At first glance, a typical day for Stephen Hutson probably looks a lot like yours or mine. He checks in with his work team, pays some bills, and then spends the rest of his time “fixing random things that break.” But, for most of us, that’s where our day-to-day similarities end. Because Stephen Hutson’s life is anything but typical.
A Flagler College graduate with a degree in business, Stephen opened the enormously popular Catch 27 restaurant in 2013 when he was just 25 years old. “I started working in the service industry back in 2006. My first job was busing tables. After some time, I was promoted to serving tables. I did some kitchen work as well on expo. That’s where I learned how everything worked together.” He says that being a young entrepreneur definitely tipped the scales in his favor; he could put in the long hours necessary to ensure success, and, in hindsight, admits that, “I was more fearless than I should have been, which led me to take more risks that shouldn’t have worked out…but did!”
Stephen also had the foresight to choose the downtown area back when the tourist industry wasn’t quite as bustling as it is now and the slow season seemed like it went on forever. And he had the confidence to turn what many view as obstacles into opportunities. Catch 27 is located right in the heart of historic St. Augustine. “I am a big believer in amazing food in a casual setting,” Stephen explains. “Casual fine dining. I saw downtown as a busy area that was only going to get busier. I knew if I could find a location to suit our needs, I could start something great.” He also has a real love for everything that defines St. Augustine, including our history and, of course, our weather – but he is convinced that it’s the people who live and work here that make the difference between our town and every other town.
He does his part to support our St. Johns County community by using fresh, locally-sourced products. Even the name – Catch 27 – represents a commitment to fresh, Florida-focused food (it’s a nod to the fact that Florida was the 27th state to join the Union). Stephen also believes that a major driving force behind the success of Catch 27 is that he truly enjoys meeting and talking with his guests and food suppliers. “Meeting our customers motivates me. Meeting the people who grow our vegetables and catch our seafood motivates me.”
Another factor that keeps Stephen motivated is thinking about the new menus he and Executive Chef Joshua Smith create each season. Working together since 2015, Stephen and Joshua design four different menus annually, a practice that gives each of them a chance to experiment with their classic dishes and pique our palates with some fresh, new offerings. Florida-sourced, of course! “At Catch 27,” says Stephen, “we love the culinary scene of St. Augustine and we think our focus on fresh, locally-sourced seafood and produce make us a stand out.”
If he had a recipe for success, the ingredients might include hard work and a team you can trust. “I’ve been in the restaurant industry for 12 years now,” he says. “When I hire someone to do something, I can honestly say that I have done what I’m asking them to do. The hardest part is the time between my telling them that and them finding out that I actually can do what I have asked them to do. Thankfully, most of my staff has been with me a while now and we all have each others backs.”
If there were such a thing as a culinary crystal ball, what would Stephen see in his future? His answer is, again, less-than-typical – “To continue getting better at what we do.” For us, that means even more of what we love: innovative, fresh, seasonal and local.