For nearly three years, Carrie Castillo has had the pleasure of working with seafood fresh from the Gulf of Mexico. She has also quickly mastered the art of quickness and quality during her time as the head chef at Atkins Seafood in Waxahachie.

“You can’t get it any fresher,” Castillo bragged, as she explained that the fresh product makes the job a little easier.

Castillo is quick to admit the meals do not require an absurd amount of prep time, either. On average, Castillo needs about 10 minutes to prepare a dish. She also establishes specials and a soup of the day on a daily basis.

“It’s actually been kind of a challenge for me, but it’s something I enjoy. It was difficult to come up with things that were seafood,” Castillo admitted.

If a new fish comes in, Castillo takes the time to educate herself and learn ways to elevate the meat, finding out the flavor that compliments the fish or shellfish is the trick.

“Some are fishy and some are more lighter, fresher tasting, so you want to bring out that in whatever sauce or veggies you put it in,” Castillo elaborated.

If Castillo is having a tough day in the kitchen — shrimp is her go to favorite because of its simplicity. She explained the fish is ideal to work with because of its versatility and noted it can easily be included in a healthy (or even in a little unhealthier option, such as into tacos or even a burger).

“People enjoy the food, and it makes me happy that I’ve warmed their bellies or made them experience something they’ve never had,” Castillo expressed.

For the newbies in the kitchen, Castillo advised starting with shrimp when attempting to reel in seafood dishes.

Time in the kitchen is nothing new to Castillo, either. She first mastered mud pies in her family's backyard on the outskirts of Ellis County. She then acquainted herself with the kitchen at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center — Waxahachie at the age of 15. It was there that she washed dishes and worked odd jobs in the kitchen for some time.

After time off to become a mother, Castillo put her professional apron back on about 15 years ago, returning to the hospital; this time as a chef. A stint at the College Street Pub in Waxahachie ultimately led her to the kitchen at Atkins Seafood.

“It’s all helped me believe in myself and create something that I love. That brings up my spirit," she said. "It shows my character in my food.”

She added, “For me, it’s gotten me out of trouble and has saved my life a couple times. It’s always been something I come back to."

Atkins Seafood, located at 300 Ferris Avenue in Waxahachie, is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m.—6 p.m. and on Friday and Saturdays from 10 a.m.—8 p.m. The restaurant is also BYOB.