With a pedigree that includes stints at Victoria & Albert's (under Scott Hunnel) and at Tuyo in Miami and Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes (under Norman Van Aken), it's no wonder that when Barnie's CoffeeKitchen execs came looking for someone to run their newly reimagined space on Park Avenue, Van Aken personally recommended Camilo Velasco.
After starting his career as a dishwasher while attending culinary school at Valencia College, Velasco put himself in the right place at the right time, ending up in an unpaid stage at V&A's, and then moving into a paid position as chef de partie. For the Colombian native, the fusion cuisine of Norman's and Tuyo was a natural fit, and in 2012, when he took on the kitchen at Barnie's CoffeeKitchen, he brought with him a love of inventive cuisine and willingness to push boundaries.
Velasco's kitchen and menu development approach goes far beyond what might be expected at a coffeehouse-turned-bistro. "I like to focus on sourcing first, buying the best I can in season. Then, when developing dishes, I like food that conveys sharing. I like clean flavors, acid-driven dishes with few components," he explains. Velasco has developed relationships with many local suppliers and artisans that provide ingredients for his menu's chef-driven dishes, like Tom West Blueberries in Ocoee, Nine's Mine Ranch in St. Cloud and Palmetto Creek Farms in Avon Park.
For Velasco, inspiration comes in the form of seeking out what's creating buzz in the Orlando food scene. "From hole-in-the-wall spots no one except a few people know about to the flagships of chefs I know and admire, this town has tons of cool stuff going on in the culinary scene," he says.
When he's not behind a cutting board or in front of a stove, Velasco is exploring wine and discovering new ways to pair his favorite varietals with his dishes at Barnie's. "I approach new wines with food pairings in mind, so I often like to cook specifically for a bottle of wine I'm excited about, or a new discovery," says Velasco. Always seeking a new benchmark for his own cooking is what keeps him motivated to innovate in the kitchen and push the boundaries of what "café food" really is. Rabbit ragoût with cavatelli pasta and freshly shaved truffles, anyone?