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News, reviews and much more about the local dining scene.



 

The year was 1997. I had moved to Orlando from New York the year before, and was flexing my journalistic muscles while discovering this strange and foreign, theme-park-inundated land. My first story about the area was a piece in the Orlando Sentinel about the opening of restaurant/bookstore Chapters Café, and the changeover of a place called JoAnn’s Chili Bordello (if you weren’t here, you don’t know) into the more PG-rated Olde House Restaurant. Along with tales of professional cricket players, doll sculptors, a didgeridoo carver and a guy who sold alien abduction insurance (I had the weird and wonderful beat), my reports touched on new chefs and restaurants. And by the time I began writing for Orlando magazine (the first time, in ‘98), the universe of dessert roundups, restaurant critiques and the hunt for perfect pizza was mine to explore.

Regardless of what publication with the word “Orlando” in it I was working for, my love affair with this city’s culinary community has always pushed me to reveal the hard-working chefs, farmers, restaurateurs, servers and purveyors transforming our local food scene into something the country can envy. Most of the places I’ve written about since 1997 are gone—many of those I wrote about when I came back to OMag in 2009 are, as well—but the energy and passion remains. I put chefs on a creative par with jazz musicians, actors and writers, and I admire and respect them all. The best part of my job is I get to meet talented people, eat great food (mostly) and share those experiences with you. I can’t wait to show you what’s next.

AROUND TOWN:

  • Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando is the only Florida eatery to make The Daily Meal’s 2017 list of 101 Best Restaurants in America.
     
  • Shock-top TV personality Guy Fieri brought his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives crew to Orlando recently, visiting the Pastrami Project food truck, Saigon Noodle & Grill, The Meatball Stoppe and Mamak Asian Street Food. I spotted him eyeing a sweet creation at Se7en Bites Bake Shop. Segments will air throughout the year on the Food Network.
     
  • I was honored to visit chef Kevin Fonzo’s amazing Edible Education Experience in College Park. Fellow judges Shannon Talty (Olde Hearth Bakery), Julie Petrakis (The Ravenous Pig), William Blake (The Rusty Spoon) and I watched elementary school students compete in an “Iron Chef” throwdown … these fierce kids are the future!
     
  • Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival began earlier this month: Food highlights include Jamaican sugar cane shrimp skewers at La Isla Fresca outdoor kitchen; cider-brined corned beef at the Cider House booth; shrimp and stone-ground grits at the Florida Fresh kiosk; and brisket burnt ends hash at The Smokehouse. The Fest runs through May 29.

Stay in touch with Joseph at joseph.hayes@orlandomagazine.com. You can access a comprehensive list of Joseph's 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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