Although it might seem that Tom Gray wears only one hat at Bistro Aix in Jacksonville, Fla., a black beret emblazoned with the restaurant’s logo, Tom is the embodiment of a modern chef: part culinary artist, part businessman, always a professional.
Beginning 15 years prior in his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., he laid the foundation for his culinary career at Club Continental, La Pasta Fresca and Florida Café. Later, his adventures took him to restaurant kitchens throughout the country including the wildly popular Asylum in Beverly Hills and Wolfgang Puck’s San Diego outpost, Delicias. Tom attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y., and graduated in 1992. Later that year, he joined the team at New York City’s venerable Zoë restaurant.
In 1994, he was tapped by a former instructor at the CIA, Paul Sartory, to be Executive Sous Chef at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant (WSGR) at the CIA’s Napa Valley campus. In preparation for the WSGR’s opening, Sartory, winner of the coveted Bocuse d’Or competition, and Tom embarked on an extensive culinary research trip to Spain where they developed ideas for the restaurant’s authentic Mediterranean menu. Living in California’s wine country also developed more than Tom’s culinary skills – he became extremely knowledgeable about wines as well.
Today, Tom pairs his innovative cuisine with Bistro Aix’s extensive wine list. “It is important to me to be able to offer our guests the same kind of food and wine experiences I grew accustomed to New York City and the Napa Valley,” states Tom. “My dishes are most heavily influenced by Mediterranean cuisine. Over time, this has evolved into my own approach to blending American cuisine and the honest flavors and traditional dishes of the Mediterranean. Because we are a bistro, I keep the dishes hearty and the menu approachable while at the same time recognizing that my diners love to be challenged to try new tastes. I am constantly developing the menu in pursuit of this balance.”