Savor Orlando: Reflections

Where did the time go? 10 years of dining reviews, stories and much more (beer, lots of beer) with OMag.



 

This February marks 10 years that I’ve been back at Orlando magazine. I was a general feature writer for the mag back in 1998, writing about local restaurants, events and musicians (it’s how I first met the great and much missed Sam Rivers, and began my love affair with the Orlando jazz community).

But I left after two years—the reasons aren’t important—and worked for the two local newspapers with Orlando in their names along with other, more wide-ranging publications. There was a point when I had stories in OMag, the Weekly and the Sentinel at the same time, which might be a local record. Then, a decade ago, I was called back, and began this latest run of food reporting about the fabulous culinary scene that is Central Florida and all the hard-working people within it.

But I began, in 2009, with a profile of young jazz vibraphonist Christian Tamburr, a musical prodigy who started his career at 15 playing for local legend Michael Andrew.

There were a few gift guide roundups scattered in the ensuing months, but it wasn’t until July that I hit the food scene running, with a review of The Black Olive, a Mediterranean restaurant in a downtown location that would become Pine 22, Blue Smoke Burger Bar and is currently (although for not much longer, apparently) the home of Artisan’s Table. In that same issue was a story about the aforementioned Mr. Rivers on the occasion of his 85th birthday, and it wasn’t the last I would write about him before his passing two years later.

So many highlights over the past 10 years! September 2009 was my first call-out of what would become two powerhouses in our culture, Lake Meadow Naturals and Olde Hearth Bakery. November 2009 my first cover, about great local diners. March 2010 saw my first roundup about sandwich shops not to be missed. And that June had us meeting John Rivers for the first time, not long after he opened the now-famous 4 Rivers Smokehouse.

My first beer issue was in 2011 and was a slim affair when compared to the explosion of breweries in 2018 that is still a reference for local brewhounds. My BBQ guide in 2012 got raves from across the country, and the chocolate issue was just plain fun. And who could forget the massive burger issue, and my favorite children, Food Adventures and Food Adventures 2: A Taste Odyssey! I like them so much that FA3 is already in the works.  

I particularly love talking to passionate and dedicated people. Harris Rosen; Iron Chef Morimoto; Rick Bayless; Kenny Gilbert; Tony Mantuano; my lively conversation with Barbara Alfano and Elisa Scarpa; and an afternoon with the fabulous Baker Women are just some I’ll remember always. And as a throwback to my previous incarnation, I particularly enjoyed talking to Chakra Khan, Bobby Koelble, Matthew Kiichi Heafy, Lauren Carder and The Pauses in the 2016 Music Issue.

Many of my subjects have closed shop since I wrote about them (I had nothing to do with that, I swear). Machon at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary is gone, as is the school. Paris Bistro; Brown’s NY Deli; Emeril’s; my favorite, Chef Henry’s; all wonderful and all gone.

And of course, how can I forget all the Dining Awards issues that have filled my time with hair-pulling decisions. This May brings another, and my choices (and yours!) will not be easy. But they will be delicious.

Orlando is filled with superbly talented chefs and restaurants, and I’m proud to be a part of introducing them to you, and to the world. Here’s to the years, and dinners, to come.

Stay in touch at  joseph.hayes@orlandomagazine.com,  and access a comprehensive list of my print and online reviews here!

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Savor Orlando

From fine dining to local hot spots, the latest restaurant news, reviews and more.

About This Blog

For the past 20 years, I've made my living as a features, food and travel writer, playwright and jazz producer. I collect odd facts about Central Florida's food scene, such as College Park once being a pineapple plantation; or where to sample local mead (hint: it's in DeLand). I'd rather eat small tastes than a big meal, and my go-to food is noodles.

Find out more at jrhayes.net

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