Orlando Food Blogger Forum-

One of my favorite things since I’ve started in the catering business is when I actually get to be a guest at an event! This weekend I am attending my first blogger conference right in my own backyard!  Work backyard that is- The conference is being held right at Epcot.

I took a walk early one morning to grab a shot of the Food Blogger Forum venue in the break of dawn.

The unique part is that I while I was signing up for this talent loaded conference put together by amazing bloggers, I have also have been working on planning the events from an operational stand point.  And I have been getting sooo excited because our teams are really pushing boundaries to give the bloggers an awesome experience.  We, as chefs and caterers love when our guests are equally as passionate about food and beverage, and never want to disappoint!

Inside these doors is where the Magic happens!

Our teams spend weeks planning events, looking at guest flow, station designs and looks, as well as the food presentations, and that’s just some of the details.  We dream big- and consider what a right fit for each event and what we can do operationally.  Our teams are numerous and it is quite a feat to keep everyone on the same beat.  

Logistics!

 

Creativity is quite important!

My favorite events to help plan are the functions with high detail- whether it’s a dinner for 5000 people in a theme park with numerous action stations, off premise kitchens and only an hour to set, or a more intimate dinner with a highly creative menu and room set up.  The adrenaline rush that comes from pulling off these events is what I love about catering.

Mornings at Epcot are so gorgeous!

Planning events are pretty awesome, it is great having the ability to sit down with such a creative team and bounce ideas until something sticks. Those planning meeting are definitely my favorite!  They certainly can go on for hours, and sometimes we have to walk away because we have hit a brick wall.  I told a friend recently, that it is embarassing how much I love my job, but it is true.

What great timing -The Flower and Garden Festival is going on too!

And now, after weeks of planning the events of the food blogger conference, I am hanging up my chef hat and putting on my guest hat!  I am definitely going to soak it all in and I can’t wait to experience the magic first hand!

SOOOO Glad I am on my "Lent Mulligan" this weekend- these desserts and pastries are going to be awesome!

In a few minutes the quiet of the day will be gone- So pretty!

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Lunch at The Living Seas

Since I started in the beginning of January at Park Event Operations we have done quite a few Sustainable and Local focused events.  Having the vendors and partners to get such fresh, flavorful and responsible products is great-and important!  Anytime you can get your groceries from a local farm will not only help your community, but they are guaranteed to be a better tasting and fresher product! 

Dining Room With A View
A lot of people have been to The living Seas, but the lucky ones have been able to enjoy the tanks in their dining room! 
This was a Salad Bar filled with Goodness!
The Chefs prepared so many salads, marinated and pickled vegetables, the cheeses were amazing- and the breads…oh, the breads!

The Display of Citrus Beet Salad is Gorgeous!

 
I love the detailed knife work!

Citrus Beet Salad

 
The food is beautiful enough to stand alone, but the props and decor add so much!

Beautiful Spread!

 
Rabbit, Duck, Artisan Sausages…But the BEST was the Blue Cheese and Pecan Focaccia Bread- So good!
The guests raved about it all-

A Different Kind of Flower...

 
Love the Fireplaces!
And the hot food….Amazing…..

2012 Casseroles...

 

Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Cheers to the South Carolina!  Gotta love the Shrimp and Grits!
Florida Yardbird- Looks soo good!
I loved the shaved fried mushrooms- surprising to me as I really don’t like fungus 😦
Grilled Pork Belly
It’s hard to beat a slider for lunch- I see them as a way I can eat multiple plates!

Slider Trio

 

Duck Fat Fries- Crispy, Delicious!

 
The fish to make these sliders came from The Land- Fresh and Sustainable!
Having The Land right next door is pretty awesome!

The Waygu Beef came from Ocala, another local product!

Waygu Beef is considered to be as delicious as Kobe Beef-  Great part is it comes from this side of the world! 
Dessert on the Piano!
Well, that’s a little glimpse into an event in a park, a look at some creative, beautiful dishes and a shout out to using all the local and sustainable products you can!!
 
 
 

Party For The Senses 11/5/11- From Behind The Scenes!

 
Party For The Senses!
The Party For The Senses is a hard ticket event that happens every Saturday night during Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival.   Chefs from across the world come to participate as well as many of Disney’s talented Chefs.  It is an event that guests look forward to all year, as well as the Disney Cast.  The planning for these events is extreme and detailed, starting before the final event of the year is even finished. 
I was lucky to get my press pass for the event!  .
The prep of each chefs dish starts a few days prior to the event, we started cooking the Wild Boar in plenty of time to get it tender enough.

