Matt Djerf still sees him, still hears him. He still turns his head, waiting for his friend and his boss, Shannon Yates, to march down the hallway at Nevermind Awesome Bar & Eatery, wearing his trademark clogs. Yates, the former owner, and head chef, unexpectedly passed away in August. Now, Djerf will build on Yates’ legacy as the new head chef at the popular downtown restaurant.

Djerf recently started his new duties, continuing a journey in the restaurant business that Yates inspired.

“I worked with Shannon for nine years,” Djerf said. “These are surely big shoes to fill. It is strange to be here, and he is not there.”

The Cape Coral native started as a dishwasher at Nevermind when Yates opened the business nine years ago. Djerf had zero interest in the food industry, but he needed a job, and Yates needed kitchen staff. At the time, Yates wasn’t sure how his fledgling restaurant would fly, and to start, he paid Djerf in beer.

Soon, Djerf was preparing food, operating the frier and then the grill. Then came a life-changing trip with Yates to New York over the Fourth of July holiday.

Djerf and Yates visited famous eateries, dined on the works of world-renowned chefs. It was the experience of a lifetime for Djerf, who left there knowing food was his destiny.

“It was my best four days ever,” he said.

For a brief time during the pandemic, Djerf left Nevermind to work for Lee Richardson at LeRoy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar in Punta Gorda. Now, the Ida Baker High School graduate looks forward to continuing Yates’ vision of providing unique dishes and his legacy as a community and business supporter.

“We will keep the same lamb burgers, crab rolls, and wings, but we will bring in some salads and different pasta dishes,” the 32-year-old Djerf said.

They also will introduce flatbreads to the menu. “That was something (Shannon) wanted before he passed.

“It’s his energy and his passion. He knows that quality. He feels it, he loves it,” said Yates’ close friend, Dewey Sanders, about the new chef. “That was Shannon’s biggest thing – that passion. “(Matt) is going to take Nevermind where (Shannon) wanted it to go.”

Djerf also wants to continue Yates’ tradition of bringing in guest chefs from other restaurants.

“Shannon was a genius when it came to marketing,” Djerf said. “He would market other people because he wanted their businesses to do well. He put Cape Coral on the map with good food.”

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