10 Questions with Local Chef Lauren Simon

A full professional kitchen might not be something you’d expect to find in a bank; nor classes that teach Blue Zone healty lifestyle choices. At three bank locations in Southwest Florida FineMark National Bank & Trust enhances the client experience with food prepared fresh onsite.

“Hospitality is ingrained in everything we do at FineMark. Having a chef on staff  allows us to serve our clients in a warm and personal atmosphere,” says Adria Starkey, Collier County President for FineMark National Bank and Trust Company.

An alumna of the Johnson & Wales Culinary Arts Program, Chef Lauren Simon became the executive chef of the Naples FineMark office in 2015.

I recently met with Chef Simon to tour the kitchen (which has the first non-ducted professional hood I’ve ever seen) and ask a few questions.

Chef Lauren Peterson and Adria Starkey
Chef Lauren Simon and Collier President Adria Starkey

What do you think about the pre-packaged food trend?

LS: I think it’s a good idea for convenience but it really doesn’t help people who really don’t want to cook. If you learn good meal planning and good techniques you can save yourself a lot of money.

When creating an event, what do you hope participants take away?

LS: I hope they feel inspired and less intimidated. Once they see someone demonstrate techniques they are more likely to try it themselves.

What cookbook should everyone own?

LP: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
It’s very intimidating if you don’t cook but, it’s great for learning good foundation techniques.

What are the top 3 tools in your kitchen?

LS: Cast iron skillet, immersion blender, Vitamix blender

Who inspires you as a cook?

LS: My grandmother first got me interested in cooking. I follow a lot of food bloggers who make really good food from their own kitchens.

 Chef Lauren Peterson

Who are your go-to’s on  Instagram?

LS: Food52 @food52, Molly Yeh @mollyyeh, Samin Nosrat @ciaosamin

Local love list…what is your favorite local food or place to eat out in Southwest Florida?

LS: I love mangoes! I have clients who bring me fresh mangoes they have grown themselves and they are delicious.

What would people be surprised to find in your refrigerator?

LS: They would be surprised to find it empty. I like to buy my food the day I prepare it.

1 word to describe your cooking style?

LS: Approachable

What’s your guilty pleasure snack food?

LS: Candycorn – I love that you can find it almost any time of the year now!


*This article was update to reflect Chef Lauren’s married name.

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