Concepts Include Panini Pete’s Café, Sunset Pointe, Squid Ink Eclectic Eats & Drinks, Mob Town Proper, Plus Ed’s Seafood Shed; Next Is Fire On The Causeway
Pete Blohme got his start in the restaurant business as a 14-year-old living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and he hasn’t slowed down since. After earning a degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, in 1986, Pete’s gigs with cruise ships, hotels and kitchens turned into a long-term commitment when he brought his culinary and hospitality expertise to communities along the Eastern Shore and Mobile Bay. “I ended up in Alabama working for a regional chain and fell in love with it and wanted to raise my family here,” Pete said.
Today, he is owner and executive chef of PP Hospitality Group, a multiconcept business that he runs with long-time friend Nick Dimario, who serves as co-owner and vice president of operations.
Pete’s career shifted direction in the mid-2000s when he was a corporate chef living in Daphne and decided to open his own business. “I had talked about it a lot and kind of finally came to the conclusion that I needed to put up or shut up,” Pete said. As he considered his options, he took particular note of the lunch market in the Fairhope French Quarter and wondered what he could do there that was different. He landed on a European-style panini with high-quality ingredients, and Panini Pete’s Café and Bakeshoppe launched in 2006.
He originally planned to grow the Panini Pete’s brand and worked to that end for eight years. “Then … Fly Creek Marina became available,” Pete said.
As he made plans for the new Fairhope restaurant, Pete went with a different concept. “I grew up in south Florida. Waterfront restaurants are where I cut my teeth. I looked out at that bay and said, ‘That’s the money – that bay, that sunset – that’s the emotion.’ ” He envisioned planting palm trees, adding fire pits and patios, and building a 30-foot bar facing the water, among other improvements. He also approached Nick about joining him in a restaurant company, and Sunset Pointe was born. “I pretty much ran the back, and Nick ran the front,” Pete said. “We complement each other so well.”
After opening in November 2014, Sunset Pointe was named hottest new restaurant in the state in 2015. “It’s been such a joy – such a great concept,” Pete said. Since that time, PP Hospitality Group has continued to expand its multiconcept business, which now includes Mobile locations for Squid Ink Eclectic Eats & Drinks, a gastro pub, and Mob Town Proper and Vintage, a hair salon.
PP Hospitality Group also took over ownership of Ed’s Seafood Shed on the Mobile Bay Causeway in Spanish Fort. The brand had been rebuilt and sales were growing when a building fire last September closed the restaurant. They’re now in the process of rebuilding and rebranding with plans to reopen as a different concept and new name – Fire on the Causeway. By the end of the year, they also hope to announce a new location for Ed’s Seafood Shed. “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?” Pete said.
Doing new concepts “keeps your creative juice of flowing,” Pete said. “It gives you the opportunity to do new things and introduce new things to the market.” PP Hospitality Group’s repeated success also gives the company an opportunity to give back to their industry and community.
Pete is a frequent Food Network competitor and judge, podcast host, speaker, author and fundraiser. He also co-founded the PR Foundation with Chicago-based chef Robert Kabakof, to support military veterans, people with special needs and no kill animal shelters. “We do things in all of our markets,” he said. “Whether it’s doing runs or doing events, doing collaborations with restaurants or beer companies to raise money, it stays in the community.” In addition, Pete is a founding member of MessLords, a group of celebrity chefs that cook for the U.S. military and entertain on bases all over the world.