminds me of Ghana in many ways,” he explains. “It’s tropical, with a beautiful coastal breeze that I never got in Germany.” During the holiday season, Hyde reflects on how where he is from and where he has lived has influenced his celebratory cuisine. “In Ghana, holiday dishes range from spicy to rich and fatty. There’s lots of fried fish and goat, and cornmeal stewed with palm oil. Germany has fish such as loup de mer (branzino), but you also have game such as goose and rabbit. I’d like to do African dishes such as spinach stew or German versions such as red cabbage stew, and I’m working on a fusion dish of a fried plantain dessert stuffed with goose liver.”
His 30-seat, chef-driven restaurant, Hyde N Chic, opened last November. Read our Q&A with Hyde below. (hydenchicrestaurant.com)
NI: Can you explain your concept of “New Immigrant Cuisine?”
Hyde: It’s all about the trend of how America absorbs its immigrants into the culture. Fifty years ago, they were mostly European, so the restaurants tended to be French and Italian. Now you’re seeing people like me from different backgrounds, and the cuisine reflects places like Africa, South America, and Asia. I had the chance to grow up in many different worlds, and I’ve always had to migrate to different cultures and adapt to them.
What challenges do you face as a Black chef in America?
The real challenge was in the mindset of being an entrepreneur. If you believe people will be against you because of your skin color, that’s probably what you’ll get. But if you’re aware of who you are and are true to yourself, it all works out. If someone wanders into my restaurant with no prior knowledge of the place, they wouldn’t necessarily know it was run by a Black chef. My job is to make people happy. When you see the gleam of joy in a customer’s eyes, it’s all worth it.
If you hadn’t become a chef, what would you be?
Either a pilot or a diplomat. Every single night when I was a kid, I’d look into the sky for planes. As far as becoming a diplomat, I love different languages and cultures. Most of the schools I attended had a large number of international students. It has always been in my DNA to want to change society or do something for my community.
Describe some of your community involvement.
If you want to make an impact, you have to start with what’s around you. The restaurant sponsors a culinary program with Naples High School, and we have one student, Johnny McWilliams, who’s been working in the kitchen for a year. We close for vacation in August and September, and I sponsor young culinarians to go abroad and work. One of them, Bailey Cisek, spent three months in Germany working in everything from bakeries to Michelin-starred restaurants.
What’s your definition of hospitality?
Being willing to do for others. I said before that my job was making people happy, and there’s nothing more important than that. If you can create that moment of happiness, it’s magical.
What lessons did you learn during the pandemic?
There is never a right time to open a restaurant, but fortunately, we were able to get started before the virus hit. You always have to be willing to adapt and adjust, and you can never really get too comfortable. Above all, work with what you have got and be smart about it—complaining does not get you anywhere.