Kathleen Blake is the owner of downtown Orlando’s farm-to-table gastro-pub The Rusty Spoon. An Iowa native, Blake started cooking at an early age in her grandmother’s kitchen where she helped prepare Sunday suppers with her family, went on to work in restaurants during high school and then moved to San Francisco to attend the Community College of San Francisco’s Apprenticeship Program. She soon landed a position at Square One where her mentor, Joyce Goldstein, taught her the importance of focusing on quality ingredients and building personal relationships with purveyors. Next she accepted a position in Pittsburgh under the guidance of Drew Nieporent. Through a Women Chefs and Restaurateurs scholarship, Blake became chef de cuisine at Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C., where she continued to fine tune her approach to cooking.
In 2003, Blake took a job as chef de cuisine at Melissa Kelly’s Primo in Orlando at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes. She began working with local farmers and building relationships with small purveyors. This led her to opening her own restaurant The Rusty Spoon. Blake is a three-time James Beard Award semi-finalist for “Best Chef South”, nominated in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
Laurent Branlard is the executive pastry chef for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. A native of France, Branlard is a highly accomplished pastry chef who holds the distinction as the only two-time winner of the World Pastry Team Championship. Branlard captained Team USA to victory in 2008 after previously winning in 2002. Branlard and Team USA defeated the top chefs from competing nations in a challenging 2-day 13-hour competition that tested the team's culinary ability and artistic skills. In between his world titles, Branlard held the honor of serving as a judge for the pastry championship competition and coaching Team USA in the 2006 World Pastry Competition to a bronze medal. He holds the distinction of being named one the Top Pastry Chefs in America.
Loren Falsone is the chef-owner of The Table Orlando, a restaurant focused on serving a single table on Friday and Saturday evenings. Guests are prepared a five-course meal with appropriate wine pairings, and seating is limited to 22 guests. Since ingredients are bought from whatever local suppliers have on hand that day, the menu is different for every meal.
Falsone graduated from Johnson & Wales University, and worked at the renowned Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island for eight years. She was named Food & Wine's "Best New Chef" for 2000 while at the famed Empire restaurant in Providence. Falsone moved to Orlando with her chef-owner husband, Tyler Bassil, in 2003 to become the executive chef at Seasons 52. She has also taught at the Orlando campus of a nationally recognized culinary institution.
As the chef-owner of K Restaurant, Kevin Fonzo prepares rustic, yet elegant fare fitting of a former James Beard Award semifinalist for "Best Chef: South" in 2010. Fonzo's dedication to using locally sourced ingredients from area farms -- including K's own backyard herb and vegetable garden -- is reflected in his menu that features fresh interpretations of classic dishes.
After working at a country inn in upstate New York as a teenager, Fonzo graduated from The Culinary Institute of America. He landed his first job as part of the original culinary team for the opening of The Peabody Orlando. During the 1990s, Fonzo spent several years in Atlanta with the Peasant Restaurant Group. He returned to Orlando in 2001, eventually buying two restaurants that would later merge into what is now K.
Representing what is considered one of the most extraordinary fine-dining experiences in the country, Scott Hunnel was originally tapped as the chef de cuisine at Victoria & Albert's in 1995. Hunnel's culinary signature -- straightforward cooking using seasonal ingredients that are inspired by his global journeys -- has guided the restaurant in Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa to earn AAA's highest achievement, the Five Diamond Award.
Hunnel graduated from the culinary arts program at Joliet Junior College, and learned classic European techniques while working at the Renaissance Hotel. He soon joined the culinary team at the Walt Disney World Resort, where he has remained ever since. Hunnel was nominated as a James Beard Award semifinalist for "Best Chef: South" from 2007 through 2013, 2015 and 2016.
As the corporate executive chef overseeing the Universal Orlando Resort -- including the CityWalk entertainment complex -- Steve Jayson has quite a bit on his plate. Almost literally. Jayson and his team recently developed the entire menu for the Three Broomsticks restaurant located within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction, including the famed Butterbeer, pumpkin juice, Cauldron Cakes and Treacle Fudge.
Taking the fictitious and making it delicious is all in a day's work for this 2000 winner of The American Culinary Federation's "National Chef of the Year." A graduate from The Culinary Institute of America, Jayson has worked at the Universal Orlando Resort since it opened in 1989. He was instrumental in creating Mythos, a fine-dining eatery within the Islands of Adventure park that has been voted "Best Theme Park Restaurant" on multiple occasions. Jayson continues to provide a hands-on role within the culinary industry by working on First Lady Michelle Obama's "Chef's Move to Schools" campaign.
Brandon McGlamery is the co-owner and executive chef at Luma on Park and Prato, both nestled on Park Avenue in Winter Park. While McGlamery's dual passions for fresh seafood and Italian cuisine are respectfully represented in each restaurant's culinary offerings, it was his recipe for "Short Rib Mac and Cheese with Gruyere" that compelled Oprah to include it on her website.
After graduating from the California Culinary Academy, McGlamery gained experience at some of the finest restaurants in the country -- Stars, French Laundry and Bacchanalia. He also trained with Gordon Ramsey in London and Guy Savoy in Paris. McGlamery is an avid fisherman and an advocate for sustainable fishing, which lead to his participation in the annual Cooking for Solutions event at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California. McGlamery joined the list of Orlando chefs nominated as a James Beard Award semi-finalist for “Best Chef South” in 2013.
As one of only 186 Master Sommeliers in the world -- and the director of beverage and hospitality for the Capital Grille group at Darden Restaurants -- it is a bit of an understatement to call George Miliotes a wine expert. Especially since he is credited with bringing by-the-glass wine programs to casual dining, and regularly travels to regions across the globe to custom blend wines for Capital Grille.
Miliotes grew up in the restaurant business. His family owned a specialty café in Orlando, and he traveled to winemaking areas in Germany and France during childhood. Miliotes worked at Chris' House of Beef, a legendary Orlando restaurant, and created a Wine Spectator award-winning wine list. Prior to Capital Grille, Miliotes was the general manager at the Walt Disney World Resort's California Grill, where he developed one of the first beverage programs in the United States to include more than 100 wines by the glass.
James and Julie Petrakis, a husband-and-wife culinary team, are the chef-owners of The Ravenous Pig. The gastropub embraces local flavors, daily-changing menus, craft beer and cocktails, an extensive wine list as well as an in-house charcuterie program (the process of curing meats like ham, sausage and bacon). This attention to detail while creating soulful, unpretentious fare has led to dual nominations as James Beard Award semifinalists for "Best Chef: South" in 2011, 2013 through 2016.
The couple met while attending The Culinary Institute of America. Separately, they have worked at an impressive resume of fine-dining establishments including the California Grill, Atelier, Seasons 52, Luma, Union Square Café, Union Pacific and Primo. The Petrakis’ opened two other restaurants, Cask & Larder, focusing on southern-sourced seasonal dishes and craft beers brewed on site, and Swine & Sons Provisions, a gourmet take-out joint offering Southern Platters, sides, sandwiches and more.
A self-described "chocoholic," it's fitting that Executive Pastry Chef David Ramirez creates edible works of art using chocolate and other goodies. His edible constructs have landed him an appearance on the Food Network, and won him major culinary accolades. Like a gold medal at the National Pastry Championship in 2005. Or being named captain of "Team USA" for the 2009 World Pastry Championship in Lyon, France.
Ramirez earned a degree in baking and pastry arts from Johnson & Wales University. After graduation, he worked at the Swiss Hotel in Boston. Ramirez then moved to Orlando at the age of 22 to become the executive pastry chef at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld and the youngest executive-level employee in the organization's history. He joined Rosen Shingle Creek in 2006.
While many Orlando-area chefs have been formally trained in the culinary arts, John Rivers walks a bit of a different path. In fact, until fairly recently, Rivers was the president of a billion dollar-plus pharmaceutical company. No matter, it's the barbecue he serves at his three 4Rivers locations -- especially his signature item, the smoked brisket -- that has customers literally lined-up to the door and into the parking lot. It's also the reason why he's been invited to cook at the famed James Beard House in August 2013.
The story began nearly two decades ago for Rivers when the chef-owner began his "BBQ ministry" -- which initially benefitted schools, charitable groups and churches -- out of his garage. Since Rivers opened his first restaurant in Winter Park during 2009 -- look for the original 4Rivers location to relocate to a new 6,000-square-foot space during fall 2012 -- his barbecue, gourmet side dishes, bottled sauces and rubs, and desserts have reached legendary status among local foodies. So much in fact that he smokes more than 15,000 pounds of meat each week.