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Gordon Ramsay, the incendiary Scottish chef, was pranked recently, according to an article published on the Daily Mail's website. Ramsay opened his new restaurant, Heddon Street Kitchen in London's tony Mayfair section, a couple of weeks ago with a full roster of reservations on the books. But, according to Ramsay, the ressies were fake, made by a rival chef or enemy. According to the article, 140 reservations were expected but only 40 showed up. Ramsay has not said who he thinks the prankster might have been. Trouble is, how does he begin to narrow down who that enemy might be -- he's made so many over the years.

I avoid Ramsay's restaurants. He may be an excellent chef, but he's quite obviously not a nice person. I have the freedom to spend my money where I want; why would I want to give it to the likes of him?

I was first put off on Ramsay when the Sentinel asked me to do a review of the second season of Hell's Kitchen many, many years ago. I had not watched the first season, and after viewing the review copy of the first couple of episodes that were to air shortly, I literally felt sick to my stomach. There's no excuse for someone to treat people that way. Watching Hell's Kitchen also put me off of "reality" cooking shows forever. People are always surprised when the mention an episode of this cooking show or that chef program and I tell them I've never seen any of them. I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

 

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Swiss Chard Gratin

Turkey day is upon us, and while divas stick with the basics like Aunt Glo's stuffing and Polly's pecan pie, we love adding a new twist to the holiday buffet. 'Tis the Florida season for greens to flourish, and Swiss chard is one of our favorites – a super-model beauty with rich, dark greens leaves and the rainbow of reds, purples, and yellows in its stalks and veins.

Swiss chard is nutritious and full of fiber, and for our holiday buffets, we want a touch of indulgence, so this side dish adds butter, cream and cheese. What's not to love?

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Rusteak ext

There isn't much on the outside of the boxy structure at 2625 Edgewater Drive in College Park that indicates RusTeak lives there. Maybe that has to do with the seemingly hasty move to take over that building at the last minute instead of the previously announced location down the street. It takes time to deal with sign makers in this town, I've heard.

But RusTeak is definitely inside, and so is a more attractive decor, though I can't for the life of me figure out what a painting of Edgar Allen Poe (or big-eyed bees, for that matter) has to do with the brand. Oh well, the food is good and the service is, too. In fact, the servers could tone it down just a bit, but I'll come back to that.

I stopped in for a recent lunch visit and looked over the overwhelming menu — 34 mains and 17 starters or salads. I settled on an appetizer of shrimp fritters and a burger, while my companion chose the Californication sandwich.

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soco ext

The latest buzz generator in downtown Orlando restaurants is Soco, the first "from scratch" restaurant from Thornton Park Restaurant Group. TPRG also has Cityfish, which it acquired from Urban Life Restaurant Group. Soco — the name means Southern contemporary — is also the first restaurant where Greg Richie can claim top billing. Richie is a partner in TPRG and is also Soco's executive chef (Cityfish's, too, but more about that another time). Previously, he was leading the kitchen at Emeril's Tchoup Chop for celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, and before that he opened the Restaurant Row Roy's, named for Roy Yamaguchi.

Although both of those restaurants might be called chef driven, Soco is the first where Richie is clearly behind the wheel.

But let me stop here. As I've mentioned in previous articles about Soco, TPRG is a client of Scott Joseph Company's consulting services, and therefore it would be inappropriate for me to offer a review. So here's what I've done instead: At the annual gala for the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, I was auctioned off to the highest bidder. Actually, dinner with me was the auction item. And there were three bidders who matched the "buy it now" price. For its part, Soco donated the dinners.

My dinner companions on the first visit were Arlen and Diane Chase, archeologists with UCF. On the second visit I was joined by John and Rita Lowndes and Mike and Marian Peters. John, of course, is the Lowndes of Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor and Reed; Rita is the force of nature behind Orlando Shakes. Mike is the Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist who draws the Mother Goose and Grimm strip. I recorded their comments through the dinners.