12 Questions with Orlando’s Very Own Chef Kevin Fonzo
Kevin Fonzo is a modern day Renaissance man with pursuits in philanthropy, travel and, of course, creating incredible food. We recently sat down with him to discuss his journey and the pursuits that fire his culinary passion.
Where does your interest in food come from?
Family, love and food are connected as one big happy memory for me. I associate cooking and eating with happiness and good times.
What’s your favorite food memory?
I grew up on a footstool next to my grandpa in his kitchen in the Bronx. He was always cooking, so I had to chop vegetables or stir the sauce to talk with him. I loved the Sunday supper table piled with food and shared by my family.
Who has been your greatest professional influence?
Chef Karl Edlbauer from the Peabody Hotel was extremely patient and gave me continued second chances as I began my culinary career right after graduating from the CIA.
Why did you decide to sell your restaurant and move in a different direction?
After 17 years, my family and I decided it was time to move away from K. I had slowly begun to focus more on giving back to my community through both volunteering and hosting benefit dinners, which ultimately led to my roles with the Edible Education Experience and Art in Voyage. Everything I have in my life is because I gave back.
Describe your role at Edible Education Experience, La Tavola and Art in Voyage.
My three favorite things are cooking, teaching and traveling. La Tavola is where I get to cook. At Edible Education Experience, I teach kids about cooking and the ingredients they are using. Through traveling and cooking with Art in Voyage, I educate people about how the food we are eating relates to the beautiful places we are visiting.
What’s your favorite flavor to work with?
Anything savory, especially if it’s Italian. Homemade pasta and sauce are my two favorite things to cook. I also love adding truffle to nearly anything.
What’s an underappreciated flavor you think people need to know about?
I believe fennel seeds are the most beautiful spice. They have a versatile flavor that pairs well with fish, meat, pasta or veggies. I use everything from the fennel plants that grow in the garden at Edible Education–bulbs, leaves, pollen and seeds.
What’s the most creative dish you’ve ever made?
I’m often called a preservationist because I like the Old World style of cooking: using a small number of in-season ingredients. I’m all about the authentic flavor of a dish, regardless of whether it has a fancy presentation or is a simple recipe.
What’s always in your fridge?
Pecorino and prosciutto; I can make a charcuterie board at any time. I also always have peanut butter in my cupboard.
What do you cook on your day off?
Homemade pasta is my go-to because it’s comfort food. It’s simple, easy and inexpensive, and you can make so many kinds depending on what flour you use and whether you include eggs. Sauce possibilities are endless.
Any rules to live by?
Enjoy every single day. The bottom line is that it’s all about your happiness, especially if you are committing to a craft like cooking. I used to tell the cooks in my kitchen that the first time you hate coming to work, quit. Always make sure you are happy with your job and your life.
Where do you hope to be in five years?
I’d like to be in the same position I am in today, aside from my hope that we can soon travel like we used to. If I continue to apply my motto about being happy, there shouldn’t be a big difference in my personal life in five years.
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate
Coffee or tea? Tea
Beer or wine? Wine
Red or White wine? White (social); Red (with food)
Pizza or pasta? Pasta
Roasted or sous vide? Roasted
Beef or fish? Beef
Rome or Florence? Florence
Gelato or sorbet? Gelato
Street eats or sit-down? Sit-down
Winter or summer? Summer