2018 Chefs Gala

The 26th Annual Chef's Gala is Saturday, April 14, from 6:45 to 10 p.m. at Epcot's World Showplace. Chef's Gala is a fundraiser for Heart of Florida United Way.

Even though the event is inside Epcot's gates, admission to the theme park is not required. How many times do you hear that? Certainly not at any of the Party for the Senses events during the International Food and Wine Festival. And Party for the Senses is a good comparison for what to expect at Chef's Gala.

The reason that you don't have to pay admission to the park is that when you arrive you'll be directed to a special section of the Epcot parking lot. There you'll find buses that will whisk you to the World Showplace via the park's backstage service road. If you've ever wondered what the back of the pavilions look like, this is your chance.

Chef's Gala features a cluster of chefs, some from Disney properties but also from restaurants throughout the Central Florida community. It's a walkabout event with the chefs set up at stations throughout the capacious venue, with an appropriate wine pairing near each one.

Walt Disney World is a sponsor of Chef's Gala, and the restaurants donate time and food. Because of that, 95 cents of every dollar raised at the event go directly to community programs aimed at alleviating hunger and homelessness.

Individual tickets are $325 but there's a couples option for $600. If you're not a couple, find someone you can co-ticket with the the night. You can get your tickets at this link.

I'll be there. Chef's Gala is one of the best food and wine events of the year and I wouldn't miss it.

Here's a list of some of this year's participating restaurants:

Edison Tower

The Edison is one of the new Disney Springs venues from the folks at Patina Restaurant Group (Morimoto Asia, Tutto Italia). It's a multilevel fun factory of a restaurant with good food to go with the entertaining decor.

Thomas Alva is the Edison of the name, of course, and there are homages to his inventions and patents everywhere. Indeed, the very design of the restaurant is an old power plant (electric power distribution, 1882) and lit with a soft glow from what are nostalgically referred to as Edison bulbs (incandescent lamps, 1879). Music plays in the background (phonograph, 1887) and old-timey black-and-white movies are displayed on various walls (motion picture camera, 1891).

Apparently he had something to do with inventing bacon, too, given its near ubiquitousness on the menu.

Elbuda napkin

The word fusion is one of the most misused terms in culinarydom. More often than not, a restaurant will tout itself as a fusion restaurant when in fact all it does is offer two or more cuisines on the same menu. An Chinese restaurant, for example, might also offer some Thai dishes, or maybe a sushi selection. That might be considered diversification, but it isn't fusion.

Fusion occurs when two or more items come together to form something different, something unique.

And as you might deduce from the name, it isn't putting together similar Asian cuisines, though it does work with pan-Asian dishes, but rather a melding of Latino and Asian. The results are refreshingly distinct.

So you might have Chimichanga Eggrolls or Peking Duck Nachos. Or Congri Fried Rice. It's inventive, and even better, most of it works.

PPG ext

A steakhouse concept from the owners of the 310 restaurants, will take over the Park Plaza Gardens space in Winter Park. Joanne McMahon of 310 said Tuesday, "It's going to happen," though they "haven't quite finalized the name." (Bovine is the working title.)

The restaurant will be about the same size as Park Plaza Gardens and the dining room, known for its patiolike atmosphere under a glass enclosure, will be basically the same, she said, including the brick walls and floors. But the kitchen is being totally gutted.

Asked what type of steakhouse it would be, she said, "I don't like to say high end because that scares people away. Say high quality instead."

Park Plaza Gardens was one of the area's more venerable fine dining restaurants, a favorite for special occasion dining for many years. "It's kind of a legend," said McMahon, "so it's kind of exciting."