Pantry to Plate – A Chef’s Challenge

On September 18, 2014, JFS Orlando presented Pantry to Plate – A Chef’s Challenge, showcasing four Orlando chefs. Each chef was challenged to create a recipe for the event using ingredients found in the JFS food pantry.


On the evening of the event, B.B. King’s staff prepared the recipes for the guests and judges. The event was hosted by world-renowned Chef Cat Cora, the first female Iron Chef. Chef Kathleen Blake of The Rusty Spoon designed a recipe for Black Bean Burgers for the first course, followed by a second course of Peach-Glazed Grilled Chicken designed by Chef John Rivers of 4 Rivers Smokehouse and The Coop. The third course was Contemporary West Indian Chicken designed by Chef Hari Pulapaka of Cress Restaurant.


The event culminated with cupcakes by Hollis Wilder of Sweet! and an award presentation. After careful consideration, the judges awarded first place to Chef John Rivers. The People’s Choice Award was also presented to Chef John Rivers.

Everyone had a fun evening, sampling creative recipes, while supporting JFS Orlando. Many thanks to the staff of B.B. King’s for preparing dinner and for outstanding service.


Established in 1978 as a non-profit human service agency, JFS Orlando provides social programs and services to struggling children and families of all faiths in the Central Florida community. JFS particularly supports the efforts to prevent hunger and provide counseling to those in need. For more information on JFS and its programs, please visit

Chef Chau of Sushi Pop


Chef Chau came to the United States from Vietnam. Growing up around the restaurant industry, helping his parents in their family-owned restaurants, he was influenced greatly by food. Intrigued by the unique taste, simplicity, and freshness of sushi, Chef Chau was inspired to become a chef and began his career by opening his own restaurant serving Japanese Cuisine. After dining at the famous restaurant Nobu in New York City, Chef Chau decided to bring Nobu’s unique combination of traditional Japanese cuisine with citrus and herbs to Central Florida.

Sushi Pop is a contemporary restaurant designed in the style of Harajuku with fun, bright, young and creative decor, representing J-Pop Culture. Chef Chau and his staff create sushi art with every dish, carefully selecting only the best and freshest seafood ingredients, directly from the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan.


Sushi Pop is a hidden treasure located at 310 West Mitchell Hammock Road in Oviedo. If you enjoy sushi like I do, you do not want to miss an opportunity to indulge yourself.

Sushi Pop on Urbanspoon

Give Kids The World Village


Many Central Florida chefs are on the scene when it comes to giving back to our community and are closely involved with local charities and non-profit organizations. Celebrity Chef and Retro Rad Diva Emily Ellyn is no exception. In addition to her involvement with the Second Harvest Bank of Central Florida, Florida Hospital Foundation, Orange County Public Library, Ronald McDonald House, and many more, she acts as a spokesperson for Give Kids The World’s Ice Cream For Breakfast campaign.


Give Kids The World Village provides a cost free, week-long vacation for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. The Village was established by hotelier, philanthropist, and Holocaust survivor, Henri Landwirth in 1989. Since its opening, Give Kids The World Village has hosted over 120,000 families. Everything is included: accommodations, theme park tickets, trips, transportation, meals, snacks, and daily surprises for each child in the family. All this, and more, is provided through the support of numerous volunteers, generous individuals, and community-minded corporations.


At the Ice Cream Palace located at the Village, for example, families can have ice cream ANY time of the day… even for breakfast!

The Ice Cream For Breakfast campaign was set up to help fund the awesome work done at GKTW and was inspired by a “wish family” who celebrates their anniversary by eating ice cream for breakfast. They suggested a campaign to encourage individuals, families and corporations to support Give Kids The World Village by signing up for a virtual fundraising campaign or hosting an ice cream social in their place of business or home.


Give Kids the World Village is a truly magical place where families and, especially children, can forget the everyday reality of hospitals, doctor visits and treatments. It’s a week to have an unforgettable time with each other and enjoy a “happiness that inspires hope.”


For more information, please visit and

Executive Chef Philip Romano – Teak Neighborhood Grill


Meet dynamic and always evolving Chef Philip Romano of Teak Neighborhood Grill. His inspiration to became a chef came from the love of fishing and making meals from the catch of the day. Although he is preparing famous burgers at Teak, seafood remains his specialty. Along with Thai cuisine, it is his absolute favorite meal to cook at home. Chef Philip is striving for the best in everything he does; he is not afraid of the competition and accepts any culinary challenge sent his way.

Teak Neighborhood Grill is a neighborhood bar with TV screens designed to watch any sporting event inside or outside on their spacious patio. Teak serves a wide variety of the award winning dishes and is known for their tallest and heaviest handcrafted burgers.


Drunken Monk was voted Number One Burger by WESH’s Orlando My Way. Angry Orchard onion jam, roasted cherry tomatoes, smoked bacon, herb mayo, provolone cheese & Teak chips topped with melted white cheddar cheese served on a pretzel bun.


Caprese Burger and the Cronie, a “french doughnut” tossed with cinnamon-sugar.


Teak Neighborhood Grill is located at 6400 Times Square Avenue, in the Southwest Orlando community of Metrowest.

