Chef Hari Pulapaka is a university mathematics and computer science professor by day and executive chef and co-owner of Cress Restaurant in DeLand, Florida at night. His wife, meanwhile, has an equally full professional plate as a practicing physician and the restaurant’s general manager/sommelier. Hari earned his PhD from the University of Florida, graduated at the top of his class from Le Cordon Bleu: Orlando, is a four-time James Beard Foundation award nominee for Best Chef: South, and last year published his first book, Dreaming in Spice. We asked him to share his version of a Southern classic: shrimp and grits.
Globally inspired flavors using locally sourced ingredients are the hallmarks of chef Pulapaka’s cuisine and he brings that influence to his shrimp and grits recipe. “The grits have been a Cress signature since the day we opened,” he says. “Not knowing any better, I treated the grits as if it was polenta and infused it with shiitake mushrooms, bay leaves, and lots of fresh thyme. The key is to brown the butter at the beginning stage for a deep nutty flavor. This holds up to the strong flavors generated by the creole spices and andouille sausage.”