Chef Derek Perez – It’s Just The Way It Is

Chef Derek Perez, Executive Chef at Luke’s Kitchen and Bar, the third concept restaurant of Chef Brandon McGlamery, located in Maitland, Florida, begins his culinary tale with a simple observation: “I liked to eat.” “My parents and grandparents were really good cooks, my mother was the lunch lady at my school, and in those days, they made everything from scratch. My grandfather was an amazing cook, and since he was Italian and German, we were introduced to a variety of those dishes.”

Upon graduation from high school, Chef Derek decided to go to culinary school, so he enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu. “I decided to just go for it, and I never looked back… I just fell in love with it! I still feel that way now; I love cooking, interacting with guests, being part of and leading a team for lunch or night service… it is still an adrenaline rush!”


Chef Derek’s culinary philosophy can literally be described as “home grown.” “Some of my favorite memories are of my grandfather’s kitchen in Ohio, with my grandmother and grandfather cooking Sunday dinner, the smell of it, how they made everything from scratch, home-made ingredients. We would pick fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden, they grew the best tomatoes ever, and each dish was literally ‘backyard garden to table,’ so the dinner table always reflected what was fresh-grown and in season. When cucumbers would come in, we ate cucumbers… or tomatoes, or squash, that’s just the way it is, you didn’t make a big deal out of it. We treat it the same way here at “Luke’s”… everything comes from a farm, as local as we can get it, and we support our local farmers… that’s what designing a dish or a meal or even a menu is all about, you look at the ingredients, the season, and the flavors available and go from there… it’s just the way it is!”


“At “Luke’s”, we fit together as a family; we have chef de cuisine, Sous chefs, on the line cooks, everybody has a specific part to play. Our flavor profile fits the ‘All American Cuisine,’ which means it’s a melting pot of the world’s flavors, so we get all these unique flavors, and combine them to put a unique spin on our dishes. Whether dining with us for lunch, dinner, or some special occasion, guests can expect something for everyone, with a fresh and unique taste-experience!”


“What is the best advice for young, aspiring chefs? Well, first, stop trying to be a star… this industry isn’t built on fame, money, or even television; it’s about cooking for people, and doing it because you love it. You have to love the food, love the process, love the cooking, love the people… and if you remember that, you’ll be okay, you’ll go places. Just work hard, keep your mouth shut, don’t complain, and keep the business of cooking second in your life, just behind family, because family comes first. If you want to be good at something, it has to be important to you, you have to wake up thinking about it, go to work early to get to it, work hard on it throughout the day, don’t take a break from it, don’t forget about it… don’t even eat, just stay hydrated, drink water, finish and close up, go home and get prepared for the next day. It has to be constant, all the time, it never turns off… as long as you remember that, you’ll be okay.” Wise words from a hard-working a well-respected Executive Chef… and that’s just the way it is!


The next time you are in Maitland, Florida, just stop by “Luke’s Kitchen and Bar” and ask if you can try one of their “fresh” dishes… but you better be hungry, because that’s the entire menu… made possible by the guiding and experienced hand of Executive Chef Derek Perez!


Produced by: Irina Pabis
Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: David Morizot


The Americas Cake Fair Makes Sweet Return to Orlando October 13-15

The wait is over, dessert fans:

The Americas Cake Fair, the largest trade and consumer show in North and South America dedicated to cake, chocolate, sugar arts and more, rolls into the Orange County Convention Center on October 13-15, 2017.

More than 10,000 baking professionals, industry buyers, pastry chefs, cake artists, retail bakers, hobbyists and everyday foodies from around the world are expected to attend the three-day celebration, which held its inaugural in 2015.

Headlining the live theater (main stage) is “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro, star of the hit TLC show; Mich Turner, whose clientele includes The Queen of England, Madonna and David Beckham; pastry genius Ron Ben-Israel, named “the Manolo Blahnik of wedding cakes” by The New York Times; Nancy Fuller, host of Food Networks Farmhouse Rules; and Natalie and Dave Sideserf, the husband-wife hosts of Food Network’s Texas Cake House.

Presentations by Sponsor Domino Sugar, demonstrations by cake designers Erin Gardner (Erin Bakes), Paul Bradford, Shawna McGreevy, Avalon Yarnes and Edwald Notter, plus award ceremonies for live challenges and cake competitions, round out the main stage line-up. Keeping the fun “rolling” along is Main Stage Host and Celebrity Chef Emily Ellyn, best known as the Retro Rad Chef from Food Network.


