Ask chef Tony DuBoulay, the big guy who looks even bigger with his dreadlocks tucked into a tall white chef’s hat, why his little Suncoast Café at the Venice Airport has amassed such a following since he and his wife Deb opened it in 2010, and he says, “The food.” Deb laughs. “It’s great food,” she agrees. “But it’s Tony—his personality. I’ve never seen a restaurant where the chef is so much the star of the show.” As the St. Lucia-born DuBoulay, 56, and his small staff juggle pans behind a tiny counter, customers vie for his attention, trading greetings and banter. But they get quiet when their orders—maybe a colorful quesadilla with roasted pork, peppers and a side of plantains or a flaky goat roti—arrive.
The Road to Venice
“I went to culinary school in St. Lucia and worked on cruise liners. We moved to Venice in 2002 and started catering. We thought we could serve some meals, too, and a realtor showed us the café. The location, the size, it was perfect. We do breakfast and lunch and seat just 34, but we might do 300 meals a day.”
Stir It Up
“My food is a twist of island and a twist of America. And I have my own seasoning—21 spices blended together. Even my sous chef doesn’t know what’s in it.”
By Land and Air
“We get people who live nearby, seniors, kids, bikers from the Legacy Trail, which ends right here. The other day we had 25 bikes parked outside. A lot of people come by air, from Naples, Fort Myers, the Panhandle, or on private jets from all over the country.”
Get Up, Stand Up
“I like to say I’m here nine days a week. I ride my bike and at 3 a.m. I start cooking. I’m alone until 7:30 and stay until after we close at 2. When I get home, I’m tired. We go out to eat.”
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
“I have a smiling face all the time. We have the gift of life. When you have life, you must live it; that is what it is for. To have a frown on your face—that makes no sense. And it will make you old.”
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