Seth and Melanie are doing a bit of prep for the event.

 

The Wild Boar is slowly cooking, soaking up a ton of flavor!

 
Here is Dave cooking the tortillas before we leave our kitchen
Over 1000 guests are expected each Saturday so planning is key in delivering a great dish! 
We travel in Reefer Trucks to our events.
Trucks are in and out of the backdock area all afternoon, unloading trams, hotboxes and coolers filled with the chef’s mise en place.

Chef Joe directs the team in setup to create a good flow of cooking and building plates.

 
The back hall of the World Showcase Pavillion was peaceful before the hustle and bustle started!
 I look forward to going to The Party For The Senses each year, it’s always fun to see old friends and meet new people!  Not to mention to see and taste what other Chefs are doing! 

The Catering Kitchen was full of energy!

 
Chef Orlando was able to take a moment to say hello to his old friend! 🙂
Some of the guests are lucky enough to be welcomed into the Wine View Lounge.  For a little extra money, these guests are brought into the event earlier and have a lovely lounge to enjoy.  Every week the Chefs of Park Events Operations come up with a new, trendy dishes to offer these guests.

The WIne View Lounge offers guests an early entrance, extra seating, a few extra surprises from the Chefs!

 

An intimate WIne View Lounge table in the midst of a premier event! Wow!

 

WIne View Lounge guests enjoy mouth watering cheese offerings.

 

Chef Dale prepares for the Wine View Lounge guests.

In the Wine View Lounge the buffets float!
Before the event starts each week the Chef de Cuisine of Park Event Operations and Executive Chef of Epcot welcome all the chefs and their teams, and recognize the Events Team that spent all year planning.  Each Chef then introduces themselves and briefly describes their dish of the night.

Chef Leonard, the Chef De Cuisine of Park Event Operations welcomes the chefs and their teams and goes over the flow of the evening.

 

Chef Celina Tio describes her dish and passes the microphone off to Chef Ken Vedrinski.

 
Here is a group shot of all the guest chefs- that is a TON of talent!  
 Chefs bring a demo plate to the center stage so everyone can see what will be served before the event starts. The dishes had a huge range and offered so many choices.

Chef Noah French of the Sandy Lane Hotel was back this year with a Molecular Gastronomy inspired dish!

 
 
Chef Ken Vedrinski of Trattoria Lucca in Charleston, SC brought his renown talent to the Party For The Senses! Charleston Chefs are World Class!
The event would start soon and it was time for all the Chefs to organize their teams so we would be ready for the crowd of 12oo. 

Chef Damon coordinates with all the guest chefs each week and ensures his team is ready to help create an amazing night for all!

  

Chef Jim of the Magic Kingdom instructs his team before service starts.

 
Chef Celina Tio guides her team before the guests arrival.
There are a ton of Winery’s and Vendors at the event, for every dish there is different beverage pairing.  The drinks were flowing for sure! 🙂

Star Tree Winery would be a popular table amongst the guests!

 

Sam Adams offered their Boston Lager, Octoberfest and Latitude 48 IPA.

 

Not a bottle would go "unpopped"! Cheers!

The Party For The Senses made Green efforts this year, giving guests the options to rinse and reuse their wine glasses!

 

The moments before an event start can be the most satifying for a chef, all the work is done and the chefs take a breath and wait to delight guests with their insprired dishes!

 

The Chefs of the Contemporary Bakery created a breath taking chocolate sculpture to display!

 

This chocolate flower is AMAZING!

 

Chef Ben of the Contemporary was going to be a popular table!

Before the Party For The Senses guests arrive, all is set and ready!

 

Chef Joe's Wild Boar Carnita with a Watermelon Radish and Pepperdew Slaw and Tequila Foam

 

George and Pete of Park Event Operations were nice enough to taste test!

 

We waited all night for this gentlemen to come to our table so we could get a good look at his hat- Fabulous!

 

As every year we had a great time at The Party For The Senses and had so many delicious dishes by talented chefs across the world!

Party For The Senses is an event looked forward to all year.  Each year world class wineries, and vendors are there offering a range of wonderful wines and beers.  The Chefs bring their most creative and seasonal dishes and ensure that even the fussiest diner has something to remember!  If ever a chance to attend the Party For The Senses Event, I highly recommend it!  

