I like hearing stories like this.

Emeril’s Orlando and Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, the two local restaurants owned by a celebrity chef whose name escapes me at the moment, has announced some recent top personnel changes. Not only were the positions filled through internal promotions, but a couple of the people named as general manager started with the organization busing tables.

Andy Vaughn (pictured above) has been named the general manager of Emeril’s Orlando at Universal’s CityWalk; Eddie Raguso is the new gm at Tchoup Chop in the Royal Pacific Resort at Universal; and Douglas Braselman has been appointed chef de cuisine at the CityWalk restaurant.

Both Vaughn and Raguso began their careers busing tables, Raguso in 2000 and Vaughn in 2002. Vaughn worked his way up through the serving ranks and eventually joined the management team. He took a special interest in wine and was named sommelier for for Emeril’s Orlando in 2008, and anyone familiar with Emeril’s wine list knows that is no easy task. He has been serving as the gm at Tchoup Chop since 2013.

Raguso also worked his way up as a server and eventually manager at Emeril’s Atlanta. He returned to Orlando in 2004 as a floor manager at Tchoup Chop and then as a manager at Emeril’s Orlando.

Braselman is a native of New Orleans, which is home base for the Emeril’s empire. He has worked with a number of that city’s well known chefs, including Susan Spicer, Greg Collier, and James Wong before joining David Slater at the flagship Emeril’s in the Warehouse District.

In a statement, Emeril’s Homebase president Eric Linquest said, “Whenever we have the opportunity, the Emeril’s organization always looks to promote talented individuals within the family, already familiar with the Emeril’s culture.”

That’s something I wish more busers, waiters and even dishwashers would keep in mind. We tend to look on those jobs as menial. They should be seen as stepping stones to a satisfying career.

Congratulations to the new hires, and to Emeril’s for rewarding loyalty.


len and dani johnson

The space that currently is home to Wolfie’s Pizzamia in Lake Ivanhoe Village will soon become Better Than Sex. That’s the name of a dessert restaurant in Key West whose owners, Len and Danielle (Dani) Johnson, pictured above signing the papers, will bring to Orlando this summer.

Pizzamia, which is owned by White Wolf Cafe’s Michael Hennessey and located a couple of doors north of that popular spot, opened in 2013. The Johnsons take possession of the keys August 1, but Hennessey says he isn’t sure when he’ll close Pizzamia other than to say “sometime in July.”

The Key West BTS is a dessert-only restaurant that features a Red Room with, according to the website, “sunsual art on the walls and privacy booths for intimacy.” So that, I’m guessing, you can be alone with your parfait.

One of the items listed on the site is the Adult Apple — “Ephemere Apple Spiced Ale served in a tall beer glass with our signature, Caramel Rim Job,” a description I would not be able to give if I still worked for a family newspaper.


Summers are rough for Central Florida restaurants. With people on vacation or just too hot to go out, traffic numbers fall, and so do many businesses that had merely been surviving up to that point. Let’s just say that in summertime, the livin’ ain’t easy for restaurants.

It would appear that we have a couple of casualties to report: NOPA Grill in Winter Park and Belle Isle Bayou in Orlando.

According to neighbors, the cleverly named NOPA — it stands for Not On Park Avenue — has been sporadically occupied in recent days. “Sometimes they’re there, sometimes they’re not,” I was told. The phone is still connected but there is no answer, live or a recording.

The same is true for Belle Isle Bayou, the Cajun themed restaurant on South Conway Road at Hoffner Road. BIB also had a clever name — Belle Isle is an area of Louisiana, and it’s also the proximal community south of downtown.


H/T Doug Peddie


Charleys rendering

Talk of the Town Restaurants is planning to open another location of its flagship brand, Charley’s Steak House. And this one won’t be in the tourist sector.

TOTT’s senior operating partner, Seth Miller, told me that the new steakhouse will be in Winter Park at the corner of Lee Road and Orlando Avenue. If you’re trying to picture what’s already at that intersection, let me help you out: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. You know, the one just a couple of blocks from Ruth’s Chris Steak House. And two miles from Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster. The exact location of where the foundation will be laid has not been determined, so you may also read that to mean that it won’t be opening anytime soon. But suffice to say that when it does, that corner of Winter Park will become one of the most well meated areas of town. (A rendering of what the building will look like is above, courtesy of Talk of the Town Restaurants.)

Talk of the Town has three existing Charley’s: one the group refers to as being in Celebration, even though it’s in Kissimmee; one on International Drive; and another in Tampa. It closed its original Charley’s on Orange Blossom Trail a few years ago and replaced it with a new brand, Charley’s Wildfire Grille, just three years ago. It closed two years ago. There was talk from Talk that it would reopen the Wildfire Grille on property it has in the Lake Buena Vista area, but that has not occurred.

Of course there’s also the little issue of a lawsuit filed by Chicago’s Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises against Talk of the Town Restaurants and Ron Woodsby regarding the use of the word Wildfire.


Taproomgrille burger

I just happened to visit Tap Room Grille in Waterford Lakes on National Burger Day, one of the few made-up holidays not invented by the greeting card industry. I don’t go in for these marketing ploys. I don’t need a special day to remind me to eat lasagna, pickles or, in this case, a good burger.

And Tap Room Grille makes a good burger. It should be noted right off the top that this Tap Room is not related to the Tap Room at Dubsdread, which also makes a good burger — arguably one of the best in town — but it is associated with Nona Tap Room in Lake Nona, which I reviewed in April of 2012.

Then, as now, I went straight for the Loaded Burger, which features the basic Tap Room burger but with bacon and mushrooms added to the tomato, onions, lettuce and cheese choice toppings.