While seeing is believing (and inspiring!), attendees can build their skills at more than 100 hands-on classes, demonstrations and business seminars taught by the world’s most skilled cake decorators and industry professionals. From the art of airbrushing to mastering chocolate modeling, all classes and demonstrations will provide instruction on the latest techniques. All classes are three hours in duration and must be booked in advance online.

Other Cake Fair features include:

  • The Sugar Art Fashion Show on Friday evening, October 13, with models strutting the runway adorned by cake costumes and edible ensembles, co-hosted by Ellyn and Fashion Stylist / On-Air Style Expert Melanie Pace, and benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
  • An exclusive VIP Meet & Greet on Saturday, October 14, where guests can meet and mingle with their favorite television personalities, headliners and cake artists
  • Live Global Cake and Chocolate Challenges, where international teams and individuals will battle for top honors
  • Traditional cake competitions offering cash prizes for contestants across all skill levels
  • Themed “zones” sprinkled around the show floor, including a Kids Zone for a yummy interactive experience for budding cake artists; and The ACD Magazine  Cake Zone sponsored by American Cake Decorating Magazine for a delectable introduction to fondant and other skills
  • An exhibit hall overflowing with products and services, including some items for cash and carry

Attendees can enjoy sweet savings by purchasing tickets online, and can save even more when attending the show on multiple, consecutive days. Prices start from $30 for regular, single-day adult admission with advance online purchase.


Advance registration is highly recommended for hands-on classes, demonstrations and Retail Bakers Association seminars.

Cake Fair is hosted by Satin Ice, which is made by Satin Fine Foods, Inc., an industry-leading manufacturer distributing its premium range of cake decorating products to more than 60 countries worldwide. Partners and sponsors of The Americas Cake Fair include American Cake Decorating; Ateco; Cake Masters; Dawn; DecoPac; Domino Sugar; Guittard Chocolate Company; Pillsbury; Retail Bakers of America; and Sterling Bank.

Stay up to date on Cake Fair event updates, special offers and exclusivecontests by following the show on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@cakefair). Formore information, visit

I am a Digital Ambassador for The Americas Cake Fair, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending the show and reporting my opinion within this blog, The Americas Cake Fair has provided me with complimentary tickets and other exclusive opportunities.


Chef Allen Lo – Aroma and Taste of Asia in Every Dish

Chef Allen Lo is very much at home in Orlando, Florida, having lived here since he was seventeen. His cooking skills came from growing up in his parent’s restaurant, watching them cook. He would go to the restaurant after school and do his homework as they were there “seven days a week twelve hours a day.” He would “go in the back and help prep vegetables and fry fried rice and spring rolls.”

The most important ingredient to him is the aroma, the smell of the cooking. “What I really remember from my childhood is just all the smells… when we go back to Malaysia you walk the streets you just get hit with all these smells and whether you’re hungry, you’re not hungry you will be after you smell” the food there.


To develop the Hawkers menu Chef Allen drew from all the foods that he missed and loved eating, wanting to recreate “some of those dishes and some of those flavors is what really drove my passion.” His inspiration is drawn from “all the travels and with again the aroma, the smells the taste… the dishes that I’ve had on my travels and trying to recreate it here and making it approachable for the demographic.” He is pleased by how excited everyone has been about the menus. Chef Allen listens to comments that he receives about the food in order to further develop the menu and determine what new direction it should take. Hawkers comes out with a new menu every six months, and they try to keep it as authentic as possible.


The title of the restaurant itself is drawn from the colloquial term for a street vendor in Asia. In America “a hawker would be your Sabra’s hot dog vendor or maybe a taco vendor or something that they serve on the streets right, in Asia most of the foods are served on the street.” When he visits family in Malaysia or traveling to Singapore or Thailand, most frequently he and his family will go to a hawker center where “individual hawkers have their stalls or their carts” lined up and “everybody kind of disperses and they can go and get what they’re feeling that night or what they’re in the mood for” and
they reunite at the table and everyone shares what they’ve selected.


The symbol in the logo for the restaurant is drawn from the Chinese style of Kanji characters, but really represents the silhouette of a traditional hawker “when they’re walking down the street and selling goods with a stick on their shoulder and a basket hanging like a fender or mobile and balancing that… so if you see this cross mark with the two dots on it that’s just [the hawker] with his two baskets” and “a straw bamboo hat so it symbolizes the traditional Hawker.”


