Chef Kenny Gilbert from Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen in Fernandina Beach, Florida fed us gator and we liked it (really).
This week in the F&W Test Kitchen, chef Kenny Gilbert from Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen in Fernandina Beach, Florida gave us a visit. Aside from being a former Top Chef contestant and an all-around badass chef, Kenny is also a bit of a gator connoisseur. After chowing down on delicious smoked gator ribs (seriously) with creamy rice grits and deep-fried shishitos, he dropped some gator knowledge on us.
1. What does alligator taste like?
The age-old saying “it tastes like chicken” actually applies here…kind of. When cooked, alligator has a similar texture to dark meat chicken, but with a faint fishiness to it. As Kenny puts it, “Think of it as if a chicken and a grouper fish had a baby.” Not exactly a picture I want in my head, but the flavor imagery is spot on and surprisingly delicious.
2. How do you cook it?
The most commonly eaten part of the gator (well, in Florida, that is) is the ribs. “I treat them just like pork spare ribs and put them in my smoker,” says Gilbert. “The gentle smoke pairs perfectly with the unique flavor of the gator. I feel it's very Florida to have a Gator Picking Party just as much as a Pig Picking Party!"
3. Do people hunt alligators?
For some reason, it is no surprise to me that people in Florida hunt alligators for sport. While all gator served in restaurants must be farm raised, local hunters are allowed to kill one alligator each year. Most gators served in restaurants are on the small side (about two to three feet in length), but these daring sportsmen typically hunt 10 to 12 foot alligators, freeze them, and eat them all year long. Gator for everyone!
4. Who’s more adventurous: Men or Women?
According to Gilbert, who goes through 50-100 lbs. of gator ribs per week at his restaurant, women make up 60% of the people who order the gator. "I have no idea why," he said.
5. Where can you get it?
There are several reputable farms in Florida that will send you alligator parts—or even, if you're in the market, a whole, skinned alligator. If you’re a daring eater who’s on a mission to impress, throw an unforgettable party and order a whole 12 lb. gator. An animal that size will feed roughly 20 people. Cypress Creek Farm is a great source and will help you figure out how to get gator in your area—even New York City.
Gilbert's Underground Kitchen
510 S 8th St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034