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Interview: Chef Rosana Rivera and Ricardo Castro on upcoming Chef & The Baker

There’s an exciting new concept coming Friday, June 12th, 2020 to the Hall on Franklin food hall called Chef & The Baker from Chef Rosana Rivera and Chef Ricardo Castro. I had a chance to ask them a few questions about this new initiative and how things have changed since the pandemic began.

CARLOS EATS: First off – How have you guys been getting by during the pandemic? 

Chef Rosana: We pivoted early on in the pandemic through R2 Provisions, our ghost kitchen in Pinellas Park, to do delivery of products, Xilo Mexican favorite food items, bakery items like bread, and provisions like eggs, flour, sugar, yeast, and toilet paper. The response was phenomenal and we are so grateful that Tampa embraced the concept, no questions asked. 

Chef Ricardo: We continue to service via delivery from R2 Provisions. Customers can order through r2xilokofe.square.site.

Pastries from Chef and The Baker at Hall on Franklin.

CARLOS EATS: Chef & The Baker is a highly anticipated project considering your past with Piquant. How will this project be different?

Chef Rosana: The recipes have been tweaked and perfected. Chef Ricardo, over the past couple of years has really honed in on his talent and craft to become an even better baker. 

Chef Ricardo: We will have artisan breads, more viennoiseries (pastries), and a higher quality of patisserie items (cakes and European tortes).

CARLOS EATS: Who are some people you look up to in the baking world and is there any pastry or bakery chefs who inspire you? What are your favorite bakeries around the world?

Chef Rosana and Ricardo: Belinda from B Patisserie in San Francisco, Eric Kayser from Maison Kayser in NYC & Paris; Antonio Bachour from Bachour Miami; and the quintessential Francois Payard from around the world. However, there are a lot of up and coming pastry superstars that we are always following and trying to learn from like Johan Martin.

CARLOS EATS: When it comes to ingredients – What makes a quality baked good different? Does water make a difference?

Chef Rosana and Ricardo: Best quality of ingredients is crucial and yes – water quality makes a huge difference. There are some things we have little control of – but buying the best ingredients is something we can control, especially when it comes to baking ingredients. We buy flours that are unbromated, we use cage-free eggs for baking applications, all-natural products, European chocolates, filtered water, and butter with a higher fat content. It all makes a difference in the quality of the product you bake.  We never cut corners, you can taste the quality.

CARLOS EATS: Food enthusiasts have been making their own sourdough starters at home during the pandemic as people tried to find a way to get through being home constantly and still enjoy the things they love. What trends do you see emerging in the baking world and how will it change in the future? 

Chef Rosana and Ricardo: More at home baking for sure! Our plan is to launch a virtual cooking kitchen class in which we are able to share our knowledge with our audience on a digital, but interactive format. I think the love for the art of baking is going nowhere, on the contrary its getting better and better.

CARLOS EATS: Industry experts say the pandemic has changed how goods are bought and prices of food seems to be going up. How are you dealing with that?

Chef Rosana: We are sticking to our prices as much as we can, and if we can’t do that – we try to minimize the impact by increasing the price by 25 or 50 cents. Our margins are taking a hit and are reduced, but at the end of the day we want to be conscious of how people spend their money. We don’t want or need to abuse.

Koign Amann from Chef and the Baker at Hall on Franklin in Tampa.

CARLOS EATS: Which menu item would you say is the most complex or time-consuming dish you make? Can you tell us more about it?

Chef Rosana: Anything croissant, which is easily a 72+ hour process, but we love it and our guests love anything croissant that we do. My favorite item is the Kouign Amanns.

Chef Ricardo: That is how I make the croissants, not everyone follows that. It creates better flavors as the dough ferments slowly. My favorite item is The Morning Buns (citrus crispy laminated dough) is my favorite item on our menu.

CARLOS EATS: What made you both fall in love with baking? 

Chef Rosana: I fell in love for baking because of Ricardo. Every day I see him bake I am in awe of him!

