By David Sibila
Four Orlando chefs are among the list of semifinalists for the 2016 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards demonstrating that dining in Orlando continues to be a culinary contender. Vying for this prestigious award are chefs, Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert's at Walt Disney World Resort, James and Julie Petrakis of The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park and Kathleen Blake of The Rusty Spoon in downtown Orlando.
In recent years, the James Beard Foundation has recognized a handful of top chef talent in Orlando. The annual awards program is the highest recognition for culinary professionals in the U.S. Orlando's semifinalists were selected from a list of more than 20,000 online entries representing 21 culinary categories in ten different regions across the nation.
About Orlando's James Beard Award Semifinalists:
Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Lake Buena Vista, FL and its chef, Scott Hunnel, have long been synonymous with fine dining at Walt Disney World Resort. For the past 16 years in a row, the restaurant has been the recipient of the AAA Five Diamond Award, among many other honors. The restaurant offers six-course prixe fixe meals of Modern American cuisine using ingredients sourced from products around the world, with a focus on local markets and seaports in Florida.
Graduates of the Culinary Institute of America, Julie and James Petrakis opened their American gastropub, The Ravenous Pig, in 2007 and have been receiving accolades ever since. The couple opened a sister restaurant in Winter Park in 2012. Dubbed Cask & Larder, the restaurant is a micro pub with Southern artisanal food and hand-crafted beer. Continuing to expand in 2015, the pair opened Swine & Sons Provisions, their third Winter Park locale, specializing in takeout charcuterie; butcher sandwiches; homemade pastry offerings and more. The couple plans to add two more venues to their culinary empire in 2016: an airport location of Cask & Larder, as well as the new French concept, Dovecote.
Kathleen Blake started cooking in her grandmother's kitchen growing up in Iowa. She attended the Community College of San Francisco's Apprenticeship Program, which landed her at Square One Restaurant. A Women Chef & Restaurateurs Scholarship Award brought her to Washington, DC as the chef de cuisine at the heralded Restaurant Nora. She moved to Orlando to become chef de cuisine at Primo at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes. In 2011 she opened The Rusty Spoon, a gastropub in downtown Orlando.
You and your family are in for a treat because there is something for every food craving in Orlando. See why dining in Orlando can be a thrill ride for your taste buds. Just come hungry!
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Written by David Sibila, Senior Manager of Content and Social Media for Visit Orlando. He's a TV producer turned content and social media strategist, hands-on dad and a casualty of four rescued pets.