Whole Foods Market_HolidayMeal

Thanksgiving at the Whole Foods Market

Thanksgiving is a time of food, family, and fun… preparing for Thanksgiving is not so fun… but fortunately the Chefs of Whole Foods Market have put the “Thanks” back into “Thanksgiving!”

Whole Foods Market_Holiday_2015_Turkey

A quick glance at the Holiday Menu at the “Whole Foods Market – Orlando” is the quickest way to make a smile appear: traditional turkey, salads, dessert, all prepared to satisfy the most picky Holiday eater! Be sure to order your natural-grown turkey with all your favorite side dishes by this Sunday, November 22nd, by visiting shop.wfm.com
or just stop by your new favorite Holiday shopping spot, “Whole Food Market – Orlando!

Whole Foods Market_Holiday_2015_TurkeyMeal

Don’t go half-way… go to Whole Foods Market!


Chef Luis M. Reyes – Supporting the local food industry

Chef Luis Reyes, Executive Chef for Sysco Central Florida, has found the joy of helping local chefs and owners into finding their own flavor just like he enjoys cooking, this is thanks to the support and the opportunity given by the Sysco corporation. But the truth is, this isn’t what Reyes had always envisioned for himself.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, he first enrolled in a local college for an accounting career, but destiny had different plans for him. While he was in this path, he had the luck to work on a local Bakery, on which he started from the bottom as a dish washer, then started moving up into helping in the lines, serving pastries, and on from there, that’s what lighted the spark on him.

Besides that, he grew up always around his family who taught him that the dining table was the “center of family” and unconsciously feed and shaped his inner cook and his passion for food. Without losing too much time, he moved into West Palm, FL, in the 96 and joined the ranks of the Florida Culinary Institute, where he graduated and formally started his successful chef career.

Right now he is a very valuable piece of Sysco Corporation, on where he has enjoyed the chance of being around exceptional people and celebrities, but he explains that the real satisfaction comes from helping and supporting small “mom and pops” restaurants that lack of great marketing budgets like some big chain restaurants.

And he knows this because, apart from being in charge of the kitchen, he is the one visiting their customer’s locations, talking to them, looking at the layout, the staff training, menu development and so many other details necessary to make a restaurant profitable and competitive.

“There’s hardly two restaurants that are the same” he claims, but that’s a challenge he embraced the moment he stood for the responsibility of bringing those procedures that are regular on big restaurants, and making them happen in the smaller one for the wellbeing of themselves and the whole culinary industry.



Chef Jason Eccleston – Comfortable and Fun – at Itta Bena, Pointe Orlando


Itta Bena” is a comfortable, friendly, and tasteful restaurant at Pointe Orlando, in Central Florida, and it reflects the qualities and tastes of the man who puts the magic on the plates, Chef Jason Eccleston.

Born in Connecticut, Chef Jason spent his younger years in Augsburg, Germany, before finding himself back in the U.S. in the Central Florida area. “Growing up in Germany was a great cultural experience for me, it influenced my life in so many ways, from introducing many foreign tastes to my pallet to broadening my views on culture and how a culture influences your perceptions and assumptions.”


While this international influence is important to who he is, Chef Jason is quick to point out that his roots are All-American: “I have been eating and cooking Southern food for over 20 years, I’ve been a Florida chef my entire career, plus, this is where I began my culinary career, cooking with and learning from many of the great chefs found right here in Florida… so I have a unique perception of international and local fare.”


“To create a successful menu, or even dish for that matter, you have to start with the clientele, what do they want, what drives them, but you also have to cook for yourself at the same time… the dish is something you have to express honestly, you have to believe in it as a chef. You have to put your heart into what you cook, that is what leads you in your passion to create and to excel… it isn’t just about ingredients and flavor, even though those are big considerations, but the successful dish is created with passion and heart. It always starts with people, then you follow the drive to create something that exceeds their expectations.”


When asked what qualities he believes an aspiring chef should possess, Chef Jason has a very practical answer: Determination. “Being a chef is a very hard job, there are a lot of long hours and all the sacrifices that go along with that. For most restaurants, the majority of the stress in your day as a chef happens during dinner service, which means you definitely aren’t doing a ‘9 to 5’ job. Also, you can’t just jump right into being a chef, it takes a lot of practice, training, and experience, time spent learning from others, so you have to start by finding someone to get behind, someone you believe in, who is willing to mentor you… and then you start washing dishes, peeling potatoes, whatever it takes to be in the kitchen, learning from the professionals, to see what they are doing when time is short and decisions have to be made quick. That’s the best way to find your path, to get direction.”


