Born and raised on the Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida, Executive Chef Dan Pettis began his cooking career at the young age of 13 with a summer job just before 9th grade. Like most young aspiring chefs, he started at the lowest position, washing dishes and learning by the sidelines. Working under Destin, Florida's most prominent chef and restaurateur, Executive Chef and owner of Beach Walk Crystal Beach, Tim Creehan, sparked the fire that made Chef Pettis realize that this was his calling. His efforts have culminated in a close working relationship and friendship with Chef Creehan. That summer job started a relationship between Chef Pettis and the award-winning chef that survived more than three restaurants and is still going strong. From the dish pit at Marina Cafe, he was promoted to a line cook position. He excelled from a base line prep cook to the lead line cook and was able to take on responsibility and authority that the job required. Shortly after, Chef Pettis worked at Harbor Docks Seafood & Brewery and Creehan's Market as the kitchen manager, later becoming the sous chef at the award-winning Beach Walk Crystal Beach. Feeling the need to continue his education and training, but desiring to stay close to home, Chef Pettis decided to attend the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach where he finished on the President's List with a perfect 4.0. In addition to winning a number of culinary competitions, he was also featured in Florida Trends NEXT magazine in August of 1999.
After interviewing more than 85 students at the Florida Culinary Institute, famed sushi chef Roy Villacrusis, with Mark’s CityPlace at the time, discovered Dan Pettis and hired him. For the next two years Pettis worked under his tutelage training extensively on cooking rice, cutting vegetables picking the right fish, creating menu specials and making sushi. After manning every post in the kitchen and sushi bar, Pettis was entrusted with the role of executive sous chef, no small feat considering the unparalleled expectations of Villacrusis. With almost twelve years of experience in the business, Villacrusis was a vital part in making Mark's CityPlace sushi bar the best in town. In December of 2003 Chef Pettis returned to his hometown of Fort Walton Beach picking up the reins at Beach Walk, and began helping Chef Creehan bring a taste of South Florida to the Emerald Coast. With his new understanding and passion for Asian cuisine and love of Caribbean cuisine, "Asian Island Cuisine" came naturally, a fusion that has become Pettis’s signature style.
In 2005 Dan Pettis became the Corporate Executive Chef for Creehan Restaurant Group, specializing in the dally operations of three restaurants, along with catering on and off site, teaching cooking classes to the public, and catering to A-list clientele in Destin and the South East. By fall 2007 Chef Pettis expanded his realm of expertise by accepting the position of project lead taking him to New Zealand, where he opened The Old Church Restaurant and Bar for a Florida investor. Pettis became responsible for front and back house operations, design layout, as well as creating the menus for dinner and specialty cocktails. Chef Pettis hired and trained a general manager and head chef, before returning home in the spring of 2008 where he worked alongside Executive Chef Konrad Jochum at The Boat Yard in Panama City Beach. Chef Pettis was the lead of a team in place that opened a new sushi bar within the restaurant, while Jochum excelled in the kitchen, revitalizing the area’s culinary experiences.
By fall 2009, and with the help of his father and brother, Pettis took a leap and opened his own restaurant, One 20 a Modern Bistro to the delight of many. The 75-seat bistro features simplistic seaside inspired fusion cuisine, drawing on Chef Petti’s Southern roots, South Florida schooling, and worldly travels. One 20 a Modern Bistro has quickly become a place where locals love to gather after church on Sunday, for business meetings and family celebrations, ladies night, or a romantic dinner for two. It is easy to see why Dan Pettis has been voted Best Chef of the Emerald Coast for two years in a row by his loyal followers and readers of Emerald Coast magazine.
Written By Susan Benton