Featured in The Baldwin Times, July 28, 2017
By Destiny Brown
Rudy Rudolph has made a name for himself during his time on the Gulf Coast. He has displayed his culinary talents at a variety of locations from fine dining to catering and now he is the head chef at a beachfront favorite, Bill’s By The Beach in Gulf Shores.
Rudolph began his culinary career 30 years ago and has climbed the ladder to be where he is today. Early on he worked both at a bar as a bouncer and at a hotel as bar back while he earned his degree. He remembers raiding the fridge in the wee hours of the morning to cook breakfast for the late shift.
“It never registered with me that I could do this for a living,” Rudolph said. “The chef at the hotel suggested it and I decided to do an apprenticeship through Virginia Chef Association.”
Rudolph went on to run his first kitchen, Coyote Cafe, in Richmond, Virginia, when he was 22 years old. He received great reviews and kept moving on. He bounced around Richmond for a while before vacationing at the Gulf Coast in 1997.
“I saw a lot of opportunities down here and I never went back home,” Rudolph said. “I opened my own place down Fort Morgan called Rudys by the Bay.”
He then spent 10 years at another local restaurant, Sunset Cork Room. After being there for so long, he decided he wanted to try some other things.
He began helping out with a non-profit organization supplementing the Back Pack Program in Baldwin and Escambia counties. It involved feeding the kids and getting them proper nutrition. He spent a lot of time taking food to the kids and their families and building relationships with local farmers who grew produce for his restaurant who would then donate to the program. Rudolph also provided the families with recipes for the fresh ingredients.
After leaving Sunset Cork Room, Rudolph began working at Classic City Catering and remained there for three years before the opportunity at Bill’s By The Beach opened up.
“I wasn’t planning on leaving Classic City, but coming back here where my clientle was based was really cool,” Rudolph said. “I see a lot of people who used to eat with me at the Cork Room and people I was friends with in the restaurant business. Its been an awesome couple of months and Im looking forward to the rest of the summer and when it slows down in the fall.”
Rudolph said he’s learned a lot from fellow chefs in the area and feels like he has finally found his niche.
“I’ve always had the philosophy from a chef’s prospective that I was having a dinner party at my house every night and having my friends come over and eat and I want them to enjoy it. It’s worked so far and it’s been very good,” he said. “No chef comes into their own until they’re at least 40 years old or later in life because you’ve got all the youthful aspirations and wildness out of you and settled down and honed your craft and I feel thats where I am now. I’ve done all the cool and wild stuff and now I’ve found my niche and I look forward to finishing it out and maybe doing a little more TV and public appearances,” he said.
Rudolph has entered a few food competitions over the years, most recently the World Food Championships in Orange Beach.
“Last year, I went to the World Food Championships for the first time and finished ninth in the world in seafood. Im excited to go back to that this year,” he said. Rudolph uses produce from local farms for his cuisine, including Jetta Farms at the Palafox Market every weekend and Pepper and Herb Farms microgreens, to name a few.
“I always try to grow gardens around the places I’m working,” Rudolph said. “I’ve got a raised bed here and once I slow down, were going to start growing some fall herbs and vegetables that I can use.”
As for specialties, he has many. However, at the time he is most proud of the fresh seafood that Bill’s By The Beach incorporates into their menu. “Everybody loves my steaks and lamb chops,” Rudolph said. “But the best part about here is I get to show off the seafood aspect and what were harvesting out of the Gulf here locally. Its nice to offer that. Most restaurants here and in Pensacola use frozen products, and we only use fresh fish and Im very proud to be one of those few, he said. I love to fish myself so its always a pleasure to see some beautiful snapper or grouper or other type of fish. I am overwhelmed by the products I’m allowed to get locally.”
Visit Bill’s By The Beach at 300 W. Beach Blvd. in Gulf Shores.
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Reprinted with permission.