Chef David Valencia and Sascha Bennemann

Chef David Valencia (l) with co-owner Sascha Bennemann (r)

Palm Beach. There’s a new executive chef in town and his name is David Valencia. While you may know Valencia from his time spent at Meat Market Palm Beach as chef de cuisine, he is now making waves as the executive chef at the newly opened Costa, a Mediterranean hideaway tucked inside 150 Worth Ave in Palm Beach.

Local restaurateur Sascha Bennemann and his wife Danielle, the owners of Costa, brought in Valencia to create a menu that takes you on a tour through the Mediterranean. This isn’t your typical Mediterranean restaurant, though, as Costa spans the coast from Spain to Morocco. We were able to check out the restaurant, when we attended a media dinner in February, and our stomachs were dancing for joy over chef’s specialties like the house hummus with grilled naan (it’s the best we’ve had); the salt baked branzino with an arugula emulsion; and the crispy pernil, a garbanzo tomato stew made with chorizo and a scallion jalapeño chimichurri.

Costa Salt Baked Branzino / courtesy of Exerimar

Costa salt baked branzino / courtesy of Exerimar

Since our Tastemaker series is all about the chefs, it’s time to dig into the life of David Valencia.

Interview with Chef David Valencia of Costa

Name: David Valencia
Title: Executive Chef
Restaurant: Costa, 150 Worth Ave, Palm Beach; (561) 429-8456

Tell us about your first kitchen experience

Since I grew up on a farm, I’ve always been around food and during the holidays, it was a tradition to go and hunt for our meat. My first real kitchen experience was at a small Italian pizzeria when I was 14 in upstate New York. I made pizza for 3 years. My friend’s father was a hunter and I went with him and 50 other guys to Cliff Lodge for one month – and I was in charge of the cooking. After 3 years of doing this, I knew it was going to be my career.

What’s your drink of choice?

Sparkling [water] with lime juice. Also, Category 3 IPA [from Due South Brewing]

What about your secret talents, do you have anything that you’re hiding from us? 

I’m a soccer player. I played for 4 years on varsity.

Do you have any advice for those looking to become a chef or pursue a culinary degree? 

It’s very tough and it takes a unique person. If there’s a calling, stick with it and enjoy what you do. TV is deceiving and the true industry is nothing like that.

Tell us about some of the local farms that you work with.

For produce, I work with Scalisi, Oceanside and Mr. Green Dean.

When did you start working with local farms?

As a kid; it helps when you grow up on a farm.

Back to Costa — why should we love the restaurant, and what are you doing there that’s truly unique to the restaurant and to you as a chef?

There are a lot of restaurants in Palm Beach that are very similar in taste and presentation. We aim to be different. There’s a coziness in the restaurant that’s unique. Everyone says that we have to do certain things. We’re working to veer off from that. Our food is heavy in prep. The pork shank takes 3 days.

Is there a little guy that you want to tell the world about?

My sous chef, Kevin Avellaneda. He was a cook at Meat Market and I took him under my wings. We’ve been together for 4 years now.

Is there anything on your agenda that we should know about?

We just started lunch last week and there’s a market in the works (walk in/take out) with salads and sandwiches.