Chef Jason is equally passionate about his work at “Itta Bena” on the 2nd level at Pointe Orlando, in Orlando, Florida. “We have a very relaxed atmosphere at ‘Itta Bena’ and that is just the way I like it. Upscale and nice, but you don’t have to be in a 3 piece suit… what I would call ‘polished casual,’ with musical interpretations played on the piano, based on the influences of BB King and other similar artists.” With steaks, seafood, and other classic “Surf and Turf” fare on the menu, guests may arrive hungry, but they will only leave satisfied! “It’s not too loud, there is nothing overwhelmingly distracting going on… our guests can have a nice dinner with family or friends and be able to actually chat and converse… it is the perfect combination of food and a friendly atmosphere!”


For a comfortable, enjoyable, and tasteful dining experience, make it a point to go to “Itta Bena” exclusively at Pointe Orlando, in Orlando, Florida. Chef Jason Eccleston knows you will enjoy the Southern Hospitality with the International flair!



Chef Cristobal Lopez – Living the American Dream

When Chef Cristobal Lopez first came to America he had no idea that he wanted to be a chef. He came for the American Dream, looking for any opportunity. As it happens, Lady Luck must have been watching Cristobal closely as it was during his first job working as a dishwasher that fortune paid a visit.

“It’s kind of crazy. I came from Mexico looking for opportunity, you know, the American Dream. So I started working as a dishwasher. That was my first job when I came to the United States. A friend of mine asked, ‘Hey, are you looking for another job, Portobello is looking for bread cooks? ‘And I said ‘okay, let me go ahead and try.’” It’s not every day you can stretch the truth in an interview and get away with it but perhaps luck had intervened once again as Chef Cristobal had fortunately received some training in cooking and using a knife from a chef while working at Christini’s, although in an unprofessional capacity. This, and a sous chef providing a good reference were enough to get Cristobal through the door with a chance.


“So I came to Portobello and the executive chef and the sous chef gave me an interview. The sous chef told the executive chef ‘Give him a chance, I know the guy is good.’ I kind of lied to them because I told them I knew how to use a knife, and I knew how to cook because one of the Chef’s at Christini’s showed me how to do it.”


“After that I started my career as a Chef. Cooking, doing prep cooks, then sous chef, senior sous chef, executive sous chef, and now executive chef at this time. Now 19 years at Portobello’s that I love.” Chef Cristobal loves his customers and wants them to walk out the door having the best dining experience possible after sampling one of the many dishes available at his little trattoria in Disney Springs. He’s passionate about the menu and making everything fresh and from scratch. You won’t find any premade dishes in Cristobal’s kitchen.


“We have a great place, a little trattoria in Disney Springs, with a great menu. All the sauces and everything start from scratch. Everything is homemade. We have homemade pasta, ravioli homemade in the house. We have a lot of options on our menu. Desserts are home made too. Beeramisu, our version of tiramisu, made in house, created in house, panna cotta as well made in house, and with local ingredients.” Chef Cristobal likes to experiment away from the grill. His restaurant has a pizza oven but he uses it for more than pizza as he believes the pizza oven imparts a unique flavor to the food that traditional stove or grill cooking doesn’t.


“Our wood pizza oven, that’s unique. It makes a difference for the pizzas and all of the other things we cook in that pizza oven. I think for a lot of restaurants to have that kind of oven, it’s really unique because the flavors change a lot than to cook it on the grill, or to cook it on the stove. It makes a lot of difference.”


His passion for cooking also extends to his home life as he’s a devoted family man. He admits that although the hours are long and the enthusiasm for cooking is somewhat diminished when he gets home, his love for his kids and their love for his food inspire him back into the kitchen even during his downtime.


“Most of the time I don’t have a favorite food. It’s more what your kids like to eat and that’s when you create something, it could be a homemade pasta, or a grilled cheese sandwich. It can be something that your kids love because at the end you go home and that’s who is waiting for you, your kids. “

Portobello Country Italian Trattoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Chef Anthony Hull – Empowering the “Chef inspired, Chef crafted” philosophy

Executive Chef Anthony Hull, knew from a very early age that he was going to live and breathe for the wonders of the culinary art. “I simply enjoy food, eating food, shopping for food, being around food, connecting food with nature and gardening” explains Chef Anthony Hull, who recognizes that this way of thinking was shaped by his grandparents, who taught him the importance of turning every meal into a family experience.

