Food Restaurants
Meet Chef Jason Eccleston
Apr 19, 2016
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Seventeen years ago, Jason Eccleston was working at a fast food franchise cooking French fries. Today, the 33-year-old has worked his way up to the position of executive chef at Itta Bena, a southern-inspired fine dining restaurant located on the second level of Pointe Orlando.

Back in his high school days, Eccleston didn’t realize that preparing food would be his career. He certainly had no designs on becoming an executive chef.

But after starting as a dishwasher at a Red Lobster, he moved up to line cook. The beginnings of a passion for cooking were borne out of that experience, being proud to be part of a team that cooked for 400 guests in a night. He later became a kitchen manager.

But it was taking a few steps back, and learning food preparation, at another Orlando-area upscale restaurant, when the switch was really flipped.

“I started climbing the ladder in that kitchen,” Eccleston said. “It was there that I knew I was going to be a chef for sure.

“I started at the bottom … it was just something that sort of grew on me,” he continued. “After working for a few great chefs and a couple great mentors, it was something I knew that I would eventually want to do.”

Eccleston didn’t exactly follow a traditional path to becoming an executive chef. While he never went to culinary school, there’s a sense of accomplishment and pride in his journey.

“I started at the bottom, and evolved along the way,” Eccleston said. “I try not to let it build my ego too much. But I do know I came from a place where it may not have gone so well for me. A lot of people just do line cooking and they don’t want to do the whole management aspect of it. Coming up the hard way … I do take pride in the way I came up.”

He also takes a great deal of pride in the food he and his team serve at Itta Bena and it shows. He said he really enjoys producing the marvelous flavors on Itta Bena’s fairly simple, yet refined menu.

“Our food is not overly complicated,” Eccleston said. “It’s not saturated in ego. It’s just cooked and prepared with passion, skill and great care. We take our time. It’s a labor of love in the outcome of how the food is presented and how it tastes. We keep it a bit more simple and we come out with food that I think is amazing.”

So, what to try when you visit Itta Bena? Well, it’s probably a good idea to listen to the guy who conducts the orchestra in the kitchen of Orlando’s newest restaurant specializing in great steaks, seafood and hospitality.

“The first thing I say is ‘Scallops and grits,’” Eccleston said. “Right after I got the job here I flew to Memphis (to the original Itta Bena location) for training. The second I tasted the scallops and grits, I was like ‘Oh my God. I can cook this food.’ Our grits are amazing on their own. We put a corn crab cream sauce on them and then these beautiful seared sea scallops. The combination of flavors is uncanny.”

Eccleston’s other suggestion? The duck grilled cheese.

“I always speak volumes about the duck grilled cheese,” Eccleston said. “We do duck and waffles with a duck confit, which is very unique. The chef in Memphis came up with the duck grilled cheese. The combination of the duck, goat cheese and caramelized onions is just a flavor I had never tasted before. I was a bit apprehensive about it. But when I tried it, I was just blown away.”

Other chef-inspired suggestions guaranteed to please include the 16-ounce, bone-in ribeye, an amazing surf and turf and the signature she crab soup. And don’t forget  dessert. The white chocolate bread pudding, chocolate chunk brownie and cobbler of the day are all favorites.

For socializing, a beautiful and inviting copper bar welcomes guests to Itta Bena while the pianist plays nightly. A varied beer and wine selection is complemented by many choices of spirits.

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Andy Seeley

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