Chef Ricardo: I fell in love with baking when my Mom AKA Chef Cookie, would teach me how to bake things since I was 9 years old. Later, Chef Rudy from Austria took me under his wing and taught me everything European pastries. The right way and the best way!

Don’t forget to check out Chef & the Baker when it opens on Friday, June 12th at 11AM at the Hall on Franklin at 1701 North Franklin Street Tampa, Florida, 33602.

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NEWS: National Pancake Day at IHOP February 25th

Who is ready for a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes at IHOP? Maybe 2020 isn’t all bad after all. Celebrate National Pancake Day on Tuesday, February 25th, 2020 at IHOP locations around the United States from 7AM to 7PM (10PM in select locations).

IHOP is adding a giveaway this year with barcodes at tables that guests can scan for a chance to win up to 250,0000 instant win prizes. Prizes include limited-edition pancake-themed merchandise such as bicycles, scooters, customizable jackets, handmade berets and more. In addition to the “Pancakes for Life” grand prize, ten lucky winners will also score $500 in IHOP gift cards.

Guests are asked to make a donation for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Other Charities on their way out of the restaurant. Since 2006, IHOP has raised more than $30 million for its charity partners.

“The communities where IHOP and our franchisees operate is at the core of everything we do, and National Pancake Day serves as a great example of our commitment to helping the kids and families who are our guests, neighbors, friends and family,” said Stephanie Peterson, Executive Director of Communications.

Find more information at ihop.com.

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NEWS: 6th Annual Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival kicks off February 29th

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is launching their 6th Annual Food and Wine Festival earlier this year on Saturday, February 29th, 2020. The festival will run every weekend from February 29th to April 26th and included with park admission to the theme park.

This year will feature 25 new food items in addition to fan-favorite dishes and 80 wines, beers, and cocktails, to choose from. Some new additions include:

  • Chef’s Corner Cabin: Features 3 signature dishes carefully crafted by the park’s head chefs such as arroz con pollo, a pork belly taco with kimchi slaw, and pork tenderloin with champagne watercress sauce
  • Coaster Cocktails: Iron Gwazi Gimlet, Falcon’s Fury Lemon Drop, and Tigris Tea
  • Pick-A-Barrel Tastings: create your own flight of liquors and wines from around the world
  • Some other new food items include Kung Pao Ribs, Maple Bacon Cinnamon Rolls, “Boujee” Bacon, Fried Clams, Pork Tamales, Grilled Shrimp Elotes, and Strawberry Shortcake Sundaes

Guests can purchase a 5, 8, or 12-item sampler lanyard to use at each festival cabin to explore sample-sized dishes and drink offerings and they start at $32. Pass Members can purchase an exclusive 15-item sampler for the same price as a 12-item sampler and save 20% off.

Pass Members can get a sneak peak on February 28th that will include an all new menu of sips and samples and Eaglemania: The World’s Greatest Eagles Tribute Band.

Busch Gardens plans to launch Iron Gwazi this spring, North America’s tallest hybrid coaster and the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world.

The 6th Annual Food and Wine Festival concert schedule:

Feb 29:                 Collective Soul
March 1:              The Commodores

March 7:              Chase Bryant & Danielle Bradbery

March 8:              Rachel Platten

March 14:            Ezra Ray Hart
March 15:            THREE DOG NIGHT

March 21:            LOCASH 
March 22:            Fitz & The Tantrums

March 28:            Home Free
March 29:            Taking Back Sunday

April 4:                 Third Eye Blind
April 5:                 KC & The Sunshine Band

April 11:               38 Special 
April 12:               Micah Tyler & Austin French 

April 18:               Lee Brice
April 19:               Clint Black

April 25:               El Gran Combo
April 26:               Toad the Wet Sprocket & The Verve Pipe

Find more information on the 6th Annual Food & Wine Festival at http://buschgardens.com/tampa/events/food-and-wine-festival/

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Is Grubhub scamming your restaurant business?

Grubhub, a popular mobile ordering and delivery platform worth at least 5 billion dollars, is in hot water (again) after it was discovered that Grubhub is allegedly listing restaurants on the platform without their permission and offering delivery from Ghost Kitchens that don’t even represent the companies on their website.

