Kevin Ives brings his talents both as an award-winning, creative chef and restaurant innovator to the Francesca’s team in his role as Corporate Chef. Ives grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was inspired by his father, who instilled within him a love of cooking, and his grandmother, whom he acknowledges as the person who developed his food palate at a young age. He was an inspiring art student when he recognized that a culinary career would satisfy both his artistic instincts and his passion for cooking.
He earned his Associates Degree at the Florida Culinary Institute and, after graduation, took a position in the kitchen of John’s Island Club in Vero Beach Florida under Chef John Farnsworth. Farnsworth became his guiding light for the next three years. “Chef Farnsworth had an enormous influence on me,” said Ives. “He molded me into a culinary professional, helping me develop my culinary values and appreciate the importance of integrity and professionalism.” At John’s Island Club the emphasis was on classical European cuisine and its influence on Southern French and Northern Italian food. Having grown up in a heavily Mediterranean-influenced family, the flavors were familiar. Under the tutelage of Farnsworth, Ives developed a keen sense of the history and regional significance of the food. Farnsworth also taught him that cooking is a never-ending lesson. It’s a perspective that remains with Ives to this day.
After his stint at John’s Island Club, Ives devoted the next several years to broadening his culinary horizons. He cooked at a number of high-end resort properties, including the Lost Tree Club in North Palm Beach, Florida (Executive Chef); The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida (Chef de Cuisine) and The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, South Carolina (Chef de Cuisine), where he was part of the team that achieved “5 Stars” in Forbes Magazine. Ives views these positions as formative, as he worked with very influential chefs. “Mathias Radits, at the Breakers, strengthened my appreciation for the classics,” said Ives. “Anthony Sicignano, also at the Breakers, taught me the importance of leadership in the kitchen.”
Ives received numerous accolades, including the Wine and Food Society of Palm Beach Chef of the Year Award in 2005. Ives then had an opportunity to become Executive Chef at the renowned Merriman’s Restaurants in Hawaii. The experience nurtured his love of sustainable, fresh from the sea ingredients and the interesting Hawaiian flavor combinations with which he experimented sparked his culinary creativity. With a growing family, Ives and his wife decided to return to the mainland to be closer to family. Through a mutual friend, he was introduced to Scott Harris, who offered him the opportunity to join the fast growing and creative restaurant group. Ives has not looked back; he has become a believer in the Francesca’s restaurant philosophy and the amazing teamwork that is part of the Francesca’s culture. He thoroughly enjoys the entrepreneurial spirit that permeates the company. “There is a lot of opportunity to help mold the future of the company,” he said.
The food offering at Francesca’s readily taps into Ives’ appreciation for the historic roots of Northern Italian cuisine. “The food at Francesca’s is very regionally specific and true to form,” he said. “It is deeply rooted in Northern Italy. There is nothing pretentious or contrived about it. It’s honest, wholesome, classic Italian food, and it’s timeless and comforting, based on proven culinary technique and craftsmanship. I really love this style of cooking.”Kevin has dedicated himself to being at the forefront of the food and wine industry by continuing to further his knowledge. He has taken numerous continuing education courses at The Culinary Institute of America. He received the Level One Sommelier Certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers.