Visit Orlando announced Wednesday that if there is to be a signature dish to represent Orlando and Central Florida, it will be a dessert, and honey will be a main ingredient.
George Aguel (above), president and CEO of Visit Orlando, made the announcement at the organization's Business Insights Luncheon at Hilton Orlando.
The decision came after a task force of local chefs and food and beverage specialists met with Orange County Mayor Theresa Jacobs regarding the lack of a dish or culinary item that could be identified with the area. Originally, as I reported back in April, chefs were challenged to submit a dish -- any dish -- that they believed could fill that void. The winner was to be announced at the launch of Magical Dining Month.
Instead, a new contest will take place, with voting beginning Oct. 2, at the end of MagDinMo. Chefs — especially pastry chefs — may begin submitting their desserts featuring honey as a main ingredient now. Several of the chefs who have been involved in the initiative -- including Tim Keating of Urbain 40; Kathleen Blake of Rusty Spoon; and James and Julie Petrakis of Ravenous Pig -- attended the luncheon.
Honey was chosen because it is an abundant crop in Central Florida. “Florida has the largest variety of honey – more than any other state in the U.S.,” Beth Fox, Orange Blossom Beekeepers Association’s communications director said in a statement from Visit Orlando.
“Our climate is conducive to nearly continual honey-making,” added John Rife, founder of East End Market and a beekeeper himself.
There were 4500 registered beekeepers in Florida in 2016. They produced 17 million pounds of honey last year. (Well, the bees did most of it.)
So now there is focus. Perhaps we can get a signature dish.
You get to participate. Chefs will submit their entries at VisitOrlando.com/dish. You can vote for your favorite through Nov. 3. The public will determine the top candidates and a panel of national and local food experts will it narrow down to the final winner. (I have been asked to be a judge.)
Dish criteria are:
Local honey must be a key ingredient; the dish must be a dessert; it is available to the public in a restaurant or food venue; only one entry per restaurant.
In November, the field will be narrowed down to the Top 10, based on the desserts that received the most votes. The finalists will then re-create their dish for a panel of food-expert judges, who will choose the winning dessert. The winner will be announced December 7 at Visit Orlando's annual meeting.