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Last year, it wasn’t surprising to see the Central Florida Culinary Community come together in the days and weeks following the massacre at Pulse nightclub. They gathered to provide food for first responders and for family members of hospitalized victims and contributed in myriad other ways.

The anniversary of the murders, June 12, has been designated by the city as Orlando United Day — A Day of Love and Kindness. And once again, area restaurants are coming together to make a difference.

The Central Florida Chapter of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association is spearheading an initiative called Round Up for Kids. It’s really simple: If you dine in one of the participating restaurants on June 12, just round up your check to the nearest dollar and FRLA will donate the difference to the Orlando After-School All-Stars and the Summer of Dreams, a program that reaches out to the area’s homeless children.

At the top of the list of participating restaurants are our friends from Taverna Opa and Tapa Toro. I’m never surprised to see them leading the way to help out in the community. For a full list of participating restaurants, visit this website.

And for restaurateurs, if you’d like to sign your restaurant to help out, contact Marjorie Stone, Central Florida Chapter Director for the FRLA, at 850-524-1747.

And by the way, those acts of love and kindness don’t have to be restricted only to June 12. Just saying.

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Jax Fifth Avenue will move in to the space that was recently vacated by Baoery in Thornton Park.

It's a return to downtown Orlando for Jax, which is owned by Jack Thompson. The original Jax Fifth Avenue was in College Park, where Ollie's Public House is now. But at one time there was a Jax on Court Avenue, just south of Central Boulevard. Jax is known for its large deli sandwiches and pickle jars.

Thompson sold the restaurant on Court Avenue to Casey's in 2006 and took over the former Swiss Chalet restaurant in Lake Mary in 2007. He sold that restaruant in 2012 and is not affiliated with it although it continues to operate under the Jax Fifth Avenue name.

There has never been a Jax Fifth Avenue on 5th Avenue.

Renovations on the Baoery space are underway, and Jax is expected to open in August. In an email, landlord Craig Ustler said that he chose Jax for the space because of Thompson's experience and because he felt "Jax was the right fit for the space."

Yemeni Kitchen table

Ramadan mubarak.

It seemed fitting to plan a visit to Yemeni Kitchen, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Kissimmee, during Ramadan, the holy month observed by Muslims worldwide. The Republic of Yemen is the second largest country in the Arabian Peninsula, and a restaurant in Central Florida dedicated to its food was a worthwhile trek.

It might seem odd to plan a visit to a Middle Eastern restaurant during Ramadan, during which one of the more well-known observances involves fasting. But that’s only from sunrise to sundown.

And that explains the handwritten note on the front door of Yemeni Kitchen announcing the start of the evening’s buffet: precisely at 8:19, the official time of sunset. And not a moment sooner.

Smart Catch

The James Beard Foundation announced Monday a national launch of Smart Catch, a sustainable seafood pilot program for restaurants. The program, announced at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Seattle, “provides training and support to chefs so they can serve seafood fished or farmed in environmentally responsible ways,” according to a release from the organization.

More than 60 chefs have signed on as charter members, including Kathleen Blake of the Rusty Spoon in downtown Orlando and Hari Pulapaka of Cress in DeLand. Blake and Pulupaka are the only Florida chefs to have pledged so far.

Restaurants that adhere to the Smart Catch standards will earn an emblem to display on their menus identifying them as responsible seafood consumers. Chefs must commit to serving 80 percent or more of sustainable seafood sold through reliable sources that adhere to the standards of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program and NOAA Fish Stock Sustainability Index.

According to the release, more than 90 percent of the world’s fisheries are either fully fished or overfished.

Smart Catch was started in 2015 by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen.

For a list of the other chefs currently pledged to participate, visit the James Beard Foundation website.


I don’t know when the terminology first shifted, but I do know that for a very long time restaurants have referred to their patrons as guests rather than as customers. I also don’t know when I started doing the same, but a recent article in the New York Times has me reconsidering.

In it, Pete Wells, the Times’ restaurant critic, discusses a note received from a reader after he referred to the way Union Square Cafe takes care of its customers. The reader chided Wells, noting that owner Danny Meyer only serves guests. Wells replied that the Times' style mavens say that a guest is someone who doesn’t pay; a customer is presented with a check. Never mind that you can find thousands of articles printed by the paper that refer to “hotel guests,” who presumably not only pay a nightly rate but are also charged resort taxes and tourist fees. Maybe once they order from room service they become a customer.

Anyway, the article did get me thinking about the terminology we use. Obviously, restaurants began referring to customers as guests as a means of softening the relationship, to make it more congenial, less transactional. I bought into the idea and have often referred to myself as a guest. For me, a guest isn’t necessarily one who doesn’t pay but is rather someone who has a host.

The discussion also reminded me of a change in terminology I fought to enact when I first started reviewing restaurants, 29 years ago. I lost the battle, but ironically it is a topic that might be ready for debate today.

It involves the words waiter and waitress.