Chris Brown 2015 copyChris Brown is leaving his position as executive chef at JW Marriott Orlando, but he has only a short stroll to his new job. Brown will be taking over as director of food and beverage at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando. Both properties are on the Grande Lakes estate.

In his new job, Brown will oversee the management of all things food and beverage at the Ritz, including the new and critically acclaimed Highball & Harvest restaurant. (Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton is privately owned and operated.)

While at JW Marriott he led the creation of Whisper Creek Farm, the 18,000 square foot farm that produces herbs and produce used by both hotels. He has also been involved in two upcoming projects: an onsite brewery and The Kitchen, a restaurant at the farm. Both are expected to open in the spring. Brown will still be involved in those projects as he helps transition his replacement as executive chef at the Marriott. An announcement about that position is expected soon. Brown replaces Brian McHugh, who has transferred to the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain in Arizona.

"We are delighted to welcome Chris Brown to The Ritz-Carlton Orlando," Jon McGavin, the Ritz-Carlton's general manager, said in a statement released Wednesday. "His knowledge and talent combined with his exceptional experience at Grande Lakes Orlando will allow him to continue to positively grow the culinary program at the resort."

Brown, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, is a certified cicerone (a beer equivalent of a sommelier), master barbecue cook and certified judge of the Kansas City Barbeque Society. Prior to joining the JW Marriott Orlando, Brown was executive chef at the company's Tucson Starr Pass and has also cooked at the Orlando World Center Marriott and the New Orleans Marriott.


South + Yorksouthyork logo, the charming and creative restaurant that was doing what it could to bring good food to the Winter Springs and Oviedo area, has closed. The farm-to-table concept had been open just over 13 months.

The name of the restaurant was a reflection of chef and co-owner Edgar Cruz's dual heritage, a native New Yorker who married into the Florida South. His wife, Emily Pratt-Cruz, was a co-owner. Emily's mother, Lydia Pratt, died unexpectedly on Christmas Eve. She and Emily's father were the sole investors in the restaurant, but her father, Emily told me, is having difficulty dealing with the loss of his wife and the financial demands of a struggling restaurant. The couple found they were unable to keep the business going without that support.

Pratt-Cruz also said that the location proved problematic. It was located in an upscale, Publix-anchored strip mall at the corner of Tuskawilla Road and State Road 434 in Winter Springs. The space it occupied was ideal and had garage-doorlike openings that allowed the dining room to open to the patio. However, the restaurant could not be seen from the road, and Pratt-Cruz said that so many people in the area would eventually happen by and tell her they had no idea the restaurant was there.

Currently there are no plans to reopen in another location. Cruz will keep cooking and may move back to New York, although Pratt-Cruz said they would prefer to stay in the are.

"We had a whole lot of money sunk into this place and we'll try to recoup what we can."

I recently told you about the opening of Rock & Brews, the rock star-owned restaurant that said on its website that it chose Oviedo for its first Florida location because of its "energized...restaurant scene." If there was any validity in that statement it was because of South + York.


Turkish bar interior

There's a new Turkish bar and grill in town. It's called Turkish Bar & Grill. And what it lacks in name creativity, it makes up for in many other ways.

We were just here a few months ago, not at TB&G but in this same space. Then it was a place called Wassabi Asian Fusion. Based on my experience there, its closing wasn't a surprise.

The new tenants changed precious little about the interior. That's a picture of Turkish Bar & Grill at the top; I've included one of Wassabi at the bottom of this review. With the exception of daylight through the windows at Wassabi and some Turkish rugs thrown over the decidedly unattractive green beams it's pretty much the same. (I was even seated at the same table — you'd be surprised how often that happens.)


Peanut Butter Pie

In a world of chichi food, nothing says "I love you" for Valentine's Day like a luscious homemade pie. We discovered this rich slice of peanut butter, chocolate chunks and fresh whipped cream on a fishing trip to the legendary Rod & Gun Club in Everglades City, Fla., where it's been a favorite for decades.