The physical function of eating its vital, Chef Hull says, but it should be more than that. He thinks that enjoying a culinary plate should develop fond and shared memories and exclusive experiences, and this is what set him apart from the crowd and pushed his career forward. Right now, Chef Anthony Hull is the man responsible for both, back and front house of the Crimson Tavern restaurant located at Marriott Lakeside, Orlando, Florida, where he has established a philosophy of farm-to-table cuisine with a carefully Chef crafted experience.


It took him around 10 years to actually develop this vision and has been very successful in the two and half years of service of the Crimson Tavern. The secret of this philosophy is about focusing all the efforts in the local sustainability and lowering the ecological footprint, and at the same time keeping the responsibilities of being part of a global brand. It all started when Anthony Hull asked the Lakeside Marriott for an authorization to turn a volleyball court into a garden where they could begin to grow some natural ingredients for the cuisine. At first, the restaurant was a very successful Steak House, but it got hit by the 2011 unpredictable economic shift that diminished the amount of visitors it used to receive, forcing the shutdown of the place.


This was seen as an opportunity by Chef Hull, who proposed to give a new life to the restaurant and turn it into a place where groups of corporate travelers came and didn’t wanted to leave. And that’s how the Crimson Tavern was born, a place where local farmers, farms and artisans could be part of the process and of course the relevance of gardening as a central idea, so it could lower the amount of products they had to bring in.


“We are expecting an olive harvest, we have all the trees at back”, proudly claims Chef Anthony Hull, who explains that this is actually a 5 year project to reach the stage they want to. Chef Hull is really into cooking honest food, with a history to tell, and making all its visitors leave with an amazing experience they didn’t expect to get, and that’s when he knows they are fulfilling their goals.


Produce by: Irina Pabis
Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: Jesús Morales

Crimson Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Chef Wendy Lopez – Daily Culinary Inspiration – Tapa Toro, I-Drive 360

Nestled into the I-Drive 360 Entertainment Destination of Orlando, Florida, Tapa Toro is just the place to experience classic Spanish cuisine with a contemporary flair!
The culinary creative genius behind the kitchen door is Chef Wendy Lopez, who describes herself as a very passionate individual who loves what she does.  “I wake up every morning and come to a place I love to be… coming to work is never work!”
Born in Mexico, Chef Wendy came to the U.S. when she was 6 years old, and she learned what food service was all about, growing up and helping out in the family restaurant.  “I basically lived at the restaurant, working with my family, learning how to do everything from clean tables to help in the kitchen.  I was always involved, but it didn’t seem like work, it was what we did as a family, to survive, to live… it taught me that being with people who you care about and enjoy wasn’t really work, it was fun.”
These lessons learned in her childhood really shaped how she views her staff, “I love building the culture of the kitchen, bringing people together and making them feel at home, so that they want to come in and hang out even when they’re off the clock, or come in on their own time to see a new demo, to be involved and invested with the restaurant.  I love to teach people just as much as I love to learn.”
What secret does she use to create her dishes?  Chef Wendy simply smiles and says each day is different.  “My inspiration is based upon how I feel, what sounds good to me at that moment, what would ‘fill a void’ for that day.  You know, when you have to create a menu all at once, it stifles the creativity… so I prefer the ‘process’ of creating, just taking it one or two dishes at a time, so it is more authentic… dishes that are personal and authentic just take some time to develop, so every day is important and brings it’s own inspiration.”
“At Tapa Toro, our goal is to make you feel like you are sitting in Spain, enjoying the culture, having different dishes, and enjoying the nightly entertainment of live music or flamenco dancers.  We want to get to know you, make you feel at home, whether you are a frequent customer or a one time guest. Tapa Toro is a happy place, where you are a part of the festivities!”
When asked what she believes is the secret of Tapa Toro’s success, Chef Wendy has one word: Tapas.  “Tapas are a  great way for our clientele to sample multiple dishes… we use the freshest locally grown ingredients where we can, and import only the best specialty items from Spain to ensure the most authentic culinary experience… and the paella is always great.  Actually, the paella really takes me home, we always had it when the extended family would get together, and everyone would bring what they had to add to it, whether beef, chicken, fish or some other seafood… so for me, there is a natural family connection to that dish!”
A visit to Tapa Toro in the I-Drive 360 Entertainment Destination is not just going to a place to eat, it is enjoying the taste and culture of Spain and the daily inspiration of Chef Wendy Lopez and her culinary team.  You may walk in as a hungry customer, but you will leave as a satisfied member of the Tapa Toro family!
 Tapa Toro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Chef Emily Ellyn – Retro Rad Diva

