Local Chef Tim Creehan Ponders Fame and Food
May 28, 2012 by Gwen Break
Entrepreneur, local restaurateur and “chef to the stars” Tim Creehan says he didn’t set out to become famous.
“I didn’t go looking for success. I was looking for a career in culinary arts. I wanted to be a chef from the time I was 14 years old.
“When I wanted to become a chef, being a chef wasn’t cool. We were no different than plumbers or mechanics. When I left work to go to the store to buy something for the restaurant, I’d bring a T-shirt and take off my chef jacket because I didn’t want anyone to think I was a cook or butcher or whatever.”
“I wanted to be successful in the restaurant business. That’s the only thing I ever desired to do.”
He said it was Emeril Lagasse who set the bar for today’s celebrity chefs.
He and LaGasse, another Louisiana chef, happened to be in the same restaurant in Los Angeles at the same time.
“I said, ‘Emeril, what are you doing here?’ And he said he was with ‘some crazy guy who was a movie agent and he’s got this idea of turning chefs into celebrities.’ That night he signed his 10-year deal with the food network."
“Back then we couldn’t see it ever being a celebrity. We couldn’t see being on TV. We couldn’t see that people would ever want to come and meet us at our restaurants, sign autographs. We never thought that would happen in our lifetime.
“Sitting in my own restaurant, enjoying a good meal, that’s all I ever wanted.”
Creehan said he didn’t realize how celebrated he had become until the day after he catered Vince Gill and Amy Grant’s wedding in 2000.
“Extra TV was down here the next day. People magazine called me when I was leaving her (Grant’s) house. I was like, OK, this is a little bigger than I thought.”
It is his passion for the Emerald Coast that has kept Creehan from pursuing bigger venues.
“I’ve had much more lucrative offers for much bigger things but when it came down to making the decision, I always asked myself, ‘Can I not live here?’
“That’s been the number one thing that has held me back from going any where else. So I’ve tried to use my celebrity (status) to better Destin.”
He said the legacy he wants to leave, besides being a good restaurateur, is being known for helping young people find their dreams. He tells the story of Dan Pettis, owner of One20 Bistro, Niceville.
“He came to one of my book signings on a school day. I went up to his mother and said, ‘OK, what’s the story? He’s out of school. (She responded) ‘Oh, he’s crazy. He wants to be like you. He wants to be a chef someday.”
He offered Pettis a job in the restaurant for the summer thinking the hard work and long hours would change the young man’s mind. “Nope, Dan was just like me. It was just what he wanted to do. We did 13 or 14 years together and now he’s 33 years old now and has his own restaurant.”
“We’re always looking for true professionals. I know sometimes people feel they can’t approach you because you have gotten to a certain level. I want everyone to know if this is your dream, we make room for starters.”
For a complete list of Creehan’s accomplishments and the businesses he owns, visit timcreehan.com.