Oakley tapped for executive chef job at 1921 Mount Dora

Written by Scott Joseph on .

1921 bar 1

The restaurant formerly known as 1921 by Norman Van Aken has appointed Josh Oakley executive chef. Oakley was one of the founders of the Smiling Bison, which first opened in Orlando then Sanford. He sold his interest in the Bison in October.

Van Aken ended his association with 1921 in November, prompting the restaurant to change its name to 1921 Mount Dora. Van Aken was the restaurant’s executive chef, though Camilo Velasco ran day to day operations as chef de cuisine. Velasco parted with 1921 in December to take a position with Winter Park’s Ravenous Pig. Pastry chef Gloriann Rivera also left 1921 to join the Pig Rusty Spoon.

Just to tie all of this together, Oakley was also with the Ravenous Pig before opening Smiling Bison on Bennett Road in Orlando in 2013. A Sanford outpost of the Smiling Bison opened in November of 2015 and the original Orlando SB closed a year later.

Without a celebrity chef overseeing his work, Oakley should have free rein to make menu changes at 1921 Mount Dora. We’ll look forward to seeing what he does with the place.

Next! Flower & Garden Festival starts March 6 at Epcot

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Epcotfg prep

If you’re someone who observes Lent, I hope you haven’t pledged to give up festivals, because the next in Epcot’s rotating roster of special events is the International Flower & Garden Festival, beginning the day after Mardi Gras, which this year falls on a Tuesday.

The EIF&GF, which runs from March 6 through June 3, is dedicated to all things that grow. That of course includes a lot of food.

I tiptoed through a media preview of the upcoming fest and sampled some of the dishes that will be available this year.

Bullet Point Buffet: Oh the Urbainity

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Urbain 40 entrance

  • Urbain 40, the restaurant with the French spelling that wants to be known as an American brasserie, is looking for a new chef again. Tim Keating, Urbain’s director of culinary operations, has left the Dellagio Plaza restaurant after a little more than two years. I have one side of the story of why the split took place but cannot share it without speaking to the other side. Keating did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Urbain’s principal, Rashid Choufani, said that he has sold shares to two men who have worked with him in the past, including opening the restaurants at Epcot’s Morocco pavilion. Hassan “Sam” Erroudani and Tony Kostali have taken over day to day operations, Choufani said. Choufani did say that Keating was offered a position as consultant with the company but, “He said he’d rather keep doing what he loves the best.” Keating had previously been chef de cuisine for Flying Fish Cafe at Disney’s BoardWalk but that relationship ended while the seafooder was closed for renovations that included cutting the cafe off of the name.
  • Choufani also owns Paradiso 37 at Disney Springs, one of the holdover restaurants from the Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island days. He said that after 10 years the restaurant, which is named for the 37 cuisines of the countries of the Americas, is ready for expansion. Expect an announcement of a new location soon.

Beard Foundation announces semifinalists for 2019 awards with several Central Florida names, but none for Best Chef

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Normans Entrance

The James Beard Foundation on Wednesday announced the semifinalists for its 2019 chef and restaurant awards. After a complete snub in 2018, Central Florida is represented in four categories, though not for Best Chef in the South region.

Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton is nominated for Outstanding Restaurant, a category the encompasses the nation.

Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is on the list for Outstanding Service award.

Rabii Saber of the Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World Resort is nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef.

And James and Julie Petrakis are co-nominees as Outstanding Restaurateur, a new category for them. They had previously been nominated — again as a team — in the Best Chef South category.