Teak Neighborhood Grill on Urbanspoon

Executive Chef Shawn Kaplan – Kasa Restaurant & Raw Bar

Executive Chef Shawn Kaplan of Kasa Restaurant and Raw Bar began his culinary odyssey as a teenager in Canada. He became serious about cooking after attending school in Florida and traveling to Napa Valley, France, and Italy. He is fascinated with cooking and would love to be able to take some time to expand his culinary techniques and artisan skills, such as making soba noodles from scratch.


Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, Kasa Restaurant and Raw Bar offers a raw bar with fresh seafood and an exciting menu of diverse small plates, combining the influence of Asian and Latin cultures. Kasa is located in Downtown Orlando at 183 S. Orange Avenue.


Featuring Kasa Corn made with miso lime aioli, togarashi spices, manchego cheese, queso fresco.


by Irina Pabis / Gail Couchman

Kasa Tapas & Raw Bar on Urbanspoon

Katerina & Vassilis Coumbaros – Taverna Opa Orlando

“To eat and drink with someone makes them family.” This Greek proverb highlights the importance of the dining experience, and a pleasant experience is just what you will find at Orlando’s own little corner of Greece, “Taverna Opa!”  Just off of International Drive, on the second level of Beautiful Pointe Orlando, “Taverna Opa” provides not only the finest in Greek dining, but also a nightly taste of “Entertainment: Mediterranean Style” where you will be amazed by the belly dancing, dance with the newest members of your “Greek Family” or just drift away to the soothing sounds of Mediterranean music.  Just remember, “the night is not over until the Ouzo runs out!”
Of course, authentic Greek food comes from authentic Greek people, and the best ingredient is the husband and wife team who own, manage, and most importantly, oversee everything about the experience you will find at “Taverna Opa.
Katerina Coumbaros is the youngest daughter of Greek parents, who emigrated here from the Greek Island of Crete.  “My mother has always been very traditional Greek; always cooking, always entertaining, my favorite childhood memories are of the family gatherings, and of the kitchen!”  A graduate of the “Le Cordon Bleu” College of Culinary Arts, Katerina believes that every dish prepared at “Taverna Opa” is a sharing of Greek culture with their guests.  She also knows that great ingredients are the key to great food, and that great cooking has to happen in a fun environment, “You can taste the difference in food prepared in a fun kitchen!”
Vassilis Coumbaros grew up in Greece, and his fondest memories are being a child surrounded by family and friends cooking, eating, and enjoying each other.  “Every day is a celebration, and the Greek culture teaches you to be energetic, friendly, and to love life!”  Vassilis believes that great cooking is done through “feeling”… that you have to “feel” the ingredients and the preparation of each dish.  “There is a Greek saying: ‘It is the way you breathe, the way you stir… you feel it!’”
Taverna Opa” specializes in lamb, and only the finest domestic and tender lamb will do.  However, most of the ingredients and spices are imported directly from the mountains and islands of Greece.  Another specialty of the house is seafood, but not just any seafood, only the finest imported Greek fish will make it to your plate.  “The salt and the water in the Mediterranean Sea is different from any other place in the world, and this adds to the delightful taste of our Greek seafood.”
No traditional Greek dinner would be complete without a special toast to the “Old World.”  In Greece, breaking plates and throwing napkins are a way of showing a “zest for life” and being “free as birds” to enjoy yourself.  While “Taverna Opa” may not carry on the tradition of breaking plates, you will find many napkins thrown with an exhilarating cry of “Opa!” as an exhortation to live your day to its fullest!
Taverna Opa
With Belly Dancing and Traditional Mediterranean Music spun by a DJ seven nights a week, “Taverna Opa” is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion, relax after an adventurous day, or just enjoy being part of a traditional Greek family.  Deep in the heart of “Pointe Orlando,” celebrate life at “Taverna Opa!”
Taverna Opa on Urbanspoon

Chef Luis J. Negrón – Mingos

Chef Luis J. Negrón was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico in the city of Ponce, the birthplace of the world famous Don Q Rum. Inspired by his family and TV Chef Martin Yan of the show Yan Can Cook, Chef Luis decided to move to Florida to pursue a career in Culinary Arts.

After graduating from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, he worked in several restaurants in South Florida, as well as a restaurant owned by Celebrity Chef Douglas Rodriguez in New York City. His experiences in NYC contributed greatly to the knowledge and techniques Chef Luis implements in his kitchen today. In 2005, he moved to Orlando to work for Loews Hotels, where he focused on their numerous restaurants within the Universal Orlando properties. Today, he is the Executive Chef of the destination restaurant Mingos, located at 100 S. Eola Drive, Suite #105 in beautiful downtown Orlando.


Mingos is a fast growing chain of restaurants, specializing in classical dishes prepared using locally-grown fresh ingredients with Chef’s unique touch in every creation. From steaks and sea food, to salads and desserts, menu items are designed to please every palate. Stop by for their Sunday Brunch, voted Best Brunch in Orlando by OpenTable Diner’s Choice Awards.


If you find yourself in the Thornton Park area, come meet Chef Luis and his staff at Mingos. With amazing food, attentive staff and friendly atmosphere, I guarantee your first visit there won’t be your last.


Mingos on Urbanspoon