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BITE 2015: The ultimate guide to Orlando's food scene

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Editor's Letter: That First Bite

I still remember the first time I ate something in a restaurant that made me understand that food could be more than just fuel. It was a vegetable plate at Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's eclectic Los Angeles restaurant CITY — a sort of thali sampler comprising regional Thai, Mexican and Indian flavors. I can still recall the flavor and texture of the eggplant, a vegetable I had never looked at with anything but loathing before, and since then a lifelong favorite.

I also remember the first thing I ever cooked. A late bloomer who finally realized I couldn't live on takeout forever, I bought the prettiest box of pasta (De Cecco, of course) at Ralphs, along with all the ingredients for the recipe printed on the side. To this day, linguine with tuna, olives and capers is one of the few things I cook without a recipe – without even thinking, really – and it's my go-to comfort food.

These early experiences are foundational to our palates and our personalities in the kitchen, trivial as they may seem at the time. So this year, we asked chefs about the dish that "made" them — made them serious eaters, made them want to cook, or made them a lot of money. Everyone answered the question from a slightly different angle (don't ever try to put chefs in a box), but all of them shared memories of delicious moments. Some chefs learn to cook at their grandmother's knee, like Peperoncino's Barbara Alfano; some get intrigued by a television chef, like Kappo's Lordfer Lalicon. Some, like Marc Kusche of Hamilton's Kitchen, fall under the spell of a particular flavor or two in childhood and find themselves still exploring it years later, as professional chefs.

We also spoke to five up-and-coming chefs around town (page 42) that Orlando diners should keep an eye on. Wherever they are, great food is sure to be there as well. And we make note of the culinary cocktail trend: The boundaries between mixology and mise en place have blurred as restaurant bars mix kitchen-crafted ingredients into their cocktails. Finally, we included a calendar of annual food and drink events, so you can plan your year.

BITE 2015 was written by Faiyaz Kara, Holly Kapherr, and me; photographed by Rob Bartlett; and designed by Adam McCabe. I hope you enjoy reading this celebration of Orlando's dining scene as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Happy eating,
Jessica Bryce Young

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