 
 

Dining in the Kitchen, Golden Oaks Media Event

Welcome to our dining room

We welcomed a group of guests in our kitchen last week for a fabulous dinner.  When we have the chance to host guests in the kitchen, the vibe and passion is extraordinary.  The entire team works on planning, setup and menu writing.  Then the chefs take creativity to the next level, going back and forth about cooking techniques, flavor profiles and presentations.  We work together bouncing ideas until we get goosebumps from excitement!  Having the opportunity to play and create is the driving force in our kitchen.

We are ready with our toys!
We used Evo Grills, Sous Vide Tanks, a Rotary Evaporator and Smokers to make the meal into an experience!

First Course is Prison Soup.....We went with that theme when we chose the underliner!

Chef knows how to capture an audience before the first course even hits the table!
The kitchen transforms into a dining room that one would find in a home.  The guests also get to know the chefs and service staff as you would at a dinner party at someone’s house.  We love to be able to interact with our guests, as it helps to create this unique dining experience.

Rotary Evaporator!

This is what we used to create the first course “Prison Soup”.  The tomato puree in the lower bulb rotates; with pressure and heat, the vapors drip into the bulb on the left.  Like in prison, the first course was bread and water….only our clear water was tomato flavor….
Fresh, a-la minute cooking!
We cook everything in front of our guests, taking questions along the way!

Speck Ham Fritters

Speck Ham Fritter in a Squash Blossom and Spicy Cream

Filled with beauties…
This course is one of our favorites; the payoff of the guests expressions of delight provides us immediate satisfaction!

Making it happen!

Get your cell phones/camera's out....

Chilled Salad Course!

This dish was awesome! The guest loved it and were happy to tell us!

"Ok Chef, I am floored!" - Priceless

The details of executing an event like this are fine tuned.  The coals on the grill have to be in perfect sync with the flow of the evening.

Hibachi Cooking!

Finger Limes- These are sweet and tasty small beads, so perfectly delicate!

We work closely with our vendors, which helps in our never-ending thirst of new products and knowledge!  These limes are new to me – they come from Australia and are relatively new in American cuisine.

Crispy skin-on Wreck Fish after the sous vide bath!

Beautiful Chef's Garden garnishes!

Key West Wreck Fish, Sous Vide and Crisped Skin! Perfect!

The care in planning and design of these dinners starts way before we even know about them.  Take a look at these beautiful radishes, the farmers and their teams put such love into the products that land on our plates!

Chef's Garden Cherry Bomb Radishes!

Plenty to pick from!

Can you say truffles....

Pasture Prime Waygu Beef – Southern style!
This beef comes from Florida, and is 100% DELICIOUS!

Cheese Course- Full of flavors!

Smoking Cheese
We love cheese, actually can’t get enough and are always looking for something new.  We fell in love with Southern Belle Goat Cheese this week- it is awesome….guarantee you cannot walk away after one bite!

Tiffen Box Take Away, filled with Ginger Marshmallows, Cake Balls, Artisan Truffles, Sea Salt Pretzel Sticks and Florida Strawberries!

Our guests had planned a fireworks cruise, and sadly for us, requested dessert on the go.  While we missed sharing another course with them, we did love the opportunity to create some magic for them to take away!
The event was a great success, as I told the Executive Chef, “I’m not sure who had more fun, the guests or the chef’s!”

Life in a Bakery

I'm surviving in a bakery! Cake ball Ninja! 🙂

In case you don’t know, working in a kitchen is like no other job: the atmosphere, the pace, the inappropriate jokes and banter, let’s just say it isn’t for the meek.   I believe it is these things that keep chefs going back every day; let’s face it, it isn’t the burns, the sweating on the hot line with no break or the long hours.  Nope, it’s got to be the creativity, the adrenalin, the comradery, and the fact that we eat great food every day that keeps us in the kitchen.

I’ve worked in many restaurants and catering kitchens, and adapted pretty quickly to each one, found where the china caps were, what cooler the herbs were in and found where the cambro of chocolate covered almonds were in the dry storeroom.  But it wasn’t until I went to Ohio that I ever got a chance to work in a bakery – the land of measuring cups and recipes – a bit of a foreign thing to a savory chef.  I’ve done a lot of baking at my home, but not the type of production that equivalates to parties of 1500 people.

Pre-meal at Sweets by Maggie!

That display case is making me hungry!

It turns out I managed to hold my own!  My friend Maggie has a great thing going at her shop, Sweets by Maggie; she has talented bakers, a great PR Rep and her invaluable family behind her and the counter!  Despite the stress and time constraints, the Sweets by Maggie crew manages to have a ton of fun and amazingly, remain thin!

