George Vogelbacher, whose Le Cordon Bleu restaurant was a Winter Park landmark for nearly three decades, is returning to the life of a restaurant chef after several years in “retirement.” But the new endeavor will be a far cry from his former well-appointed fine dining restaurant. Vogelbacher will head the kitchen in a small, casual seafood restaurant called Winter Park Fish Co., which is owned by Craig Tremblay.
The new restaurant will occupy a space that of late was home to a package liquor store. It’s just a short walk from where Vogelbacher’s former restaurant stood before it was destroyed by fire in 1996. (Le Cordon Bleu shared the address with Harper’s Tavern, another local landmark; O’Boy’s Barbecue now resides in that space.)
For a time, Vogelbacher and Tremblay were neighbors. Tremblay owned Bonefish Billy’s, another seafood restaurant on Fairbanks Avenue, in the early ‘90s. Tremblay sold Bonefish Billy’s and went to work for Disney, opening such restaurants as Citricos and Kona Cafe.
After Le Cordon Bleu was destroyed, Vogelbacher and his wife, Monique, took over the former Jordan’s Grove, which was in an old house that stood in front of the Enzian Theater. They called that restaurant Nicole St. Pierre after their two children. The Vogelbachers eventually sold that business -- it eventually became Chef Arthur’s Nicole St. Pierre -- and retired from the restaurant life. Over the last several years, Vogelbacher has worked as a private chef and caterer.
About six months ago, Tremblay began selling fresh seafood at the Winter Park Farmers Market. As plans progressed for the restaurant, he and Vogelbacher started talking about the prospect of Vogelbacher being the chef.
At 68, Vogelbacher says the Winter Park Fish Co. will be just the right size. Tremblay estimates the restaurant, which is still under renovation, will have 50 seats inside and another 30 outside. Currently, the plans are for fast-casual service, where guests place their order at the counter and the food is delivered to the table by a server. Vogelbacher will be assisted in the kitchen by Jeffrey Kutner, a student in the culinary program at Valencia Community College.
The restaurant is still a month away from completion, and probably a couple of weeks after that for tweaking and getting used to the kitchen. But both Tremblay and Vogelbacher have a realistic estimate that the Winter Park Fish Co. will be open sometime this fall.
I’ll keep you up to date on the progress.