Todd English Sound Bites

Where Orlando - - Where Now - BY LAURA AN­DERS LEE

This celebrity chef, restau­ra­teur, au­thor and tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity is a leader in a culi­nary in­dus­try that’s hot­ter than ever. In 1991, the James Beard Foun­da­tion named him their Na­tional Ris­ing Star Chef. Since then, he’s gone on to open dozens of restaurants across the globe, in­clud­ing blue­zoo at the Walt Dis­ney World Dol­phin Ho­tel. He has his own tele­vi­sion show, “Food Trip” on PBS, and his own line of cook­ware. De­spite his busy sched­ule, he makes time to over­see the Or­lando restau­rant and par­tic­i­pate at the Food & Wine Clas­sic at the Walt Dis­ney World Swan and Dol­phin each fall.

You’ve won a lot of awards: sev­eral from the James Beard House, you were among “People” mag­a­zine’s most beau­ti­ful people, you’ve been nom­i­nated for an Emmy. Which award has meant the most to you?

They are all so flat­ter­ing. I haven’t got­ten Fa­ther of the Year from my kids yet. (Laughs.) I’d have to say the James Beard awards be­cause it’s voted by your col­leagues. That’s al­ways some­thing that’s pretty spe­cial. The ris­ing star award re­ally meant a lot.

You learned to cook from your grand­mother, and your daugh­ter now has her own restau­rant in Bos­ton. Why do you think food is so im­por­tant in your fam­ily?

There’s the Ital­ian side of our fam­ily that means when you’re at lunch, you’re talk­ing about din­ner, and when you’re at din­ner, you’re talk­ing about break­fast. That’s how it goes with my fam­ily. Cook­ing has al­ways been an in­te­gral part, whether at my mom’s in Maine or Sun­day sup­pers with my kids and their friends. It’s a great way to gather, en­joy some great com­pany and great food. It sounds cliché but that’s what it re­ally means to us.

Tell us about your TV show “Food Trip.” How is Sea­son 3 go­ing?

It’s go­ing well. When we’re trav­el­ing, it’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than what Anthony (Bour­dain) is do­ing. He’s more po­lit­i­cal- driven, and my show is more in­gre­di­ents- driven— why in­gre­di­ents are where they are and how the people use it. And then I come back and use the in­gre­di­ents in New York in new ways. It’s a great rea­son to travel.

What do you think is the spe­cial in­gre­di­ent in Florida? Do you think there is a typ­i­cal Florida cui­sine, be­ing that ev­ery­body is from some­where else?

Well, the ob­vi­ous an­swer is cit­rus: or­anges, key limes. Toma­toes grow re­ally well there. And ob­vi­ously lo­cal fish is part of the cui­sine in Florida, too. There’s also the Cubano in­flu­ence there, the Caribbean and Cre­ole thing go­ing on as well; South Amer­i­can cui­sine is also be­com­ing very big. With all the trans­plants, it’s pretty eclec­tic.

The people read­ing our mag­a­zine are trav­el­ing. What ad­vice do you give trav­el­ers, whether to Or­lando or any­where else in the world?

I like to ask the lo­cals where to go eat. That’s al­ways a good in­di­ca­tor of places you may or may not go. If there is a cer­tain coun­try fa­mous for some­thing, you may find a lo­cal knows the best for that. In Peru, ask the lo­cals ce­viche ques­tions. It usu­ally stirs up a de­bate. You ask where’s the best, and ev­ery­body has an opin­ion.

Let’s talk about your Or­lando restau­rant blue­zoo. How did you come up with the name?

My son Si­mon ac­tu­ally came up with it. We had got­ten out of the Bos­ton Aquar­ium, and we had ac­tu­ally watched this amaz­ing un­der­wa­ter video on the IMAX. He said, ‘It’s like a big fish zoo, a big blue zoo!’ I was ac­tu­ally look­ing for a name for the restau­rant at the time.

You have French and Mediter­ranean restaurants and even pubs; is blue­zoo your only seafood con­cept?

Well, we have King Fish in Bos­ton, but that’s more lo­cal stuff. Blue­zoo has more of an in­ter­na­tional flair to

its style of cook­ing.

If some­one is com­ing into blue­zoo for the first time, what would you sug­gest is a must-have?

Cer­tainly the tuna tartare. That, I think, is one of the clas­sics. I also like the scal­lops and short rib. I like a sim­ple fish with our crab vinai­grette. I do want to add that we have a re­ally great bar menu. You don’t have to do a big menu, you can come to nosh. We make great cock­tails; our mixol­o­gist does re­ally good stuff.

Have you spent much time in Or­lando?

I knew the guys who ran the food and bev­er­ages at the Swan and Dol­phin, so I started com­ing down there when my kids were young. We would ac­tu­ally stay there on va­ca­tion. Be­fore you knew it, we had a restau­rant there. I am also com­ing back for the food and wine event in Oc­to­ber. I’m a par­tic­i­pant, I set up a booth, hang out and cook and just en­ter­tain the guests.

What ba­sic things should people al­ways have on hand in their kitchen?

I al­ways keep great olive oil, lots of sea salt, black pep­per, a small amount of a lot of herbs, and al­ways good se­same oil. I like good white beans and al­ways nice toma­toes, like San Mar­zono toma­toes in a can. And good pasta for spaghetti.

Is spaghetti still your fa­vorite?

I can’t help it.

Blue­zoo chef Todd English

The lounge at blue­zoo

Can­tonese lob­ster

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