Top Secret Cake Recipe in the works!

The shop is as cute as the cupcakes!

Maggie has an awesome story, a “feel good story” if you will.  After going thru some tough times in Florida, she returned home, to Lorain, Ohio.  At home Maggie had the support of her family to help out with her two young sons while she settled into a new life.  With a stroke of luck she found herself working at the CVI, the Culinary Vegetable Institute.  At the CVI, she made a ton of contacts, worked with talented chefs from across the country and had fresh, beautifully, grown on site produce to work with.

The Real Cake Ball Ninja! I tried to keep up....tried...

In the weeds!

Maggie also had time to revisit her passion for baking, a trade she learned before going to the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute and falling in love with the savory side of cooking.  Her rediscovered talent was not kept secret for long; Maggie soon had constant requests for her goods.  The home kitchen soon became a bakery, her dining room table became a cake decorating table and her car became a delivery truck.  With her at-home business booming, Maggie said farewell to the CVI and focused on her dream of opening her own shop.  After a year of planning and penny pinching, that dream came true.  Sweets by Maggie was open in October of 2010.  The store is adorable, her crew is loyal and talented, her family support is endless and most of all- her sweets are A-maZing!

The Help! It is truly a family thing...

The Master- Whoop whoop!

I have never been more proud of a friend, and I am so glad I was able to see her success first hand and test my baking chops at the same time!

Hard work is rewarded at Sweets by Maggie! Another round, Yes, please!

Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration, with Sweets by Maggie!

My girl Maggie came down to Florida a few weeks ago for a visit and over a few glasses of our beloved sangria, she told me about her upcoming event at The Chef’s Garden.  Wow!!! I was excited to hear that she would be participating in The Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration, an event I have been hearing about for many years.  The event is put together to combat childhood obesity, with chefs, wine vendors, and food & beverage companies all participating to make the magic happen.  There are wine seminars, chef demos, book signings and of course, lots of tasting!!  By the end of the pitcher of sangria, she had me convinced, I must travel to Ohio and help the Sweets by Maggie team!

The event kicked off with a welcome reception for all the participants and their teams!  The scenery was lovely; the wine was flowing and the buffet was plentiful.  The host of the event, the staff of Veggie U, The Chef’s Garden and the Culinary Vegetable Institute welcomed us graciously.  It was a perfect summer evening to meet many new friends and reconnect with old ones!

The Culinary Vegetable Institute, also known as CVI

Welcome to Ohio Chef Brian!! Maggie and Brian worked together years ago at WDW. I guess it IS a Small world after all ;-/

Birds eye view of the dining room at the CVI. The chefs were finishing up their prep for the evening before joining the welcome reception.

Chef's finish your mise en place!!

The Grand Tasting Tent- this is where the action would take place! Vendors, chefs, sponsors will thrill guests with their bounty from The Chef's Garden!

Our favorite sales person, Michele!

We were home from the welcoming party by 12:30 AM, grabbed a quick nap before heading to Maggie’s shop at 3:00 AM.  (My friends at work thought I was taking a vacation, hahaha).  We made up batters, beat buttercream, baked cupcakes, packed all the equipment and shoved it in the car by 1:00 pm.  And we were off to the races!

The Subaru was loaded! But it all fit! And that is the lovely Cheryl, who rocked all weekend long with us! Attention Wrigley, you have a new Life Saver flavor!

The Culinary Vegetable Institute, I ran by those chairs all evening long....tempting!

The Reefer Truck- It was refreshing to run and get supplies from the truck, despite the distance, as it gave me break from the heat!

Port Wine Brownies by Sweets By Maggie- We prepped in the reefer truck and were able to keep the desserts from spoiling....mostly... I ate the other ones! 🙂

Wine Seminar Tent - This was great because we were very close to it, while I was busy being a Cake Ball Ninja, I listened closely to the Master Sommelier Serafin Alvarado!

The gardens around the property were gorgeous! I love that you can see people hustling in back before we get started!

Such a beautiful setting to work in!

The Sweets by Maggie table! Getting close to opening, JUST a few friends to feed! 🙂

The tent before the action started.

Tart Cherry Cupcake with Grand Marnier Buttercream; and Lemon Lavender Cupcake with Local Honey Buttercream! They were fabulous!

Port Wine Brownies. I gotta say, the reduction was beautiful -hollllaaaaa!

