F2F pavilion

Our friends at Edible Orlando and Walt Disney World really know how to throw a great food party. The third annual Field to Feast event on Saturday was a terrific blend of  bucolic and bacchanal as more than 200 guests roamed through an open-air pavilion sampling food, wine and cocktails proffered by some of Central Florida's finest.

The event was in Mount Dora, or a suburb of Mount Dora, if that's possible, at Long & Scott Farms, one of the names frequently referenced on the menus of restaurants touting farm to table cuisine. At F2F, the table is at the farm, and the chefs do the cooking and serving at stations set up around the perimeter of the pavilion. Large bales of rolled hay served as standing tables (though there were some conventional ones provided, too). Guests wandered from one station to the other, enjoying music provided by a band and the perfect weather as a full moon arose over the corn fields.

The event rasised more than $26,000 for the Second Harvest Kids Cafe project. This is just one of the best food events of the year, and I can think of only one way to make it better: Let guests pitch a tent on the grounds so they can just crawl in after enjoying all the food and drink and not have to face a long drive back to civilization. That Steak and Egg Skillet from the Event Operations crew would have been wonderful the next morning. Just saying.


Chef Creations

EXCLUSIVE — Chef Creations, the Manny Garcia company that produces wholesale soups and sauces for restaurants and retail operations, has been sold to Kettle Cuisine, a Boston-area food manufacturer. The deal, which was finalized Friday, was a cash sale for an undisclosed amount.

Hal Valdes, CEO of Chef Creations, told SJO that Kettle Cuisine would move the operations to Massachusetts and that most of the 114 people who worked at Chef Creations’ 40,000 square foot processing plant near Orlando International Airport would be given severance packages. Staff members were being told of the sale Monday afternoon. Executives from Kettle Cuisine are in Orlando to attend the meetings with management regarding the sale. It’s Kettle’s intention, Valdes said, to have all operations shifted to Boston by the middle of July.

Valdes said that Kettle Cuisine would retain some people in the sales department and one person in research and development. They would operate out of Orlando and Las Vegas.

The concept for Chef Creations began during the days of Pebbles restaurant, Garcia’s popular casual dining concept that opened in the 1980s. He saw a need for a company that could provide consistent, high quality, ready-to-use food products to restaurants.

Valdes would not divulge details of the sale but said that “it was good for everyone." He added that he was turning over a financially profitable company: "We had our best January ever, and February is on track to be the best ever, too.” Chef Creations is said to have sales of more than $20 $28 million annually.

Kettle Cuisine focuses mainly on soups, chilis and chowders for foodservice and supermarket operations. Chef Creations did have some of its products available directly to consumers, through Costco, for example, but ironically not in Florida.


Green DayEXCLUSIVE -- Green Day Cafe, the eco-friendly fast food restaurant with healthful menu options, has been sold to Crispytas Coffee, a Venezuelan company with an office in Palm Beach. The buyer will continue to operate the restaurant as Green Day Cafe with an eye towards adding locations and expanding it as a franchise.

Chad Tomlinson, Green Day Cafe’s founder, had been offering the concept for franchise, too. He said that Crispytas came in as a potential franchisee and that they liked it so much they offered to purchase it. Tomlinson opened Green Day Cafe on Lee Road eight years ago. He opened another in the North Quarter in September of 2014 and closed that location one year later. Green Day continues to operate on Lee Road though not in its original location.

He wouldn’t give details about the sale price but said, “I feel like the restaurant was a fantastic investment.” He said the deal was completed in just three weeks.
A representative of Crispytas did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but Tomlinson said that the new owners plans to keep all current staff members and to keep the menu the same.

Green Day Cafe is at 1084 Lee Road, Orlando.


Divas Fish Stew

February is as close to winter as we get in Florida, and when the temperatures dip, the divas love a simmering pot of stew. This version uses seasonal fish with just enough cream to make a rich, thin broth for sipping and dipping a crusty hunk of bread.

We used grouper, shrimp and clams, but you could add whatever seafood suits your fancy -- blue crab, oysters and scallops all would be delicious. Add a bright green salad and a crusty loaf of bread for a satisfying meal that’s a true taste of the Sunshine State.


KeatingSJO has learned that when Flying Fish Cafe reopens after its months-long renovation at Disney’s BoardWalk, its executive chef will not be there. Timothy Keating will be leaving Disney to pursue other interests, sources said.

Keating is considered one of the top chefs at Walt Disney World Resorts and Flying Fish Cafe one of a triumvirate of restaurants considered to be in the top tier (Victoria & Albert's is in its own class). The other two restaurants, Citricos at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and California Grill at the Contemporary Resort, have also seen personnel changes recently. Phillip Ponticelli left Citricos for Golden Oak in November and, as reported earlier today, Brian Piasecki will leave California Grill for a newly created position within the company.

No replacements have been announced for either California Grill or Flying Fish Cafe, though it bears noting that the Citricos position was filled with a chef from outside the company. In years past, the openings at the top tier restaurants were traditionally filled from within the company.

Keating, who did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday, is a four-time nominee for a James Beard Award from his pre-Disney days. He had indicated that he would be staying on during the renovations, which started at the first of February, and working on a new menu. Some who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that he reconsidered and decided this was a time to break out and start anew.