FIRST ON SJO -- The Glass Knife, a cake cafe, will open in Winter Park in October. It will occupy the free-standing building at 276 S. Orlando Ave. that was originally Italio Modern Italian Kitchen.
The Glass Knife is being developed by local entrepreneur Steve Brown. The cafe and concept is an homage to his mother, Jacque, who taught him how to bake. The name is a reference to the glass knives that were common for cutting cakes and fruits in the 1920s before stainless steel was used. Regular knives at that time were often mottled and pitted and inelegant for fine service. Brown’s mother collected glass knives and that collection served as an impetus for the restaurant.
Stuart Whitfield will be the executive chef. Most recently a pastry chef with Walt Disney Company, Whitfield’s resume includes stints with Le Cirque, davidburke & donatella, and the Four Seasons in New York. Whitfield told me Tuesday that he’ll feature classic cakes such as red velvet, carrot and coconut, “Cakes that your mother would have made,” he said, “but with my own little twist.”
Whitfield is also planning other baked goods, such as croissants, scones and cookies, and will offer a line of artisanal donuts, a trending food category in New York and other cities around the country. A savory menu featuring meat and cheese boards and toasted sandwiches will also be presented. With breakfast, lunch and dinner hours, the cafe will specialize in coffee, prepared by baristas using state-of-the-art technology, and will have a list of beers and wines.
Whitfield said that they hesitate to call the Glass Knife a bakery because it will offer a more complete dining experience, but he does expect the cakes and pastries to be a main focus, with most items available for retail purchase as well.
The 3,000-square-foot cafe is being designed by Ray Schaefer and Gravity Architecture & Design. Schaefer should be familiar with the space — he did the design for Italio, too. The exterior will resemble an upscale pastry box, with a black, gold and pink motif, and will feature a covered patio. Inside the front door will be a classic rotating cake tower displaying the day’s pastries.
“It’s all about nostalgia,” Whitfield said
The Glass Knife will be joining a neighborhood that has seen a surge of restaurant openings, most notably those nearby at Lakeside Crossing. But with most of those restaurants belonging to chains, it will be refreshing to have a new locally owned independent restaurant.