Skilled chef Cecil Miller will be hanging his white chef's coat inside the Sunshine Seafood Caf & Wine Bar's kitchen as it reopens for the new season on Captiva Island. Miller, who has spent most of his life on Sanibel Island, is a graduate of Johnson & Wales and renowned culinary arts school.
He has trained in Europe and Norway and worked at island eateries such as the Lazy Flamingo, The Jacaranda and Sundial Resort, among others. While this will be Miller's first season in Sunshine's kitchen, he has spent a year with Stilwell Enterprises, which owns a number of Captiva eateries including the Sunshine Seafood Caf and Lounge on Fort Myers Beach.
"I purchased Sunshine Seafood Caf (on Captiva) in February 2004, six months before Hurricane Charley," recalled Sandy Stilwell, owner of Stilwell Enterprises. "We have made it through that challenge and the constantly changing economy. The food is delicious at Sunshine and I hope Cecil will continue serving our favorites in the same manner."
Chefs Miguel Vasquez and Cecil Miller
Miller has been learning the basic menu from outgoing chef Miguel Vasquez, who has been preparing dishes in Sunshine's kitchens for two years on Captiva and five years on Fort Myers Beach.
"Cecil will have nightly specials that will allow him to be creative individually," Stilwell said. "His education is very impressive from Johnson and Wales and also Le Cordon Bleu in London. His interpersonal skills are marvelous and I encourage people to come by and meet him."
The Sunshine Seafood Caf formally opened its doors to the new season Friday, Sept. 30. Hungry patrons can find Blind Pass Shrimp as an appetizer or choose from a selection of soups and salads. As for entrees, general manager Nick Owens recommends the World Famous Sunshine Paella jumbo gulf shrimp, sea scallops, chicken breast, sausage and mussels sauteed with garlic, red wine, capers, olives, as well as artichoke hearts, onions, bell peppers and Paella rice.
"Cecil will be a great addition to Sunshine Seafood Caf," said Owens, who also recommends topping off your meal with the White Chocolate Cheesecake from the dessert menu. It is served on an Oreo cookie crust with chocolate ganache and topped with a puree of raspberries and fresh whipped cream.
As for the chef's dessert recommendation, it is the apple crisp. Afterward, enjoy a Sunshine coffee made with O'Reilly's Irish Cream and cinnamon or explore the wine and beer list. The Sunshine Seafood Caf and Wine Bar is open from 5 to 10 p.m. seven days per week and located at 14900 Captiva Drive.
"We look to be open for lunch in December," added Owens.
When Miller is not in Sunshine's kitchen, he is an avid fisherman that enjoys cooking up his fresh "catch of the day" in his own kitchen. But he is ready to welcome islanders back to Captiva and meeting new island visitors.
"Last season was good, so I hope to repeat it," Miller said.