This year, the James Beard Award semi-finalists were announced in Orlando, Florida, putting the spotlight on the city’s unique spin on the gourmet culinary scene, where local chefs work together to mold Orlando’s almost-exclusively-farm-to-table atmosphere. James Beard award nominated chefs like Kathleen Blake, owner and chef at downtown Orlando’s Rusty Spoon, and Julie Petrakis of The Ravenous Pig—and even non-gourmet eateries like Barnie’s Coffee Kitchen in Winter Park—source most of their ingredients from local farms.
They do it with the help of Growing Synergy—a wholesale food distribution company that works with 85 chefs and 30 farms in Florida.
“My chefs will tell me ‘okay I want you to find the best peanuts,’ and I’ll do it,” said Trish Strawn, managing partner at Growing Synergy, where only organic and humane small farms are used. “It’s amazing what we can put together as chefs, distributors and farmers in the area. The Orlando chefs don’t compete against each other; they work together to create great products.”
And work together they do. Orlando chefs even have some favorite distributors like Harvest Moon or Lake Meadows, a local duck and chicken farm where many of the chefs will get their eggs. Both Kathleen Blake and Jonathan Smiga from Barnie’s Coffee Kitchen explicitly state on their menus that their eggs come from Lake Meadows. And as the Orlando culinary scene has grown, the farms have had to catch up.
“Dale from Lake Meadows used to only raise chickens as a hobby, and he’d bring me a dozen eggs in a wire basket,” said Blake. “I said to him ‘When can you get me an order of 30 dozen?’ And nowadays it’s this huge farm.”
The result is Orlando restaurant menus filled with locally sourced dishes like The Rusty Spoon’s homemade egg noodles (similar to a thicker papparadelle), with spinach and shitake mushrooms, where the eggs come from Lake Meadows and her toothsome mushrooms come from the local “Mushroom Man.” And at Barnie’s Coffee Kitchen, the coffee distributor and café that has been serving Winter Park for 30 years, Lake Meadows eggs are used in the Israeli Shakshuka (two poached eggs on tomato ragout with goat cheese).