Q&A with a Chef: Gerard Coughlin of Leopard Lounge & Restaurant

August 5, 2021

To celebrate the first-ever Palm Beaches Restaurant Week, taking place Aug. 16-31, we’re asking some of the region’s top chefs about their inspirations, the local culinary scene and more.

Located within The Chesterfield Palm Beach boutique hotel is the Leopard Lounge & Restaurant. The Leopard Lounge is an iconic local gem, famous for its hand painted Lino Mario ceiling, black lacquer, gold and leopard-accented interior, signature martinis and celebrity sightings. A popular Palm Beach destination known for nightlife, live music and cocktails, this sultry bar and restaurant also hosts a variety of private events and serves delicious eats.

The Leopard Lounge at The Chesterfield
The sleek yet lively Leopard Lounge; photo courtesy of The Chesterfield

Its lunch and dinner menus offer elevated American fare with highlights like the Maryland-style lump crab cakes, Gerard’s turkey burger, shrimp stroganoff and Key lime pie. The lounge’s team of mixologists craft libations alongside a well-curated global wine list. If you’re looking for a more delicate dining experience, The Chesterfield offers a traditional afternoon tea, which can be served in the lounge. 
 
Meet Gerard Coughlin, executive chef at the Leopard Lounge. He started as the restaurant’s sous chef before the opportunity presented itself to become executive chef and he’s been there ever since. We asked Chef Gerard a few questions to get to know him and the Leopard Lounge a little better.

Chef Gerard Couglin of Leopard Lounge
Executive Chef Gerard Couglin; photo courtesy of The Chesterfield

What made you decide to become a chef?

I love to cook and to make food for people. Food makes people happy, so it is very rewarding. My mom is also a chef, so I pretty much learned from her coming up as a kid. I started cooking for friends. When I lived in St. Augustine, friends would bring back their fresh fish catches and I would prepare it for them. I came down to The Palm Beaches in 2001 to Palm Beach and went to culinary school. By then I had been cooking for 9 or 10 years. I worked on the island and just enjoyed the family feel of the kitchen. For me, it doesn’t feel like work; I’m just cooking and making people happy.

What inspires you in the kitchen?

I like cooking new dishes and things I’ve never made before. That’s fun for me. Our owner, Beatrice Tollman, is always sending recipes and ideas to attempt and to put a Palm Beach twist on. She is a big inspiration for me, and our English chefs also share a lot of ideas. I have also found that I really enjoy the management side — organizing, ordering and being in charge of the kitchen. It has been a good challenge trying to keep a consistent kitchen with a freshness that I think people will enjoy.

Cocktails at the Leopard Lounge
From front, a Moscow mule, an old fashioned and a martini; photo by Cristyle Egitto

What is your favorite dish on the menu/to prepare?

I really like grilling — steaks and fresh seafood. My favorite on the menu now is our New York strip with a chimichurri butter. It reminds me of cooking at home on the grill.

What's one thing you would love for people to know about your restaurant?

It’s a really fun place. We have live entertainment most nights. It’s great for people watching; you never know who you’ll run into here. It’s a small hotel that’s friendly and makes people feel comfortable, so it’s a fun, personal place.

Bartender at the Leopard Lounge
Friendly bartender serving craft cocktails; photo by Cristyle Egitto

What should people know about the culinary scene in The Palm Beaches?

It’s very American with other influences mixed in there. There is a lot of seafood and meat, with steaks and burgers.

What are the three things you’d tell a first-time visitor to do while they’re here?

1. A nice tour of Palm Beach Island. There are a lot of historical places on the island that are interesting to learn about. Take a stroll down Worth Avenue.
2. Go to the beach.
3. Come to The Chesterfield for a nice dinner and tea.

Patio dining at The Chesterfield
Patio dining at The Chesterfield; photo courtesy of The Chesterfield

Ready to Visit?

Leopard Lounge is open daily serving breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m., with the bar open later into the evening. Guests can enjoy nightly live music Thursday through Saturday and happy hour drink and bar bite specials Sunday through Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
 
The lounge is also a seating option for The Chesterfield’s popular afternoon tea, an English tradition served daily from noon to 4 p.m. in the library, lounge and outdoor courtyard. Tea lovers can enjoy an array of teas, scones, cakes and tea sandwiches. Champagne is also available, as well as Little Prince & Princess Tea for the little ones. Reservations are required.

The Palm Beaches Restaurant Week takes place Aug. 16-31, 2021. Find out what’s on the prix fixe menu at the Leopard Lounge.

Afternoon tea at the Leopard Lounge
Afternoon tea at the Leopard Lounge; photo by Cristyle Egitto

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Image of woman Cristlye Egitto
Cristyle Egitto
Cristyle Egitto is a South Florida native, born in Miami, raised in Palm Beach and educated at the University of Florida. She founded the food blog EatPalmBeach in 2013 as a way to discover restaurants and culinary talents in the area while supporting local businesses. Her writing has appeared in various publications, and she has been featured on local TV and in multiple magazines.