Meet Chef Tim Clinton

Chef Tim Clinton’s unexpected career path landed him back on solid ground at The Moorings

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Tim Clinton traveled a winding road to get to where he is today executive chef at The Moorings. Photo by Kim Bottalico
Tim Clinton traveled a winding road to get to where he is today executive chef at The Moorings. Photo by Kim Bottalico

When he began delivering food at The Moorings, Tim Clinton never dreamed he would someday be the executive chef.  

In fact, he wasn’t expecting to be a chef at all. As a young man, Clinton was a professional wakeboarder. The job at The Moorings was just to pay the bills while he planned a trip to New Zealand. His dream was to be on a boat in the Southern Hemisphere, teaching wakeboarding along New Zealand’s scenic coasts.  

Two things changed all that. “I built up a rapport with the chef,” Clinton recalls. “He was the one that got the spark going.” The other factor was an unexpected knee injury. All of a sudden, “I had to figure out something to do besides wakeboarding.”

So Clinton went to culinary school at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where he trained under a chef who had won the James Beard Award. After that, he worked at Victoria & Albert’s, the award-winning gourmet restaurant at Disney’s elegant Grand Floridian hotel. “It was a tasting menu,” Clinton says, “and I got to learn nuance and precision.”

On his days off from Victoria & Albert’s, he worked at SeaWorld, not as a chef, but as an entertainer in the ski show. It allowed him to use his old wakeboarding skills, and it also involved barefoot skiing. 

Eventually, Clinton came back to Vero Beach, and to The Moorings, working with his old friend Chef Michael Lander and then with Chef Ben Tench, both fixtures on the Vero culinary landscape. Clinton was executive sous chef when Tench retired, leading to the promotion to executive chef—all at the same kitchen where he once checked in to deliver food to some residents’ homes. “There’s a lot more responsibility now,” he says with a laugh.

“My style is American, heavy on French technique,” reflecting his classical training, Clinton says. With his own background in mind, he makes sure he lets the sous chefs give their input. This openness has also added to the variety of the cuisine, as some of the sous chefs have Asian influences that are not necessarily part of Clinton’s own training. Also essential is “sourcing the best ingredients and going from there.”  

With the wry laugh of someone whose biggest dreams once involved wakeboarding, Clinton says, “I’m kind of trying to make everybody happy with the cuisine.” And as he does just that at The Moorings, he knows that he has come full circle. 

Tempura cauliflower by Tim Clinton. Photo by Kim Bottalico
Tempura cauliflower. Photo by Kim Bottalico

Appetizer: Tempura Cauliflower

This dish features vadouvan, an exotic spice blend that is a French interpretation of East Indian flavors. For the cilantro, Clinton recommends Pepper Trail Farm.

Serves 5 

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and blanched
  • 4 cups peanut or vegetable oil 
  • 3 cups tempura batter (see below) 
  • 1 cup vadouvan crema (see below)
  • 1 cup mango chutney (see below)
  • Micro cilantro, for garnish

Dredge the cauliflower in the tempura batter, then fry at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a pot until golden brown. 

Place in a bowl and top with the vadouvan crema, mango chutney, and micro cilantro.

Tempura Batter

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 oz. granulated onion
  • 1/2 oz. granulated garlic
  • 1 dash monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups soda water

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk in egg and soda water.

Vadouvan Crema

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. vadouvan powder 
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl.

Mango Chutney

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger, finely planed
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Cook shallot in the oil on medium heat until slightly translucent. 

Add garlic and ginger and cook for an additional 30 seconds. 

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and cook until it becomes a thick sauce, 15–20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and allow to cool. 

Pulse in the food processor until desired consistency is reached. 

Skirt steak with Romesco and chimichurri. Photo by Kim Bottalico
Skirt steak with Romesco and chimichurri. Photo by Kim Bottalico

Entrée: Skirt Steak with Romesco and Chimichurri

Making two flavorful sauces from scratch and using them to complement each other really takes this steak recipe to a new level.

Serves 2

  • 2 (8-oz.) outside skirt steaks, marinated
  • 1 bunch broccolini tops, blanched
  • 1 oz. romesco sauce (see below)
  • 1 oz. chimichurri sauce (see below)
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • 2 oz. canola oil
  • 1 oz. sherry vinegar
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients with skirt steaks and marinate 2–4 hours.

Remove skirt steaks from marinade and season with salt and pepper. 

Toss the broccolini tops in a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

Place skirt steaks on the grill or grill plate and cook 3–4 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Allow steak to rest 10 minutes. 

While steak is resting, place broccolini tops on grill and allow to char. 

Slice skirt steak against the grain.  

To plate, make a swoosh of romesco sauce on plate first, place broccolini tops and skirt steak down on the romesco, and top with chimichurri sauce.

Romesco Sauce

  • 6 Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 slice white bread, crust removed
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 1/2 oz. sherry vinegar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Toast white bread in oven until golden brown. 

Toss tomatoes, garlic cloves, and red bell pepper in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast 15 minutes or until caramelized. 

Add all ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Chimichurri Sauce

  • 1 sweet onion 
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 2 bunches oregano
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Mince onion, then rinse with hot water, dry, and place in a mixing bowl. 

Mince the shallot and garlic and finely chop the herbs. 

Add all ingredients to the mixing bowl with the onion. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Bourbon pecan bread pudding. Photo by Kim Bottalico
Bourbon pecan bread pudding. Photo by Kim Bottalico

Dessert: Bourbon Pecan Bread Pudding

This dessert has a Southern flair and reflects Clinton’s love of great American cuisine.

Serves 7

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar 
  • 1/2 cup milk 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 tsp. bourbon
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 12–14 slices white bread, crust removed, cubed
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped 
  • 7 greased and sugared 4-oz. ramekins 
  • 7 oz. apricot jam 

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar. 

Add milk, vanilla, and bourbon. Mix, then add cream to bowl and mix. 

Add bread, butterscotch chips, and pecans. Stir well to combine. 

Ladle mixture into the ramekins. Place filled ramekins in a high-sided baking dish and fill with hot water halfway up the sides of the ramekins. 

Bake in a 350-degree-Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes, then rotate the dishes and bake another 20 minutes. 

While they are cooling, melt the apricot jam in a pan and glaze the bread puddings.

Remove bread puddings from ramekins and finish with bourbon sauce.

Bourbon Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp. bourbon
  • 1 tbsp. corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Add all ingredients to a pan. Over medium heat, bring mix to a boil for 1 minute. Allow to cool slightly and serve over bread pudding.

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