This homey recipe will carry your sweetheart right back to a childhood of candy bars and gooey goodness. Here's our version of this sweet pie for your sweetie pie.


Bocuse dor winnersTeam USA featured Phillip Tessier, second from left, and Skylar Stover, right. Thomas Keller, left, is the U.S. organization's president (and the two chefs' employer at the French Laundry). Gavin Kaysen is the team's coach. Photo by Bocuse d'Or

Updated at 11:19 a.m. to include quotes from Jerome Bocuse.

Team USA achieved a first by placing second.

The chefs representing the United States at the culinary competition known as the Bocuse d'Or took the silver medal at the event, which was held earlier this week in Lyon, France. Commonly referred to as the culinary equivalent of the Olympics, the Bocuse d'Or, which takes place every two years, is a fierce competition. The participating chefs train rigorously for over a year. The US delegation has never finished higher than sixth place.

Bocuse dor team usaUSA! USA! USA! Photo by Bocuse d'OrTeam USA was represented by two chefs from the French Laundry in Yountville, California. Phillip Tessier, the restaurant's executive sous chef, served as lead chef at the competition. Skylar Stover, chef de partie at FL, was his commis, or assistant.

The Or (that's gold) went to Norway's Orjan Johannsessen and Jimmy Oien. Only nine points separated first place (1662) and second (1653); Sweden earned the bronze (1610). Twenty four countries participate in the Bocuse d'Or. (France, by the way, came in at seventh place.)

The Bocuse d'Or was founded by Paul Bocuse in 1987 and is always held in Lyon, his hometown. Bocuse, of course, is the owner of Les Chefs de France and Monsieur Paul at Epcot, and he is arguably the most famous chef in the world. His son, Jerome, who lives in Central Florida and runs the operations at Epcot, is the vice president of Ment'Or, which selects and mentors the U.S. candidates. Daniel Boulud is the organization's chair and Thomas Keller is its president.

"If you look at it as if it was a 100-meter race, we lost by only a quarter of an inch," said Jerome Bocuse, who spoke by phone from a city in the French Alps. Bocuse said that having the U.S. team place sends an important message to the world about the quality of culinary talent in this country. "It says, 'OK, look at us -- we're among the best of the best,'" he said.

Bocuse said the silver medal is the culmination of a journey that began eight years ago when his father approached Keller and asked him to become involved. He said the elder Bocuse told Keller that he loved the United States so much and that he thought this country was underrepresented. Keller committed himself to the task as did Boulud. 

The competition takes place over the course of two days, culminating with the teams cooking meat and fish dishes in just over five and a half hours in front of a live audience, who loudly cheer on their favorites.

Tessier and Stover prepared a meat platter of Barrel-Oak Roasted Guinea Hen with sausage of guinea leg confit; white corn mousse, and black winter truffle; "Garden of Sweet Peas" with French Laundry garden blossoms and herbs, sugar snap peas, and black trumpet mushroom panade; "Beehive" with boudin of smoked guinea liver, grapevine honey, pistachio; "Pain des Genes," wild fennel buds, and topaz wine glaze; Black Truffle Consommé with ragout of gizzard and heart "confit," steamed custard, and flowering cress; White Corn "Nest" with buttered corn pudding, crisped corn silk, and "petit" popcorn; and Preserved Chanterelles with salad of frisée and garden blossoms, pickled huckleberry, and "foie gras" jus. The fish plate showcased Brioche-Crusted Brown Trout Pave with American caviar, tartelette of crisped skin, garden dill, celery branch "Farci," celery root puree, compressed apples, brown butter emulsion, and smoked mushroom consommé.

By the way, Paul Bocuse did not attend the competition this year. Now 89 and suffering from Parkinson's Disease and diabetes, he thought that the demands for his attention by the participating chefs and the crowds of food fans would be too much, according to Jerome. He did, however, greet Team USA at his restaurant Paul Bocuse just outside of Lyon, where the plaque will be on display.

"It was a dream for my father," Bocuse said.