Come have a good night out by visiting Hawkers and try Chef Allen’s traditional yet creative dishes to transport yourself to the streets of Malaysia . “When a guest comes to Hawkers they should expect a wide variety of small plate offerings. Hawkers is an amazing experience with great ambiance. “You can have some good drinks, have some good food… have a good two three hours with friends… when you’re here we’re all going to enjoy the food enjoy the energy and the drinks and have a good time.”


Produced by: Irina Pabis
Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: Katrina Belle

Pitmaster Bryan Mroczka – Setting a High Bar-B-Que

Bryan Mroczka, Head pitmaster for “Sonny’s BBQ,” has always had a drive to compete, and this competitive spirit is what led him to the culinary world. “I was born and raised in Central Florida, and then I went to college in Boston, Massachusetts, where I played football, and I graduated with a degree for IT in Accounting. When I hit the job market, I became a Financial Analyst in the restaurant world, and spent five years on that side of the business.”

It didn’t take long for Financial Analyst Bryan to become enamored with a certain side of the restaurant business, “I am a competitive person, I love competition, all the learning, growing, and effort it takes to win.” When Bryan discovered there was a competitive barbecue circuit, that was all the urging he needed to get on board. “I began competing on the barbecue circuit, and I never stopped… I still compete to this day, and I am pretty much a regular there.”

“I fell in love with competition barbecue, and so I began learning more and more about it, the science of it all, the best ways to get the smoking just right, sauces and ingredients… I have taken barbecue classes and been mentored by some of the top Chefs in the business, I really love learning all I can about barbecue!”


Competition is the path that has led Bryan to where he is today, “I met a couple of ’Sonny’s’ employees on the barbecue competition trail, and, in fact, I beat them at that first competition. We hit it off really well, and competed against each other a few more times, and after three years, they offered me a position with ‘Sonny’s Restaurants,’ and before long, I was ‘Head pit master’ for the chain.”


Speaking of competitions, the “American Royal World Series of Barbecue” is the one of the largest competitions in the country, with over 600 Bar-B-Que teams competing, not only for the “Best Overall” title, but in several specific categories, as well. “Big bragging rights go to the winners at the ‘American Royal,’ and many great barbecue pit masters have made a name for themselves at that competition. Most of the teams who win have been in competition for quite a while and are well-known on the circuit. This year will be our third year at the ‘American Royal’ and we are training hard for a good showing. Our first year at the competition was fantastic, we placed 14th in the Brisket competition, which is really spectacular when you realize there are more than 600 teams that you are facing off against! It takes a lot of work to do well in these events, you have to cook a LOT and make sure you are honing your skills, but the best part is seeing all the different teams with different methods and learning new tricks of the trade… it definitely pushes you to excel!”


Bryan’s thoughts on what advice he would give a younger chef or pit master are pretty direct, “You should always, always follow your heart. That’s what I did… I was sitting in an office all day, crunching numbers, but I kept my head up and was actively exploring other avenues and interests, and then, ‘Bam,’ I got the chance to do what I always wanted to do. Now, when I wake up in the morning, it’s just so easy to get up and go to work. So follow your dream, get out there and put in the hard work, become better and better every day, just like parents always tell their kids, ‘practice makes perfect.’ There is no substitute for practice and hard work, you can’t just walk in and be the best, you have to earn it, you have to work every day until you are the best.”


When asked for his advice on the best way to barbecue, pit master Bryan is quick to say, “On a flame in an open pit… it’s the only way to get that good ‘char-taste’ that barbecue is known for… plus, it is the only way to get a nice smoke ring and have a great, smoky taste.”


“Face it, when you bite into that brisket, and it melts in your mouth, that’s what perfect barbecue is… when it all comes together, the color, the smoke, the rub, the sauce, it just all melds together to become that perfect, awesome bite of barbecue. That’s what I am all about, and that is what ‘Sonny’s’ wants each and every customer to experience, the best barbecue in a friendly, home-style environment with your enjoyment as the primary goal. That’s what is real, and that’s always our goal!”

Stop by any “Sonny’s BBQ” and you will find a great selection of barbecue with all the flavor of cooking in your own backyard… but mostly, you will get a taste of real Southern Hospitality… just remember to always finish it all off with a great dessert!