Pim Techamuanvivit, owner of Kin Khao in San Francisco, wrote in a Twitter thread this past weekend, that her restaurant has been added to Grubhub and Seamless without her permission or any kind of agreement. She does not offer delivery or take-out, yet orders were fulfilled by another business posing as Kin Khao.

It isn’t the first time something like this happens or accusations are made. It was discovered last year that Grubhub was taking control of business listings through a partnership with platforms like Yelp and putting fake phone numbers on listings.

These numbers led to a Grubhub controlled number that then generated orders and charged restaurants for sending customers that were simply trying to order from the restaurant. Restaurants were shocked when they discovered they were paying Grubhub for a service they never agreed to.

Grubhub went as far as generating fake domains that seemed to be the official website of restaurants with menus that led to Grubhub for business orders. Over 23,000 domains were discovered by journalists at New Food Economy. In a normal world, there would be consequences for these actions.

Grubhub was basically forced by New York City to start changing the policy after threats were made and a class-action lawsuit was started against them by restaurateurs they charged for these “services” that is now asking for 5 million dollars.

Yet this continues:

Of course, this isn’t limited to just New York City or San Francisco. Once this story made its way around the internet business owners in other cities also began also crying foul. The story made it over to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and it seems this may be deeply run into the food ecosystem.

Which begs the question, is Grubhub scamming your restaurant business? Is Seamless? It’s probably best to look up your own listings to make sure.

Rumors are swirling online that Grubhub is for-sale. Whether that explains this rampant behavior against restaurants or not, one thing is clear: restaurant owners have a right to control of their businesses and this is wrong plain and simple.

Restaurants have a failure rate of 60% in their first year and 80% in their first five years. Foot traffic is falling and costs are going up. Isn’t it hard enough without someone taking control of your restaurant listings, phone number, and website presence?

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RIP Lucky’s Market in Florida

Where else can you drink a craft beer at an affordable price and shop around a grocery store sometimes with live music? Lucky’s Market was an absolutely treasure that I enjoyed shopping at whenever I was in Orlando or Pinellas County.

It was announced today that Lucky’s Market is closing all but one of their stores in Florida. 32 stores total will be closing after Kroger divested their assets from the chain in December. I was hopeful that I would eventually be able to enjoy one in the comfort my own neighborhood. It’s sad news.

Lucky’s Market closings will cost Florida 2,500 employees, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Planned stores in Brandon and Clearwater will now be scrapped.

Here’s how the internet reacted:

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Articles News Restaurant News

NEWS: Shake Shack confirmed coming to Tampa

After a long wait, Shake Shack is finally confirmed as coming to Tampa, first reported by Tampa Bay Business Journal. The location will be at Midtown Tampa, a “new kind of urban experience with 1.8 million square feet of retail, residential, 3 Class A office buildings, entertainment and hospitality”.

The long-awaited location for the gourmet burger chain still has no opening date for Tampa, but is at least confirmed to be opening by the developer. Shake Shack has long been open in Orlando and opened in Sarasota recently. Midtown Tampa is expected to open in time for the Super Bowl in February 2021.

“Shake Shack is an iconic brand with worldwide recognition, and is yet another first-to-market restaurant that we’re thrilled to bring to Tampa,” said Nicholas Haines, CEO, Bromley Companies. “We’ve followed Shake Shack from its first location next to our office in New York’s Madison Square Park, and appreciate the delight and appeal it has to its customers.”  

Shake Shack has over 170 locations worldwide and has been growing around the country in recent years including locations on both the east and west coast. The franchise started as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park back in 2001. The burger concept was started in 2004 as a kiosk.

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NEWS: Jollibee opening first Tampa Bay location on Friday January 17th

A Filipino favorite, Jollibee, is opening its doors on Friday, January 17th at 4057 Park Boulevard, Pinellas Park, Florida. The location will be the 40th location to open for the franchise which is currently experiencing high growth and expansion across the country. The chain plans to open 150 stores in the United States by 2023. It is the first location in Tampa Bay.

