JACKSONVILLE, Fla — It’s been a tough year for restaurant owners. A famous Jacksonville chef was going to move out of state to open up a new business in early 2020, but when the pandemic hit it forced him to look around his neighborhood and see what he could do there.
That led Chef Kenneth Gilbert to open up a place in November in historic Springfield, one of Jacksonville’s oldest neighborhoods.
It just so happens to be his neighborhood.
Gilbert is known for being Oprah’s former private chef as well as a local restauranteur. His new place is Silkie’s Chicken and Champagne at 1602 Walnut St.
The winning combo is thanks to his wife. No bubbly is being served yet as they wait for their liquor license, but you’ll come for the fried chicken… and stay for the specials.
“We try to take it where you’re not just getting a basic item," Gilbert said. "It’s like we want you to say 'wow like I came on a culinary experience and an adventure', but still I was able to get some things I can totally relate to.”
He does drop biscuits four ways: buttermilk, jalapeno cheddar, truffle smoked gouda and chive, and plantain ginger and turmeric biscuits.
Each biscuit is paired with an original butter and jam flavor ranging from guava to bacon jam and everything in between.
He also takes a spin on the classic comfort food mac n' cheese. He uses shredded Monterey jack and gouda melting it in a hot pan then adding his truffle gouda cheese sauce. Once he adds the macaroni, he torches the top to brown it.
Gilbert serves up specials every day taking you around the globe.
"So this has a nice ginger kind of accent to the chicken," he describes the Thai chicken noodle soup.
It starts with the broth, then add shredded chicken, green beans, broccoli and rice noodles. It’s his special seasoning oil that gives the soup a kick and will keep your warm this winter.
It all goes back to one thing.
“What are some of the comfort foods that I can provide for the community that they can all relate to?” Gilbert said.
Silkie's Chicken and Champagne has been open since Nov. 3. You can see the full menu here.