“Chic, baby, chic.”
It’s chef Andy Hyde’s rallying cry for his dedicated staff of five—three in the back and two up front—at his boutique Hyde N Chic Restaurant off U.S. 41 in Naples.
The slender, dynamic chef who is Ghanaian by birth and raised between there, Germany and the United States could be equally at home emceeing an awards show or running a spin class. He fluidly moves between the kitchen and the floor, charming clients and playfully encouraging his team with his innate charisma. “The first rule is love what you’re doing. I really do love the challenge, and that’s what drives me to wake up every morning,” Hyde says.
In 2019, he achieved his dream of opening his first brick-and-mortar project: a restaurant much like him, small yet overflowing with panache. There are only 30 seats—with just 12 filled during each of the night’s two seatings—and he worked with a local artist to adorn it with striking art and design. “I feel less is more until there is more confidence out there,” he says referring to the pandemic.
The restaurant is a tasting room-only experience (at least for now; more on that later)—the only one of its kind in Southwest Florida. Hyde chose to make it that way pre-pandemic because it allows him to shoot for the caliber he knows he’s capable of. His conviviality belies the laser-like focus it takes for him to craft his fine-dining symphony. His menus are replete with ingredients sourced from farmers near and far, as well as molecular gastronomic preparations learned from training with culinary giants at the three Michelin-starred Alinea, plus brief stints working for Grant Achatz and Gordon Ramsay, before settling in Naples a decade ago.
Guests choose from three ($70), four ($110) or five ($130) courses (or more, on request), with Hyde there to guide and inform. Most people select a dish or two and the kitchen builds the rest, or they entrust the night’s progression to Hyde and his team. The menu can, and does, change often depending on what is available and inspiring. For early 2021, there were 13 dishes in his steady repertoire. Some had been there from the start, like his signature cacio e pepe, hand-spun fettuccine topped with a silky heart of palm velour spiked with Florida Tellicherry peppercorns. The surprise is that it doesn’t have a morsel of pecorino because he’s made the heart of palm sauce so velvety, it hugs the noodles with a similar richness, minus the fat. Others were the product of what he calls, with his ever-positive attitude, “the R&D period” when he closed twice last year mid-pandemic.
He takes shopping seriously, browsing the Pine Ridge Road Farmer’s Market for fresh ingredients to incorporate into his dishes. He also splurges on greens from The Chef’s Garden, the famous Ohio farm that supplies renowned restaurateur and chef Thomas Keller’s restaurants, among others, and he recently started a small garden in the back of the restaurant with herbs and other greens growing in wooden planters.
Giving back is a big part of his ethos, and he does that by mentoring high school students and other young hospitality industry hopefuls. “I find true happiness when I can hire one or two high school kids and see them grow within the company, even if they don’t stay,” he says, adding that he allows the younger team members to help in the front-of-house on slower weeknights. “I have a three-year intern signed on in the kitchen now.”
If you let Hyde guide your way, for a three-course menu, he might select his wild mushroom strudel—a dish, he says, is “to live for” (“I don’t like saying ‘to die for,’” he says with a laugh). It’s served with the creamiest Époisses sauce, truffle shavings and parsley oil to balance the earthy blend baked within. Or, he might recommend the show-stopping Jack Sparrow—oysters on the half shell balanced atop tiny mountains of rock salt. The peaks are capped with caviar sourced from Marshallberg Farm in North Carolina, what Hyde reckons is the only sustainable black Caspian sturgeon operation in the United States. He partnered with them this year to donate a culinary experience to the Naples Winter Wine Festival’s online auction. Like most of his work, the Sparrow not only ensnares the eyes, but it has technically challenging elements, too. When it was first created, the dish included a scallop cracker (essentially a chicharrón made from the mollusk). But, as Hyde is always tinkering and perfecting his recipes, it now comes with scallop powder, which he says provides more balance.
He then might finish the evening with Products of Ghanaian Sweets, an homage to his childhood, starring a grown-up version of his favorite bofrot: plantain donuts that were a lunchbox treat. Now, he serves them stunningly with a single edible gold-dusted number in a gilded glass dome with house-made ice cream of Ghanaian cocoa and raspberry pearls.
While his dishes arrest the senses, people rave just as much about the touchingly personal service. “If a guest is nice (wink, wink), there’s always an extra course. I say this out loud all the time, ‘This is my home.’ If people are keen and nice, a little extra gets sent their way,” Hyde remarks. Then, if someone doesn’t pick a dessert, he will usually end the meal on a complimentary sweet note, or an additional savory course.
To further enhance a visit, he greatly expanded his wine list for his second season, with options of adding flights of high- ($130), mid- ($90) and lower-priced ($60) pairings. “It doesn’t make any sense to not do that,” he says. Guests can also select from an extensive a la carte list with bottles and myriad by-the-glass options.
As of January, Hyde wasn’t doing take-out, a la carte or lunch—yet. He was forced to do take-out for a stretch during the pandemic, which he marvels actually helped his creativity. He came up with two burgers that he still gets requests for to this day, the Chicken-Nizzle (a nod to his German upbringing with schnitzel and sauerkraut slaw) and the Andy Man (ground wagyu on brioche with sherry-glazed caramelized onions). He’s aiming to open for lunch one or two days a week in the summer months and allow for a la carte ordering, too.
Before then, he’s hoping to launch Hyde N Chic Digital, a platform for online ordering of to-go individual meals, build-your-own picnic baskets and to-go dinner parties. After all, the precursor to his restaurant was Chef Hyde Gourmet, a catering company and personal chef service, so he has the wherewithal to execute demands of this nature—he just needs the time and kitchen space. “I feel much smarter and stronger than before the pandemic. It’s in my nature not to give up, and in trying times I focus on what is needed to be done and what can be improved. People say I have tenacity,” he says. “Slow growth wins the race, and I live by that. The one thing this past year has taught me is be grateful for what you have and to work for what you want to have.”
Photography by Brian Tietz