THIS WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN OUR NOVEMBER 2020 PRINT ISSUE
In the best of times, the life of a chef is no easy task and is most certainly a labor of love. Balancing long hours, the highs and lows of unpredictable dining trends, and keeping a solid team of workers happy and healthy is a full-time struggle.
It’s not a secret that COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on our restaurant professionals. Chefs and owners have had to endure last-minute shutdowns, loss of product, heartbreaking furloughs of their restaurant families, and mounting expends, all while doing their best to keep themselves, their staff, and their guests safe. With all of this, we have seen a remarkable amount of ingenuity, passion, camaraderie, and an abundance of damn good food being offered tor Orlandoans to enjoy.
Here’s a roundup of just a few that we were really digging in our 2020.
The Foreigner Experience
Chef Bruno Fonseca puts out a new menu every week in his ongoing pop-up series of omakase-style dining experiences. Originally designed to be a Chef’s Table experience, Fonseca has pivoted his concept to include distanced tables in lush locations where he and his team can roam safely from table to table, providing some of the most luscious and almost too-pretty-to-eat plates in town. Dinner themes and menus rotate frequently so you’re in for a surprise every time you go. Swirlery Wine Bar provides the drink pairings.
This is one of the most highly anticipated new foodie concepts in town. Soseki is an omakase-style experience led by Taglish chef/owner Mike Collantes and Denni Cha of Kaizen Izakaya. They’ve set up shop at the Edible Education Experience in College Park, and are offering take
out lunch and limited preview dinners before moving into their Winter Park location at 955 W.
Fairbanks Avenue sometime next year with an expanded menu based on traditional Japanese
Yugiri Ramen Project
Chef Mike Evans has a deep passion for ramen and recently decided to go all-in on a concept that provides authentic ramen experiences throughout Orlando via home dining services. Evans, who hails most recently as sous chef at Kabooki Sushi Sand Lake, has a goal of helping Orlando diners enjoy all types of ramen, particularly vegan and vegetarian.
Chef Eliot Hillis is always one for culinary surprises and he’s been showing no fear during the
pandemic as he’s participated in a number of pop-ups and collabs with his Recess
Pizza concept and events with Kai, Eola General, among others. Orlando Meats will be
relocating just a few miles down the road to the former home of Todo Sushi near The New Standard in the New Year, with plans for a cocktail program, outdoor seating, and restaurant while still focusing on full-service butchery
Subrosa Dining Experience
Just launched this past October, this dining experience likes a little shroud of mystery and intrigue as diners sign up for an evening experience and then get details of the theme and location 24 hours before the event. Inspired by their travels around the world, owners Keena and Andrea want to bring a little of their experiences abroad to Orlando. Diners can expect intimate arrangements, secret menus, and unique themes all woven together with live entertainment in a socially-distanced setting.
We love our local chefs and dining out, but who doesn’t love ordering in and trying something new from the safety and comfort of their couch every now and then?
We’ve seen a new trend with chefs who are going it alone this year – some out of necessity – who are focusing on doing one or two dishes really well, and often personally delivering the goods straight to your door. Here are a few of our favorite food-preneurs.
Helpful Hint – These folks tend to keep most of their ordering and operations limited to Instagram so be sure to pop on there to find out more.
Brad’s Underground Pizza
If you like to dig into a messy Chicago-style deep dish pizza, here’s a local connect. Brad also does traditional pizza as well and delivery is typically free if you’re based in the Winter Park/Maitland area.
Jeff’s Bagel Run
This guy is becoming a Winter Garden celebrity, y’all. He opens up an ordering portal once a week, typically on Sundays, and you better have your finger on the button and ready to make some fast decisions as he sells out in less than 5 minutes.
Meng’s is the first restaurant in Orlando specializing in Hainan Chicken and Rice. The dish is comprised of poached chicken, white rice, and a delicious consommé that is definitely soul-soothing. He’s also started offering a few other menu items that we’re excited to explore.
Grazin’ Tables and Boards
Think charcuterie and sweets trays amped up with fun designs and lots of flair. I like checking out the fun pics for new presentations of the typical meats and cheese combinations, as mine can get a little stale from time to time. Definitely a fun vendor to check out for holiday help or inspiration.