The opening time for opening day is from 9AM to 10PM.

“We cannot wait to welcome Jollibee fans who have long waited for their turn to finally have Jollibee in their area, in addition to welcoming new foodies intrigued by our unique menu, which we fondly describe as a joyous mash-up of Western comfort food and Asian flavors,” said Beth Dela Cruz, President of Jollibee Foods Corporation North America, Philippine Brands Group.

Photo credit: Jollibee

Popular items at Jollibee include the Chickenjoy, Jolly Spaghetti made with signature sweet-style sauce loaded with chunky slices of savory ham and hotdog, and Peach Mango Pie, made with real Philippine mangoes enclosed in a light, crispy crust.

Tampa is home to one of the largest Filipino communities with its Bayanihan Center and annual PhilFest celebration that draws thousands for a celebration of Filipino food and culture every April.

There are some perks for those who choose to line-up early for the opening:

  • The first 50 customers in line to spend $25 or more will get FREE Chickenjoy for a year.*
  • The first 50 with the best #ItsOurTurn signs will get a Jollibee in Barong Funko Pop.
  • The first 300 on day 1 (plus the first 100 on days 2 and 3) will get a free drawstring bag with a minimum $25 purchase.
    *One 6-piece bucket of Chickenjoy per month for a period of one year

RSVP on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/624411688336179/

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NEWS: Ding Tea Tampa Grand Opening set for January 24th

Bubble tea fans have plenty to be excited about. Ding Tea Tampa on Waters has a new opening date of Friday, January 24th, 2020. The location is located next to where the old Yummy House and Got Tea locations were.

The delay was explained to be connected to the health department (Ding Tea was originally set to open on November 3rd).

It will be located at 2202 West Waters Avenue, Tampa, Florida 33604.

Ding Tea is a chain from Taiwan that has over 350 locations in Asia and has been rapidly expanding across the United States. There was a location that opened in between this time period by USF Tampa’s Uptown at 1518 East Fowler Avenue Suite B. One of the latest businesses to open in that area.

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/630796504330616/

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NEWS: Michelle Faedo’s 2nd location opening January 8th in Downtown Tampa

Michelle’s Faedo is opening her second location of Michelle Faedo’s Tampeño Cuisine on Wednesday, January 8th, 2020 in Downtown Tampa at 601 East Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, FL, 33602 inside the Hillsborough County Building.

The restaurants are an off-shot of Michelle Faedo’s On The Go food truck which has been in operation for years. The first location is located at the ENCORE! building not too far away from Downtown close to Ybor City.

Deviled crab
Deviled crab

Michelle Faedo's Famous Cuban featured with her food truck Faedo's on the Go
Michelle Faedo’s Famous Cuban featured with her food truck Faedo’s on the Go

Popular items on the menu include the Famous Traditional Cuban and deviled crabs that pay homage to Tampa’s rich food history. Like the Cuban Sandwich, deviled crabs were created by the immigrant communities in Tampa that existed during the cigar boom.

Faedo is an award-winner from the annual Cuban Sandwich Festival and is well-recognized for her Cuban sandwiches around the Tampa Bay area.

The opening hours for the location will be Monday through Friday from 7AM to 4PM.

City of Tampa Mayor, Jane Castor, is expected to be there at around 1PM to celebrate the occasion.

The County Building

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NEWS: Roux in South Tampa is now permanently closed

Roux, the New Orleans concept by Datz Restaurant Group, has ceased operations according to a report by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

The restaurant was known for serving favorites of Cajun and Creole cuisine such as jambalaya, red beans and rice, and also some of the best cornbread I have ever enjoyed in Tampa. The chefs were brought from New Orleans back in 2014 for a true experience for fans of the cuisine to enjoy.

Datz Restaurant Group is currently busy opening new restaurants across the bridge including most recently their Datz St. Petersburg branch and a cafe inside The James Museum. A new Datz location is also opening soon in Brandon.

Here is a parting message from the owners:

View this post on Instagram

Thank you for the memories

A post shared by Roux Tampa (@rouxtampa) on