The Growing Orlando Food Scene
By Kristine Thomas
Orlando has become America’s number 1 most visited city, drawing nearly 65 million visitors each year. While those theme parks are without a doubt a boon to Orlando’s economy, just beyond the rollercoasters, chain restaurants and character shaped ice creams lies a world-class culinary scene.
As visitors to the city have skyrocketed and our regional population has grown to nearly 4 million, so too has our variety of food offerings. The sense of collaboration and partnership that exists in orlando has beautifully extended into the foodpreneur community as well.
These talented purveyors and “foodpreneurs” range from chefs, to bloggers,to restauranteurs and more. Each recognizes that local foods not only shape a community, but can transform a city into a food destination. Orlando has become a great food destination…and that “secret” is starting to get out. The Orlando food community is starting to band together to broadcast that message to the world.
So what makes Orlando unique? Anyone in the food scene around Orlando will tell you it is the ability of our community to collaborate and encourage the success of others. Regardless if you produce food, photograph and blog food, or just enjoy consuming it, you will not find a more tight-knit community that pulls together to support each other like Orlando’s amazing food scene. Orlando’s foodies are banding together to foster the growth of a more resilient, more diverse, and more delicious local food community.
From this supportive group of foodies sprang the ORL Food Lab. The ORL Food Lab, or Orlando Food Lab, is focused on amplifying the voice and successes of the Central Florida food community. From farming to food production and delivery, our community is working together to celebrate local food businesses and to cultivate more great food entrepreneurs from high end to budget friendly.
The ORL Food Lab is bringing together local food and drink producers, along with the Orlando business development and tourism outlets to brainstorm best practices of food tourism, how to pay proper tribute to our Orlando culinary scene, as well as how to simplify the process for the food entrepreneurs of Orlando to begin their own food-based businesses.
Unmissable events provide the opportunity to convene, collaborate and innovate with our culinary community. These monthly events feature key food leaders and entrepreneurs sharing their business stories and visions for Orlando.
Past contributors include CEO and President of the Second HarvestFoodBankofCentral Florida, Dave Krepcho, as well as author and former food critic of the Orlando Sentinel, Heather McPherson. And no ORL Food Lab event is complete without samples of the outstanding foods and drinks you’ll find across Central Florida.
The opportunity to come to and take part in the ORL Food Lab is open to everyone and anyone interested in truly immersing himself or herself in the real local Orlando food culture. If walls, or food for that matter, could speak, they might tell you the story behind many of our favorite restaurants and food spots, like the East End Market in Audubon Park, or the newly opened and critically acclaimed Black Rooster Taqueria in the Mills District. We have a full pipeline of food talent, and each of these talents has his or her own story to tell of success, heartbreak, joy, inspiration and even failure.
The goal of the ORL Food Lab is to foster the growth ofaneconomicallyhealthy independent food community. Independents like cheese shop owner, Tonda Corrente, or Maxine Earhart of Maxine’s on Shine, have unbelievably great foods and drinks that seemingly only the locals know of. It is time to put the word out, to see to it that travelers from all across the nation and the world know where to find some of the best foods around.
Something For All
There will always be a place for the remarkable chain restaurants that often began as one successful eatery, but locals and visitors alike would be disappointed if they did not experience The Rusty Spoon, where farm-to-table meals are prepared by James Beard Award nominee, Kathleen Blake. The Rusty Spoon is one of many amazing restaurants you’ll find in Orlando. Beyond dining, Plant St. Market and the Market on South are ripe with local epicurean goods. Why not take home a jar of NutPop Pickles made by Orlando local, Cinnamon Crabb, or Fat Cat hot sauces, made by husband and wife team Eyal Goldshmid and Deborah Moskowitz?
These Orlando foodpreneurs not only serve up incredible food and knowledge, but they have inspiring stories to share, as well. People from across the globe will listen, taste and see what’s happening in Orlando and learn the amazing stories behind each foodpreneur.