Executive Chef Melissa Donahue – Talmage’s resume is impressive, with training at Manhattan’s French Culinary Institute followed by the kitchens of some of the most respected restaurants in the United States including Union Cafe in New York City, Commander’s Palace in New Orleans and John Besh’s August, also in New Orleans.
Originally planning to pursue a law degree, Donahue – Talmage changed career paths after her first child was born and she realized she would rather spend her time in the kitchen instead of a courtroom. Hurricane Katrina blew Chef Melissa out of New Orleans, landing her on Sanibel Island and correlating nicely with a job offer from the former Redfish Blufish restaurant. In 2009 the restaurant was renamed and opened as Sweet Melissa’s Cafe.
With her culinary and management talents consistently praised, Chef Donahue – Talmage has received high praises from every major publication in Southwest Florida, with recipes featured in multiple local travel and restaurant guides. At the 2010 Sanibel Island Taste of the Island, she was awarded first place for Best Appetizer. 2011 saw her selected as the “Best Chef for a Chef” Vintner Dinner in the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest. The popular on-line dining reservation website, Open Table, recognizes the restaurant with Diners’ Choice Awards, including Best Food, Best Overall and Best Service. In 2017 Sweet Melissa’s Café was recognized by USA Today as a top 10 restaurant in South Florida. With a menu and true talent that keeps diners begging for more, Sweet Melissa’s Cafe and Chef Melissa Donahue – Talmage are “Creatively Out Of The Ordinary”.