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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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

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

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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!
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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“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!”
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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!”
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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!
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 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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

Chef Faithy B. Harris-Dowdell – The Taste of Adventure at the Yak & Yeti Restaurant

The “Yak & Yeti” Restaurant has two things going for it: first, being a guest favorite of Disney’s Animal Kingdom®, and second, having Chef Faithy B. Harris-Dowdell as the guiding hand behind their many flavorful successes!

Chef Faithy is what he calls an anomaly; he’s a Floridian who was actually born and raised in Florida. “It seems that most folks you meet here in Florida are from somewhere else, from up north or out west… not that it matters, there are good people everywhere, and they’re often hungry!”

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Born in Winter Park, Florida, Chef Faithy spent much of his time growing up with his grandparents in rural Mount Dora, Florida, helping out on their farm. “My grandfather grew up on a farm in Alabama, and so that is what he did here. He grew all sorts of vegetables and raised livestock, what he called the “natural way” since it was before ‘Organic’ became so popular. I was always helping him with the cattle, pigs, and chickens, and also planting and harvesting the vegetables. He grew a little bit of everything, it seemed, and I loved it, I loved the hard work and I loved the feeling of actually ‘creating’ something… I suppose that is where my drive to create comes from.”

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The seeds of Chef Faithy’s desire to cook for a living were definitely planted on that farm, with his grandmother and grandfather. “My grandmother was a great cook, and she was always cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. I spent so much time in the kitchen with her, helping out. My grandfather was also a great cook, especially the barbecue… most every weekend, family would get together at their house, and my grandfather would be grilling. It was such a great time, a great feeling, being surrounded by family… when I cook, it always brings me back to those times, it’s like coming home.”

G___8996Chef Faithy remembers watching all the cooking shows on PBS Saturday mornings when he was a kid. “I loved the way Julia Child and Justin Wilson would turn the simplest ingredients into something good, and make it look like fun, too. Cooking with my grandmother in the kitchen or my grandfather on the grill, and watching those shows, that’s what I remember about cooking when I was growing up, but I never thought about cooking as a career until my mom suggested it. A friend of hers had told her about the culinary program that Disney used to have, and she encouraged me to give it a try, and that was how I found the outlet for my passion, to be able to create, to cook good food for people and see that positive reaction… you get the satisfaction that you made something they enjoyed. That’s gold!”

G___9007Being part of the Disney Culinary Apprenticeship Program gave Chef Faithy the opportunity to learn a variety of skills in a variety of venues. “Disney World has such a variety of restaurants and eateries, and I worked at so many of them, from the Polynesian Hotel to the Epcot World Showcase, among others. After graduating the program, I worked at the Contemporary Hotel, but I was looking for something different, a new challenge, so I left to join the Rainforest Cafe and eventually became a trainer for their cooking staff, and so I hit the road, traveling to new restaurants and locations. That was a fun and successful time in my life, and lead to becoming the Kitchen Manager at the Rainforest Cafe in Denver, Colorado… and that is where my career really took off!”

G___9013Chef Faithy feels a need to help the younger generation of culinary artists. “As a chef, there is a big responsibility to mentor the newer talent, to let them know what is expected, that it is not an easy profession… it takes a lot of dedication to excel at cooking, you’re going to miss holidays and family time, you’re going to be working nights, working weekends, and so you have to be passionate about cooking or you won’t have the dedication it takes to be successful. You have to dedicate yourself to be the best at what you do… that is how you become a success, there is no other way.”

G___9026This dedication to success is alive and well at the “Yak & Yeti Restaurant” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom®, and Chef Faithy loves the diversity of the cuisine that is found on the menu. “We have a Pan-Asian menu, and we try to cover as much of Asia as possible with our food choices. Everything is made in-house, from scratch, with a many local fresh ingredients as possible… in fact, it is surprising how much we actually do in the restaurant.”

G___9021“Innovation is found by being adventurous, taking a chance, and at the Yak & Yeti, we like to take a traditional dish and then give it a little twist, a slightly different ‘flavor profile.’ We have guests who have traveled from all over the world, and it is is very rewarding to serve them a dish they are familiar with, that maybe they eat at home, and to improve the flavor, so that they are pleasantly surprised by it, and tell us that it is ‘the best they have ever had.’ It is a great experience getting that kind of feedback from people who have come here from every part of the globe… to me, that is true success!”

G___9025The next time you are feeling a little adventurous, Chef Faithy suggests that you take a little trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom® and tempt your taste buds at the “Yak & Yeti” Restaurant… but beware, once you enjoy a taste of adventure, you may not want to go home!

G___9031Yak & Yeti Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato