In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the local culinary community, Orlando Weekly is pleased to announce the recipient of our inaugural BITE Award: Chef Kevin Fonzo.
He might be a New York City native, but chef Kevin Fonzo has been in an Orlando state of mind for nearly three decades. After graduating with honors from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Fonzo was part of the opening team at the Peabody Hotel on International Drive, and was quickly promoted to chef of the hotel's Italian concept, Capriccio. After a six-year run at the Peabody, Fonzo moved to Atlanta and worked at highly lauded restaurants Bistango and Ciboulette before returning to Orlando in 2001, when he purchased Cafe Allegre in College Park and changed the name to K Restaurant and Wine Bar.
K became one of Orlando's first chef-owned and operated restaurants, and Fonzo used it as a platform to showcase local ingredients and a daily changing menu. In 2007, Fonzo and his family purchased a second College Park restaurant and named it Nonna Trattoria ed Enoteca. He then decided to merge the two restaurants, which allowed him to focus energies on one restaurant, and to invest further in the community.
In 2010, Fonzo was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef South and he has since been invited numerous times to cook at the prestigious Beard House in New York.
Always a staunch supporter of local farms and food sources, Fonzo is now focused on educating the youth of the city on sustainability, nutrition and food preparation through his Edible Education Experience at the Orlando Junior Academy. Fonzo volunteers his time at the Orlando Junior Academy in College Park and, during the 2010-2011 school year, worked in the cafeteria every day preparing lunches, while fostering a food farming program at the school, which was awarded "Best School Garden for the State of Florida" by the University of Central Florida.
Fonzo's work was also recognized by Michelle Obama as a part of her "Chefs Move to School" initiative, earning him an invitation to the White House. He now volunteers his time as an educator using cooking instruction as an integrated educational method for students to learn about nutrition, biology, chemistry and math, as well as the discipline necessary for a successful culinary career. In 2017, the Emeril Lagasse Kitchen House & Culinary Garden, a partnership between Fonzo, Orlando Junior Academy, Florida Hospital for Children and the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, opened to Orlando.
"As long as I've lived in Orlando, Kevin Fonzo's restaurants have been my go-to for seasonal, sustainable, celebratory meals," Orlando Weekly editor Jessica Bryce Young says. "Not only is the food on the plate outstanding, it's gratifying to know such a good heart underpins his technical skill."
"Ten years ago, I approached Kevin about starting Orlando Restaurant Week. Without hesitation, he was the first on board. Four years ago, I approached him again about re-concepting Restaurant Week to Bite30 and adding a chef showcase, Bite Night. He not only signed on immediately, he reached out to other high-profile chefs and got them involved," says Orlando Weekly publisher Graham Jarrett. "If it's good for the restaurant community, for the food scene, or just good for Orlando, Kevin finds a way to do it. Beyond his culinary skills, Kevin Fonzo is a true value to our community. He has not only achieved personal success and accolades, he has helped foster a community that has made Orlando one of the best up-and-coming food cities in the country."