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Gontowski

Alon Gontowski has been named executive pastry chef for the Rosen Centre Hotel. Gontowski is a past winner of the Food Network’s “Sweet Genius” competition and was part of the team that made the world’s largest wedding cake to claim a Guinness World Record (no word on whose wedding it was for). He most recently was with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa.

Gontowsk, above,i was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He has also baked at Todd English’s Tuscany and Michael Jordan’s Steak House.

Speaking of Rosen hotels and pastry chefs, there’s still no final word on who will replace David Ramirez, who left the executive pastry chef position at Rosen Shingle Creek to concentrate on his growing business, David Ramirez Chocolates. I’m told the hotel is in negotiations with a candidate but an announcement is not expected until at least the end of June.

Wesley De Souza photo copyThe Alfond Inn has appointed Wesley DeSouza food and beverage manager. He will oversee all food operations, including Hamilton’s Kitchen, the hotel’s full-service restaurant.

DeSouza is a native of Brazil and was previously with Heathrow Country Club and Darden Restaurants in Kansas City. He also handled event planning and concierge services for Stirling Sotheby’s International Realty Orlando.

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Tako Cheena ext

Tako Cheena has finally opened in the former Forbidden City space in Mills 50. The popular Mexican/Asian fusion concept first announced that it would take over the Forbidden City building in July. Of 2015. Even considering the condition that the former gas station cum restaurant was in — I try not to think about it — that’s a long time for renovations. Currently, the original Tako Cheena is closed and undergoing renovations, most likely for a new concept. But I’m not going to expect anything real soon.

Tre Bambine, the Italian restaurant that took over the former Spice Modern space overlooking Lake Eola has closed after just over two months. In a story about the closing by Jessica Bryce Young at Orlando Weekly, the owner was quoted as saying she just couldn’t make it work. Kids, if you’re considering opening a restaurant, consider this rule of thumb from veteran restaurateurs: you should expect to lose money for at least two years. It’s a tough, tough business.

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 Am kitchen couch

I could begin this review of American Kitchen Bar & Grill by telling you what I think of the chef and restaurant at the B Resort — after all, that’s what you pay me for (cough).

But instead, let me share what Greg Richie, chef/partner of Soco Thornton Park, recently wrote on his Facebook page:

“There are plenty of restaurants and chefs in town (Orlando) that get their fair share of buzz and hype. You know who’s not getting their share? Chef Venoy Rogers III at American Kitchen Bar and Grill. This guy and his crew (sous Jacob Rios) are doing great things! Don’t sleep on this, folks. Go check it out. (Note- the dining room and atmosphere don’t do justice to the level of food. No disrespect intended.)”

My thoughts exactly. But let me go into some specifics.

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JBF LOGO GRAY WHITE

The James Beard Foundation held its annual awards ceremony earlier this month, an occasion Central Florida’s culinary community has come to observe as passover.

I have been a member and participant in the James Beard Foundation for over 30 years, almost since its inception. I often traveled to New York for the annual gala weekend events, a perk afforded to the regional judges. It was always a fun excuse to visit Manhattan and schmooze with writers, restaurateurs and chefs from around the country.

I just broke one of the foundation’s rules by telling you that I was a judge. But it doesn’t matter anymore: My association with the Beard Foundation has ended.

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Bread co exterior

There’s little from the outside of Bread & Co., a new “Artisan Bakery” in Winter Park, that gives a clue as to what’s inside. Yes, there is bread, as well as other baked goods. But they may not be what you expect.

That’s because Bread & Co. is largely a Korean bakery. It occupies a space that for a very brief time last year was home to Wonton Asian Kitchen. The same owners shut down the quick-serve hot-food operation and revamped the space for a bakery.