Cake Balls! There were teams developing amongst the guests, arguing which one was better. (It was a tough decision, but I finally sided with Team White Cake Ball)

Sea Turtle Cake Balls, caramel, pecans, chocolate, sea salt, a few other things and of course, love! Just make sure you don't call them Sea Turtle Balls- I got a few looks when I quickly spieled the desserts.

Salted Caramel Cake Balls! These are soooo good, unfortunately I didn't have any to bring home to my friends in Florida! Hoping Sweets by Maggie starts shipping soon!

That's me- Cake Ball Ninja

Pipe Away Maggie!

I did manage to slip away before the event got going, taking a tour of all the chefs and what they were serving.  The caliber of creativity and culinary responsibility (local, sustainable, fresh, ect…) was extreme!  So many dishes I could not wait to try!

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, by far the best thing I learned about on my trip north. (Excluding everything I learned at the Sweets by Maggie Shop)

Flavors from Jeni's treasure chest!

Jeni's Sweet Corn and Black Raspberries Ice Cream. This will be in my freezer by the weekend. It was A-maZing!

Rockmill Brewery- I can't say enough about this brewer, every brew I tasted was...sooooo good.

Our new and old friends! Brian from Gary's Seafood, Chef Brian and Chef Garrett. We knew there was a great chef next to us, but was delighted when Garrett shared his beverages with us too!

Whoop, Whoop!!!  The event was amazing, the Sweets by Maggie table had guests raving….A complete SUCCESS!!! And like after any huge event, it is time to join in the party!

Welcome to The After Party!

The After Party! Good times were had by all!!

 

Steelite International was a sponsor of the Chef competition. The award was a trip to Alinea!! #Awesome! Congrats @Jonathon Sawyer!!!

The After Party! The winning chefs were announced, the volunteers, chefs, participants gathered as a team, broke bread, drank wine and relaxed!

By the end of the evening, with the bustle winding down, I was able to look around and soak in the atmosphere, the friendly faces, all the talent and passion in one beautiful field.  Knowing that all the effort that went into the event was going to fight the rising epidemic of childhood obesity was “icing” on top!

To learn more about Sweets by Maggie, take a look at the http://www.sweetsbymaggie.com website or “Like” them on the Sweets By Maggie Facebook Page.

Chefs Table Site Visit 6.6.11

A few nights ago, we had an event in the kitchen.  Now, we do these Chef Table Experiences fairly often, but so far they haven’t gotten old.

We push the stainless prep tables out of the way, throw down a rug, move our “On Stage” cooking stations into the kitchen, hang a chandelier and put in a dining table and chairs….Voila, kitchen space turns dining space.  Our guests love it, we can seat something close to 30 people, and more if we go the reception route.

Thru the Chefs and Sommelier spieling courses and pairings, we establish a relationship with our guests.  Some experiences are interactive for the group, rubbing truffle oil on pulse points or discovering the Miracle Berry, we create our own Umami. Storytelling and personality keep the crowd engaged and by the end of the evening, the entire staff has connected with the guests, leaving us all with wanting more.

Of course the food is the star of the show, take a look at some of the dishes from the other night.  Then go straight to the kitchen and cook 🙂 Bon appetit!

Truffle Caviar, Mozzarella Basil Salad, Tomato Water

We put a bit of liquid into the bottom of the Nitro Bowl, and add a few dry ice chips to keep the salad properly chilled! Awesome presentation with the fog spilling out onto the table! @kingfarmmyakka

Coconut Smoked Key West Wreckfish, Pepperdew Jicama Slaw, Black Currant Bursts

@thechefsgarden Fiddlehead Ferns are just about done for the season

Braised Mangalista Pork Belly, Garlic Herb Gnocchi, Zellwood Corn Puree, Chive Oil

Braised Pork Belly

Strawberry Nitrogen Sphere, Citrus Foam, Hot Chili Pearls, Smoked Hawaiian Sea Salt. Have to admit, I didn't get to it fast enough to get a good picture- but you can get the idea.

@copperriverwild - Copper River Salmon All the Way!

Sir Ahmed and the Chicken. Could be the name of a storybook, haha!

Chicken feet for tomorrow's soup!

Sous Vide Whole Milk Fed Chicken Breast and Thighs-

Whole Milk Fed Chicken- Leg Confit Stuffed Squash, Sous Vide Breast and Thigh, Scarlet Runner Bean Hash, Hen of the Woods Mushroom, Absinthe Gastrique

Sweet Endings

Everything but the Lemon- This was so good- SOO good!