Winning Combinations

The Hyatt competition produced some memorable dishes. Plus news from Terralina and two upcoming food events to relish.


Following up on my post from a couple of weeks ago (“Here Comes The Judge”), my visit to the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress to judge the regional Hyatt Good Taste chefs’ competition was a lot of fun … and a lot of eating. Imagine sampling 18 dishes, some of them too outrageously good to push away, and you’ll know what that entails. I need a nap just remembering it.

I truly enjoyed the fine food coming from chef Jason Moltz of Hemisphere restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport, perched high above the main concourse, but he unfortunately didn’t get enough votes from the four judges and several invited guests to win one of the coveted spots. The first-place winner was the very personable Leandro Minnelli of Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in the Bahamas, who crafted two Italianate dishes from the “mystery” ingredients of flat iron steak, Alaskan halibut, peppers and green wheat freekeh. Second place went to Jennifer Yoo from Polaris at Hyatt Regency Atlanta, who created two amazingly inventive dishes using edible flowers, honey from the HR Atlanta rooftop hives and local kimchee. Her use of the hard-to-handle green wheat—roasting and grinding into flour for crisp crackers—was genius. I would go out of my way to visit Polaris when in Atlanta. Jonathan Wilson, chef de cuisine at Armani’s, Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, took third place. The winners move on to national cook-offs before the grand finale in Hong Kong. I’d be delighted to judge there, too. Just saying.


* To augment my conversation with Chef Tony Mantuano about progress at the newly opened Terralina, the restaurant he oversees at Disney Springs (in the August issue, on newsstands soon!), comes news that he will host a special “Aperitivo Time” from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 11. Sip on Italian sparkling wines and enjoy bites from the famed Antipasti Tower, fried olives, mini rice balls and assorted flatbreads. And beginning this week, a late-night happy hour Sunday to Thursday from 9-11 p.m. will include beer and wine specials.

Orlando Vegan Fest happens August 18 at Eagle Nest Park in MetroWest, hosted by local food activist Kristine Palkowetz Thomas. There will be cooking demos and tastings amid 50+ veg-centric vendors festing away. $10 per person.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is hosting “Wine, Cheese and Chocolate: A Perfectly Paired Dinner” on August 30, with Tonda Corrente, owner of La Femme du Fromage; Lisa Wilk, founder of Orlando Uncorked; and Jill Ramsier, co-owner of Quantum Leap Winery. All proceeds benefit Second Harvest’s Culinary Training Program, which provides students with the skills and inspiration they need to obtain an entry-level position in a food service establishment. Menu items include black bean mole tacos with roasted peppers, grilled corn and Prairie Breeze cheddar; and pepper crusted beef tenderloin with winemaker cuvee and chocolate reduction. $75 per person.

Can’t wait for new recommendations? Drop me a line and I might just share some special faves. Stay in touch at and access a comprehensive list of my print and online reviews here!

Categories: Savor Orlando