Pig flying high

Local chef is No. 2

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  • | 9:21 a.m. March 2, 2011
Photo courtesy of Ravenous Pig - The restaurant, located on North Orange Avenue in Winter Park, is a "gastropub" - a bar and restaurant that serves high-end beer and food.
Photo courtesy of Ravenous Pig - The restaurant, located on North Orange Avenue in Winter Park, is a "gastropub" - a bar and restaurant that serves high-end beer and food.
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Food & Wine Magazine prides itself on “identifying up-and-coming talent from around the country.” As part of their mission, the editors of Food & Wine travel the country finding “innovative chefs, each with a distinctive vision,” who create exceptional food. And each year, those hard-working editors give the title of Best New Chef to someone who spends his or her time in the kitchen making our lives better. This year, the editors have broadened the search to 10 regions of the country, allowing us (yes, all of us) to vote for the chef who “has most significantly stirred your soul and your palate.”

In the Gulf Coast region of the competition, Orlando native James Petrakis came in second place when the polls closed on March 1. James and Julie Petrakis, chefs and co-owners of the Ravenous Pig have — in two short years — made it “Orlando’s most popular foodie destination,” according to Fodor’s Restaurant Guide. And James and Julie (they’re both 33) are real Orlando natives. He graduated from Bishop Moore while Julie graduated from Winter Park High, and while they were a love-at-first-bite couple, they didn’t meet until they went away to college. James’ talent was immediately apparent. In 2003 — right out of culinary school — he helped open the acclaimed new restaurant Atelier at the Central Park Ritz Carlton, where he continued to learn.

The pair of young chefs dreamed of opening their own restaurant in Florida even while they trained at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Celebrating their seventh wedding anniversary this week, the couple “started planning their restaurant even before the honeymoon.” Determined to be part of the culinary future of Orlando, they returned to their home town of Winter Park to realize their dream, creating what they call an American “gastropub.”

“Like everyone, you plan out your goals,” James said. “We saw a gastropub in New York and it fit our personalities. The food can be as intense as you want, and still the atmosphere can be laid back.”

The inspiration for the Pig, An American Gastropub, starts with the warmth and friendliness of a traditional neighborhood pub and elevates the food experience by adding a passionate and innovative culinary team. Set against the ambiance of downtown Winter Park, the Pig’s extensive menu ranges from traditional pub fare to roast suckling pig, grilled seafood, raw bar offerings and homemade pastas and pretzels. They even offer a discount if you come in wearing your Ravenous Pig T-shirt.

The restaurant has already racked up an impressive array of awards, the most prized of which — so far — is “Overall Critic’s Choice” of the 12th Annual Orlando Sentinel Foodie Awards. But that will quickly change considering the potential voting on the Food & Wine Award. Even more impressively, James and Julie just received a letter letting them know they’ve been nominated for “Best Chef Southern Region” by the James Beard Foundation, our country’s highest culinary honor.

James is the sole nominee from Orlando in the Food & Wine competition. The winner of the The People’s Best New Chef 2011 will be the subject of a profile in the July issue of Food & Wine. Winner or not, there’s no doubt that Pig will continue to bless Winter Park with award-winning food for years to come.

Learn more

The Ravenous Pig is at 1234 N. Orange Ave. in Winter Park. Call 407-628-2333 or visit theravenouspig.com. To see how Chef James Petrakis shook out in the competition, visit http://eatocracy.cnn.com/foodandwine


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