Food Network Star and Retro Rad Diva Emily Ellyn was always destined to be a chef; to hear her tell the story her passion for food started perhaps before she had even drawn her first breath outside of her mother’s womb. Of course, she jokes, as she fondly reminisces about her early life and being inspired by the magic which happened around the dining room table. “At birth, I knew, I was born, I was destined to be a chef because I would watch all the adults come together around the dining room table and I saw this magic that happened. Everyone would talk, communicate, become different people and really be able to share themselves. And there was that moment, and I wanted to always be able to recreate it and have those moments of hospitality, to feed people through their hearts, minds, and stomachs. I knew the way to do that was to become a chef.”

So, why is Emily Ellyn so passionate about her cooking? Well, growing up on a 200 acre Christmas tree farm may have had a lot to do with it. While everyone else was making weekly trips to the grocery store for packaged food, and fruit and vegetables passed their prime, Emily’s food was available just a few short steps from her back door, which is about as fresh as you can get. She’s quite proud of the skills she learned as a child while helping her parents out on the farm, and is happy that people are paying more attention to where their food comes from and have started spending more time in the kitchen. “We had every animal under the sun and huge beautiful gardens. So why I love to cook, it’s because our food was so good. Our food was so fresh. I only found out that chickens came in packages when I went to the Culinary Institute of America  at Hyde Park. I could kill and dress a chicken by the age of 5. There’s video, my parents thought it was a hoot. I think it’s funny with all of this farm to table. I think, well, it’s about time people started cooking again.”

Emily has two approaches to creating great tasting food. Firstly, she’s big on taking the old and forging it into something new. At first, it’s all about creating the recipe exactly; often a challenge due to old time recipes being written in faded pencil and measurements stated in handfuls. “So, in a total retro rad remix I will take a recipe, for instance from the 30’s. These are hand written recipes in pencil, so you can’t really read it, and it’s a handful of lard, and a handful of this. Okay, who’s hand, and where do you find lard these days?” “First and foremost, I will create those recipes as exact as I can, using my hand. Then I have to go back and make it so it functions in today’s kitchens with today’s ingredients. And then I will put my own spin. No way am I just going to make a pound cake, I’m going to make a pound cake with lemon zest and blueberries and all kinds of delicious liqueur! That’s my first way.”

While her early life is responsible for creating an unbridled enthusiasm for food and flavor Emily Ellyn admits her second approach to creating great recipes is that she gets a great deal of her inspiration from everything. All it takes is a simple trip to the grocery store for her to get excited about the possibilities. “I’ll go to the grocery store and I’ll go oh my gosh, look at what’s on sale; I’ve never seen that before! So I’ll go and research on it, the ingredient, or the pot and pan, or whatever cool gadget will inspire something, and I’ll just develop a recipe from scratch.”

Emily’s parents were also determined to provide their children with the best education possible and no education was complete without a lot of traveling. As a result, Emily Ellyn is well traveled and has experienced many cultures from all over the world. She believes this has given her an innate ability to understand not just dishes and flavors, but also people. “We met so many people, ate so much great food, learned so many cultures. I think that has what made me such a great hospitable person and being able to understand dishes, and know flavors. I’ve never met anyone I can’t get along with just as a result of knowing people.”


Emily Ellyn is on a quest to keep building a brand around herself but traveling the country in that pursuit is exhausting work, so Emily has developed quite a unique approach to staying grounded; she takes lots of baths. “I will take baths as much as I can just to keep myself grounded. It’s exhausting, you have to keep focused, and keep lots of good calendars. You have to someone on your team to help keep you organized.” You will no doubt see lots more of Emily Ellyn, with her quirky and entertaining way of preparing great dishes. As if she wasn’t busy enough she’s also taken on the task of creating a book, a salute to the past but with a new take on gourmet food and how to present it, so keep an eye out for that in the next year.