Chef Bryce Balluff Dead at 35

Written by Scott Joseph on .

BalluffBryce Balluff, a local chef and one of the early leaders of the food truck scene, died February 21. He was 35. 

Balluff was the original owner of Fork in the Road food truck, and the food that he was serving helped those who couldn’t quite grasp what the food truck craze was all about to “get it.” Going beyond burgers and street food, he served more upscale items like foie gras and pork belly. In 2013 he provided the food for one of our Supper Club events, serving from the truck behind the warehouse setting of Wine on the Way.

In 2014 he was the opening chef and co-owner of Southern Moon Smokehouse on Curry Ford Road, but after only a few months, he left the business following a dispute with his partners. His online resume indicates he was working with Frog Song Organic Farm. He was also doing occasional cooking demonstrations with Orlando appliance dealer Southeast Steel.

Bryce William Balluff was born July 23, 1981. He received his training at French Culinary Institute, and he listed chef de partie at New York’s popular Per Se among his past experience. “Being one of only five chosen for the position out of forty,” Balluff wrote in his Linkedin profile, “I came to Per Se a cook. I left as a chef.”

Locally, he worked at Luma on Park, Puff ’n Stuff Catering, Funky Monkey Wine Company and Draft Global Beer Lounge. On Facebook, he was known for his quips and offbeat humor. “I have the heart of a champion. Unfortunately, I also have the liver of a quarterfinalist…” was a post from August.

But as a former employer posted on Facebook after Balluff’s death was announced: “This business is so brutal we have to all stick together. The stress is so bad sometimes that people cannot handle the extreme pressure we are all under.”

Balluff’s survivors include his wife, Kerri Finkel; children, D;Artagnan (Tanner) and Aubry; parents, Paula and Paul Balluff; and brother, Daryl.

Services were held Sunday. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that contributions can be made to the D’Artagnan Balluff College Fund, 311 Needles Trail, Longwood Florida, 32779.

BaBa's Go Bye-Bye?

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Ruby baba

Baba's Orlando Mediterranean Grill, which we reviewed here just one year ago last week, is no longer falafeling  downtown diners, but it hasn't exactly gone away.

Instead, it has changed its name to Ruby's Mediterranean Grill. The change, apparently, occurred in December. The sign on the building still says BaBa's, but a sandwich board on the sidewalk reads Ruby's, as do the embroidered shirts the staff were wearing recently. They were doing a brisk lunch business so it wasn't convenient to chat them up about the change.

The corner space was previously known as WhiteWood Mediterranean Grill. 

Ruby's -- or whatever it might be called by the time you read this -- is at 1 S. Orange Ave., Orlando.

2017 Best Sushi Foodster Award for Independent Restaurants

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Nagoya sashimi

Nagoya Sushi is the winner of the 2017 Foodster Award for Best Sushi.

Second place goes to Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi on Restaurant Row and third place to Baldwin Park’s Seito Sushi.

Nagoya has two locations: 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando; and 5661 Red Bug Lake Road, Winter Springs.

In casting her vote, Gabriella Serralles said: “Nagoya sushi has the tastiest, most beautifully prepared sushi and sashimi I've ever had, both in Orlando, and anywhere else in the world! They also boast an amazing non-sushi menu, and the friendliest most helpful staff ever. They make coming back time and time again a real treat.”

Polls Now Open for Best Hotel Restaurant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Foodster

Voting is now live for the Foodster Award for Best Hotel Restaurant. 

It wasn’t that long ago that hotel restaurants weren’t anyplace a proper food lover would deign to visit. For years, they were little more than glorified coffee shops that existed only for the hotel guests who were too tired, rushed or intimidated to venture outside the hotel’s front door to find a proper place to eat.

But that’s changed. Now some of the area’s finest restaurants can be found inside the many hotels and resorts that serve Central Florida. And hotel guests find themselves competing with locals for choice reservations.

The list of nominees below was complied by SJO staff and includes restaurants known for their fine quality and their reputation within the culinary community.

Write-in candidates are allowed. However, please verify that the restaurant is not a chain and that the name isn’t already included in the original list. Restaurants with more than three locations worldwide and duplicates will be eliminated from the ballot.

Also please note: You may vote only once. If you've voted in this category previously, the VOTE button will not appear.

And be sure to leave a comment telling us why you voted for your selection -- I might quote you when the winner is announced (be sure to say which restaurant you voted for in your comment or we won't know who you're talking about). Click this link to go to the Foodster Awards page.