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Destin's Celebrity Chef - Giovanni Filippone

All Star Hell's Kitchen chef Gio makes a splash in Destin with Fish On, a family-centered, affordable seafood restaurant

Article by Cheryl Forde

Photography by Davista Photography and Moore Media(Nicholas Moore)

Originally published in Destin City Lifestyle

The words “affordable” and “seafood” are not usually married on a menu, but Giovanni Filippone and his partner Billy have the audacity to bring them together in a new Destin restaurant, Fish On. Families can now enjoy delicious seafood served up efficiently and quickly from one of the Emerald Coast’s most storied chefs. Unlike the proverbial fish that got away, Gio’s world needs no embellishment!

After you hear his story, you’ll wonder how the Emerald Coast managed to attract a chef of this caliber. Before I share details of his Hell’s Kitchen appearance with a “crazy guy yelling at you called Ramsay,” I should give you a little background.

One of the coolest facts about Gio is that he is living the classic “American Dream”. He is an immigrant from Italy and France whose family made a bold move to the United States. Gio has been living full steam ahead since then, equipping himself with skills at the fabled Culinary Institute of America.

Gio discovered the Emerald Coast during his externship at the Marina Cafe. Locals and visitors alike know that visiting this area is like catching your first fish. You’ll never forget it.

And he didn’t forget. In fact, the New Jersey winter helped jog his memory with a single, dramatic 24-hour period featuring two feet of snow. He literally packed his things after that storm and made the Emerald Coast his home. Thank you, New Jersey!

For the past 20 years, Fish On’s chef and owner has livened up local restaurants including Mama Clemenza’s, Vue 30A, and the Marina Cafe.

His first chance to compete on Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen started in New Jersey. Gio had a friend whose struggling restaurant appeared in a show called Kitchen Nightmares. The restaurant’s regular chef left unexpectedly and Gio filled in. Preparation and opportunity intersected at that time and place. He was invited to audition for Hell’s Kitchen.

Gio became one of 16 contestants. As a result, you can watch Gio endure Gordon Ramsay’s explosive tirades as a contestant in Hell’s Kitchen, Season 5. Gio had his “15 minutes of fame two times” because he returned by invitation to compete in the show’s all-star season.

He laid out the pros and cons in a way anyone can understand.

“Pros. I did it. Cons. I got yelled at.”

He called the show a culinary boot camp. The entire season is filmed in two blistering weeks of 17-hour days. The participants literally never leave, sleeping in rooms above the kitchen. Sleep deprivation adds to the hardship.

The contestants produced food in volumes unheard of, one hundred dishes in 15 minutes. I don’t know about you, but I feel heroic after spending a full day to pull off a few dishes for a holiday meal!

Take a trip to Fish On for quick, delicious seafood in Destin. Gio’s been through Hell’s Kitchen - twice! - to bring this amazing experience to you!