Produced by: Irina Pabis
Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: David Morizot

Taste! Central Florida – Aug.19

The incredible Taste! Central Florida event is coming up on August 19th. It’s an amazing culinary event that supports the end of childhood hunger and supports local charities Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, supported by a team of volunteers and hosted by the Orlando World Center Marriott. There are over 40 restaurants and 20 breweries and wineries participating with Central Florida’s most accomplished culinary minds, all for an amazing cause. Join for an evening of tasting selections of local signature dishes created by talented local chefs, wines and craft beers.

1 in 4 kids in Central Florida are hungry. Join Taste! Central Florida on August 19th to end childhood hunger. Check out the entire list, join me in turning the table on childhood hunger and grab your tickets at


Participating restaurants are:

4 Rivers Smokehouse & The Coop

American Culinary Federation – Central Florida Chapter
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Cala Bella at Rosen Shingle Creek

Ace Cafe Orlando
Canvas Restaurant & Market

The Capital Grille


Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
CFHLA Food & Beverage Council
Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen

Cress Restaurant
Dragonly Robata Sushi and Grill
Eleven Restaurant at Reunion Resort
Empress Sissi Cake & Pastry
Florida Nitro
Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center

Hemisphere Restaurant at Hyatt OIA
The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grand Lakes

Rosen Shingle Creek

Marlow’s Tavern
Orlando Food Department Co.
Orlando World Center Marriott
Plancha at Four Seasons Resort
Primo at JW Marriott, Grande Lakes
Raglan Road
The Ravenous Pig
Red Wing Restaurant
Satu-Li Canteen at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Savor…Osceola Heritage Park
Seasons 52 Fresh Grill
SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando


Universal Orlando Resort

Urbain 40 American Brasserie

The Whiskey
Yak & Yeti


Follow this link to purchase your ticket today:

Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: Katrina Belle


Cuba Libre to Celebrate Rum Month with Flights and Specials throughout August

In honor of National Rum Day on August 16, Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar, located in Pointe Orlando on International Drive, will dedicate the entire month of August to its favorite spirit with its annual Rum Month celebration, featuring special rum tasting flights available daily from August 1 to 30 in the dining room and at the bar beginning at 5 p.m. Then, on National Rum Day, all rums, rum flights, and rum cocktails will be offered at half-price at Happy Hour from 5 to 7 p.m. at the bar.

Cuba Libre has hand-selected two special rum flights in celebration of Rum Month, each consisting of three 1 oz. pours. The restaurant’s rum list showcases more than 90 varieties from Guyana, Haiti, Nicaragua and Tortola, and includes dark, light, spiced and aged rums for every taste. Guests looking for a particular flavor profile can ask their server for recommendations.

Cuba Libre’s special Rum Month tasting flights include:

El Coqui Flight ($18)
Named after the Puerto Rican frog with a unique sound, Don Q is what islanders drink when they want to relax on the beach.

  • Don Q Single Barrel: Aged for more than 10 years. Rare, single barrel hand-selected rum. Rich, buttery notes of deep woodiness, mingled with tannins and sweeter notes. Aromas of heavy oak bouquet, leather and dried fruit.
  • Don Q Añejo: Light golden brown in color. Aged 3 to 7 years in whisky and bourbon barrels. Medium-bodied. Molasses, vanilla, tobacco, leather, and oak. Slight sweetness. Pleasant complexity. Dry finish.
  • Don Q Gran Añejo: A blend of rums aged 3 to 12 years to create blend of sweet and dry finish. Flavors of baked apple, tropical fruits, spice with hints of nuts and smoky vanilla. Wonderful to sip neat or on the rocks.

Kirk and Sweeney Flight ($20)
Named after a wooden rum running schooner that shipped spirits from the Caribbean to America during prohibition. Distillery based in the Dominican Republic.

  • 12 Year: Aroma of earthy sugarcane and vanilla. The initial flavors of sweet nectar and honey give way to notes of oak and toffee. The finish ends with a smooth vanilla kick.
  • 18 Year: Traditional, well-aged. Notes of brown sugar, vanilla, and some chocolate/coffee overtones on the nose and palate with some curious red wine notes. Coffee character builds along with Port-like sweetness with finish.
  • 23 Year: Fully matured sipping rum. Deep caramel, flecked with barrel char, toffee, intense vanilla, and a touch of baking spice — particularly cloves on the nose and palate with a rich, silky finish

Cuba Libre located 9101 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819 call (407) 226-1600 to make your reservation today!

