Today we introduce a new feature on the flog: Compliments of the Chef, in which some of our area's top culinarians share recipes and secrets. We'll feature dishes from some of the best restaurants in the area and beyond. And we won't limit it to things you can chew. Look for the occasional cocktail recipe. And if you have a favorite dish or drink you'd like to see featured here, send us a note and we'll do our best to get it for you.


Greg Richie, executive chef of Thornton Park Restaurant Group's Soco and Baoery restaurants, shares the recipe and procedure for making Baoery's Sizzling Lemongrass Chicken. It's an impressive dish that hits all of the senses when it comes into the dining room. You can make it at home using Richie's easy to follow recipe. Check out the video above for some advice from the chef.

EIFWF ClinkPhoto Walt Disney World

Epcot is slowly closing the gap between the International Flower & Garden Festival, which is continuing through May 30, and the International Food & Wine Festival. The latter, which is celebrating its 21st year and is finally old enough to sample some of its own beverages, is adding nine days the the calendar. It will run a full 62 days this year, up from 53 in 2015, from Sept. 14 through Nov. 14

This year, the festival will feature a variety of hands-on workshops called Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It in the Festival Center.

Cat Cora, whose BoardWalk restaurant closed a couple of years ago, will return with a celebrity chef demonstration, as will Norman Van Aken, Masaharu Morimoto, Elizabeth Falkner, Buddy Valastro and Jamie Deen.

Party for the Senses will be back, of course, and so will Rockin’ Burger Block Party, which debuted last year. Also new this year, a Grand Floridian brunch “with a twist,” and a new cooking school experience.

And something that will be exciting to a select few: a new vegan option at the Greece marketplace.

Expect more details soon.

Blended BurgerHere’s a James Beard recognition that could possibly go to a local chef — if you get involved.

The New York based James Beard Foundation has announced its second annual Blended Burger Project, which was formerly known as the Better Burger Project, so I think technically this is the first year.

Anyway, what it is is a challenge from the foundation as part of its 2016 Food Conference for chefs around the country to create a burger with ground beef partially blended with mushrooms. According to a statement from Beardies: “Blending ground meat with finely chopped, cultivated mushrooms introduces a healthier and more sustainable burger that's better for your guests – with unmatched flavor and inherent nutrition benefits – and our environment at large.

It’s also a killer way to reduce food costs on expensive beef.

The competition is open to restaurateurs and chefs throughout the country. Here’s how it works:
• Complete the registration form at
• Create your “blended burger” by blending at least 25% fresh, finely chopped, cultivated mushrooms into your burger patty
• Send a delicious-looking high-res photo of your "blended burger" dish to Michelle Santoro (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) for use in the online image gallery at
• Menu the dish throughout the promotion, from Memorial Day – July 31, 2016, and beyond if you choose
• Encourage consumers to vote for your "blended burger" in the online gallery at, based on the voting criteria of most creative use of mushrooms, best flavor profile, and most appetizing appearance
• Use the official Blended Burger Project™ media assets provided by JBF to promote the dish on your menu, website, through social media (@beardfoundation, #BlendedBurgerProject) and throughout your local market and metropolitan-wide publications or broadcast outlets

Complete contest details are available here.

The contest will run from Memorial Day through July 31. The top five vote getters will win a trip to New York to attend the Food Conference in October.

One other thing you should do if you plan to participate: Send the information to me and I’ll pass it along to everyone here so that they can go to the site and vote on your burger.

And nobody better vote for a New Orleans burger.

What do you think, chefs? Do you have an idea for a Better Burger?

Second Harvest chefs.001

The Second Harvest chefs include, from left, Israel Santiago, John Dizan, Robert Pagen, Jill Holland and Terah Barrios.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida kicks off its next season of its popular Chef’s Night Series on Thursday, May 19, with a very special dinner.

I’ve told you about some of the past dinners, which are held at the Second Harvest facility to highlight its Culinary Training Program, which teaches at-risk and economically disadvantaged adults the culinary skills training needed to pursue a career in the food industry.

In the past, the dinners have been headlined by some of our top local celebrity chefs. But this dinner will feature some real culinary rock stars: The chefs of Second Harvest who run this very important program.

Chefs Robert Pagen, Jill Holland, John Dizan, Israel Santiago and Terah Barrios have put together a menu that will highlight the theme of the new season, the Year of the Steak.

Tickets are $100 per person and all proceeds go to furthering this worthwhile program. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 407-514-1048.

The dinner will be May 19 at 6 p.m. at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, 411 Mercy Drive, Orlando.


Black Rock Bar & Grill, a restaurant whose shtick involves guests cooking their own foods on hot stones at the table, has opened its first location outside of its home state of Michigan in Orlando.

The local restaurant is at the corner of Conroy Windermere Road and S. Apopka Vineland Road, which is really more names than an intersection really needs. Black Rock takes over a space that has not seen any recent success stories. We were here last year when it was Fresh Made Kitchen. It started its life as a Perkins Restaurant & Bakery.

Black Rock wall

The Black Rock folks have removed all of the Perkinsianess and remodeled with stacked block walls and moody lighting. I was surprised to find it a much larger restaurant than it seemed when I visited Fresh Made Kitchen. But it is quite big, and I might as well tell you this right now: When it’s full, as it was when I was invited to attend a preview dinner, it is ear-splittingly loud.

As I mentioned, the gimmick here is tabletop cooking on stones that have been heated to 700 degrees. Don’t believe me? Go ahead, stick your tongue on it.