Jim Shirley is co-owner of Great Southern Restaurants, which owns The Fish House, Atlas Oyster House, and The Fish House Deck Bar in Pensacola, Florida, and is co-owner of the Great Southern Café in Seaside, Florida. In keeping with the times, Jim’s latest endeavor, also in Seaside, is a food truck, called The Meltdown on 30A, that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches. For years he wrote a weekly column, “Good Grits!” for the Pensacola News Journal, and now writes on a regular basis for the newspaper’s columns “Chef’s Corner” and “Wine Time.”
Chef Jim is a member of the state board of directors of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) and president of the Northwest Florida Chapter of FRLA, founder and president of the Society of Great Southern Chefs, and a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. As an active community leader, he dedicates time to many charities, including the Children’s Home Society of Florida (a board member of the Western Division), and is a board member of the Autism Society of the Panhandle.
Jim opened his first restaurant, Madison’s Diner, in Pensacola in 1995, opened the Screaming Coyote in 1997, and the Fish House in 1998. His style of cooking is one that he calls modern Southern cuisine. As the son of a Navy pilot who was stationed all around the world, Jim learned to enjoy a variety of cuisines from many cultures. But he always went back to his roots—his grandmothers’ traditional Southern cooking. His expertise is combining different flavors in ways unlike anyone else. He has appeared on the Travel Channel’s show “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.” He was also chosen to go to Washington, D.C., to feature his signature dish, Grits à Ya Ya, in “A Taste of the South” event.
Jim uses Southern accents with great skill and spirit, traveling far afield to graze and glean, absorbing culinary ideas and selecting wines. As a Pensacola native, Chef Jim uses his knowledge of local waters and his families’ farming history to promote the “new ruralism,” a movement to promote sustainable agriculture at the urban edge.
Chef Billy Ballou has taken over the helm of Great Southern Catering and Events, located within our event venue, the Palafox House. In addition, Chef Billy continues his on-going role of Executive Chef.
Chef Billy attended Johnson & Wales College in Charleston and studied culinary arts. After college, he went backpacking through Scotland and England, experiencing different cultures and cuisines. Upon his return to the United States, he spent two years as a sous chef for Legendary, Inc., and then moved on to an opportunity with the Great Southern Restaurant Group, where he worked his way from prep chef to executive chef. He has served as Executive Chef for Great Southern for eight years.
Chef Jason Hughes is the Chef de Cuisine at The Fish House and Atlas Oyster House. He was born in Mobile, AL and raised on the Gulf Coast. Chef Jason worked as a line cook throughout high school, and advanced quickly into kitchen management positions. After spending a year at the University of South Alabama, he decided on a change of scenery and moved to Boston, MA where he worked his way through bakeries and cafes. Jason returned to Pensacola in 2009 with a more diverse culinary experience. Chef Jason brings to The Fish House a unique leadership style based on teamwork and mutual respect. He and his team focus on providing the highest level of quality and service, and aim to always exceed their guests’ expectations. Chef Jason is excited to lead the kitchens at The Fish House and Atlas Oyster House, and proud to be a part of the Great Southern Restaurants team.
Jackson’s founding executive chef, Irv Miller, has prepared dinner at the James Beard house for five one-of-a-kind events. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in 1982, Miller began his career as chef along the Florida Panhandle at Destin’s first out-of-the-ordinary restaurant, Les Saison’s. Chef Miller’s cuisine made national acclaim while he presided as the first chef at Seaside’s highly successful Bud & Alley’s restaurant from 1987 to 1993 during the Florida Cuisine movement. In 1990 Chef Miller was recognized by Carolyn O’Neil, host of CNN’s “On the Menu,” as one of the originators of the “radical” experiment dubbed “New Florida Cooking,” and “a pioneer of Florida Coastal Cooking.”
Chef Miller has a distinct style, a powerful vision, and most of all, the ability to translate bold ideas into food that’s irresistibly delicious and beautiful. Chef Miller is committed to endorsing the Florida Panhandle’s seaward and inland bounties. Chef Miller’s Southern-influenced cuisine features the emblematic foods of “Real” Florida, such as Apalachicola oysters and Alligator Point wild-harvested clams, Pensacola and Destin red snapper, North Florida shrimp, grouper, and numerous fish species caught responsibly off the Florida Gulf Coast. In addition, Chef Miller embraces the latest Gulf Coast agriculture from new small growers, small gristmills, tupelo honey from local beekeepers, microgreens and hydroponics from urban farmers, and grass-fed beef from local ranchers along with the finest corn-fed beef from the Midwestern Corn Belt.
For over three decades, many of Chef Miller’s recipes and articles have been included in the Pensacola News Journal’s “Chef’s Corner” column, “Bon Appétit,” “Food Arts,” “Food & Wine,” “Florida Trend,” “Florida Living,” Birmingham’s “Portico” magazine, “Southern Living,” “Atlanta Magazine,” and the soon-to-be-released “The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook 2014.” Chef Miller is currently working on a Gulf Coast regional cookbook. While performing as television chef/host for WSRE’s PBS cooking show “Flavors of the Coast,” Chef Miller filmed 51 episodes. More recently, Chef Miller appeared on “Emeril’s Florida” TV cooking show promoting Pensacola. He took to the cooking stage for “Coastal Living” magazine’s Demonstration Theater at the 26th Annual Sandestin Wine Festival. In addition, Chef Miller represented the Sunshine State at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off 2012.
Chef Jason Perry is a native of Georgia, but has called Pensacola, FL his home for the last twenty years. Jason graduated from Tate High School in 2004 with a Leadership and Soccer Scholarship to Andrew College. But after a year in Cuthbert, GA, his heart pulled him back to Pensacola and he enrolled in Pensacola Junior College’s Culinary Management Program. Chef Jason began his tenure at Jackson’s Steakhouse in October of 2006, and his talents quickly propelled him to Chef De Cuisine at the ripe age of twenty-one. He has been a guest chef on Flavors of the Coast, Chef demo at the Pensacola Seafood Festival, worked with Chef John Besh at the 2015 WSRE fundraiser dinner, and was voted “Best of the Coast” 2011 runner-up for Best Up-and-Coming Chef. Chef Jason enjoys playing soccer, stand-up paddle boarding, golf, and spending time with his wife Jessie and three beautiful daughters.