Chef Bryan Thoman: Creating a Master List of Flavor!

Just a short drive southeast from Downtown Orlando brings you to the Lake Nona area, which has everything that Central Florida is known for: beautiful scenery, sunny skies, and the fresh and innovative tastes that greet you as you dine at “Canvas Restaurant & Market” in the Laureate Park Village Center in the heart of Lake Nona. With a creative and unique culinary vision, Executive Chef Bryan Thoman and his team work hard to make your dining experience fun, fresh, and fantastic!

Born in the northeast United States, Chef Bryan recalls how he became introduced to cultural flavors, “I spent my early years growing up in south New Jersey, and we had a lot of neighbors who were of Italian descent, and some of them were what you would call ‘right off the boat.’ I remember having dinner at several friend’s houses, and I was intrigued at how they would grow so many of their ingredients right in their yards, made wine in their basements, and cooked every dish fresh from scratch… it was like the ‘Farm to Table’ tradition of the day!”


Growing up, Chef Bryan was always interested in food and the preparation process involved with cooking. “It was the late ‘90s and the ‘Food Network’ was just becoming popular, so I would stay up late at night watching all the great Chefs while my friends were watching ‘Beavis and Butthead’… my mom would tell me to turn off the TV but I would say ‘Mom, they’re making foie gras!”

“I’ve been working in restaurants since I was fifteen, so I don’t really know how to do anything else. When I got out of high school, I went right into culinary school, which is a great way to learn how to cook and to become proficient with all the basic cooking techniques; however, restaurants are where you really learn what it means to be a chef.”


Working in kitchens, watching and learning from the chefs, Chef Bryan realized that he wanted to be the guy in charge. “I didn’t want to be the one taking directions and being told what to do, I wanted to be the person giving the directions, teaching and coaching people… so I worked as hard as I could to make my way up the ranks, and to become the ‘guy who knew everything’ who was able to teach all the younger cooking staff.” His hard work paid off, and Chef Bryan became a “Sous Chef” when he was twenty years old and, being driven to make it to the top, earned his “Executive Chef” position when he was 27. “It takes a lot to learn to be an Executive Chef… there’s a lot to it.”


Chef Bryan firmly believes that, first and foremost, the Executive Chef is a teacher, a mentor who is developing the next generation. “I am always telling my Sous Chefs that 90% of my job is people, 5% is cooking, and 5% is the business/financial side. Without my team, the restaurant doesn’t move… I mean, I can cook on the line, but I can’t do the job of four people.” Chef Bryan believes the Executive Chefs have to make sure that those in the next generation know where they stand, know what they need to do in order to do their jobs correctly. “It’s important to that they understand the expectations… instilling a work ethic into a team is the most important job for the Executive Chef.”


When he is developing a menu, Chef Bryan likes to stay a season or two ahead. “At ‘Canvas,’ our goal is to be a ‘Florida Fresh’ restaurant, with our focus on what is in season and readily available… which is a wide selection any time of year here in Central Florida, but I like to design the menu based on ‘peak’ times of the seasons. So, my first question is ‘which season is this menu reflecting,’ then I ask myself ‘which ingredients are going to be the most flavorful and abundant,’ and finally, what is the ‘location’ or theme of the menu.” From these questions, Chef Bryan makes a “Master List” of all the ingredients that fit the food profiles, and he starts mixing an matching. “It’s like being at the market and seeing what ingredients are displayed, what looks good together.”


“I like to think about what ‘Florida’ means to my guests… there are a lot of Carribean and Latin influences but there are also flavors found in the South. I take all these flavors and themes and put them together, making sure that the taste is the prime consideration, super fresh and super high quality. Merging all those Florida flavor profiles is a challenge, but it is a labor of love… making something that is appealing to people from all walks of life, who just want to come in and enjoy being in a cool atmosphere, perhaps with live music and patio dining, is what makes ‘Canvas’ the perfect place to relax and enjoy great hospitality with great service and enjoying equally great food. It’s what I’m all about!”


Come try Chef Bryan’s culinary vision at “Canvas Restaurant & Market” where all the Central Florida flavors from his “Master List” of ingredients merge into gustatory greatness… not bad for a kid from Jersey!


Produced by: Irina Pabis
Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: David Morizot