Greek Chef couple is redefining Orlando’s food culture

Α Decrease font Enlarge font
Greek Chef couple is redefining Orlando’s food culture James Petrakis at The Ravenous Pig (photo courtesy of The Ravenous Pig)

Τ published the following article signed by Michael Schottey on a Greek Chef couple, James and Julie Petrakis, who are redefining food culture in Orlando:

"James and Julie Petrakis are not your stereotypical superstar chefs.

James is laid back, cool, calm, collected. When I spoke with him at his Orlando restaurant, The Ravenous Pig, he didn’t fret about food coming out of the kitchen right behind him. He’s been out of that kitchen for years, handing over the reins to the very capable Chef Nick Sierputowski. It’s clear that one of James’ greatest strengths is his ability to manage without micromanaging — something that creative types like chefs often struggle with.

As for Julie Petrakis? Though she is integral to the planning and creative side of the business, she’s been at home and out of the kitchen for a number of years, being a mom to the couple’s two young children (3 and 5). She’s eager to get back into the kitchen sooner rather than later, but she’ll be walking back into an empire that has grown up seemingly overnight in the Winter Park area of Orlando, without Guy Fieri-like faux flair or Gordon Ramsey-esque screaming fits.

And what an empire it is!

The Ravenous Pig and “The Swine Family” 

In addition to The Ravenous Pig, the Petrakis’ restaurant group, “The Swine Family,” operates Cask and Larder and Swine and Sons — the former being a “Southern Public House” with a fantastic brewing operation and the latter a “Provisions Shop” where one can bring home some of their deliciousness.

The restaurants are quintessentially Orlando, which is a statement that is easy to make as the couple are helping redefine what Orlando cuisine truly is. It’s not as deep south as Jacksonville’s and certainly not as Latin or Island-inspired as Miami or even Tampa. For years, Orlando was child-friendly fare and the best meal a parent might hope for was finishing off a toddler’s chicken strips.

“Orlando cuisine is a weird melting pot. It was a meld of South Florida and lost people, and that was almost more inspiring to Julie and I because we could cook the way we wanted to. A lot of my Mediterranean background, a lot of my Greek background but we both grew up in the South with southern cooks. Orlando is really just a lot of young chefs who have gone out and come back saying, ‘This is what I like to cook, here it is.”

“We were the land of chains for years,” Petrakis said of his city, “and (Ravenous Pig) was the first sign that, yeah, there is some soul here. There is some creativity, and that was given by these guys,” as he motioned to the chefs back in the kitchen.

Ravenous Pig should be on any Orlando traveler’s bucket list as it has been on mine for years. In addition to sitting down with James, I was privileged to eat one of the best meals of my life at the signature restaurant — starting with a Ravenous Pig Old Fashioned which is made with bacon-infused bourbon, homemade orange bitters and topped with a piece of candied bacon.

Food worth buying a plane ticket for

If for no other reason, that drink alone is worth the drive from wherever you are in Orlando to  The Ravenous Pig. The food, however, might be worth buying a plane ticket for.

The menu is not as porcine-centric as the various names of the restaurants and company might make it seem. The kitchen does seafood as well as anyone, and the duck breast was a favorite of numerous tables around me.

Starting with an expertly prepared charcuterie platter, I made my way to a lamb belly and corncake starter and then to the Porcini Tagliatelle, which is made with a Bolognese sauce prepared with the bits of the aforementioned charcuterie platter, which is an inspired take on the traditional meat sauce I’m not sure any restaurant could match.

The menu changes frequently, and the standbys are becoming classics, but there is something at The Ravenous Pig for everyone. If not, Cask and Larder is only a ten-minute walk away with a similarly eclectic and entertaining menu that is somehow altogether different. James actually suggests starting at Cask and Larder for drinks and bar bites before heading to the Ravenous Pig for dinner — a new bucket list culinary item for this author.

A spinoff itself, Cask is opening an outlet at Orlando International Airport’s Southwest Terminal. Fans of the restaurant need not worry that it’s going to be “airport food” with the Cask and Larder name slapped on it. “They wanted the locally-sourced, locally owned chef concept.” Petrakis said. “The airport wanted to be able to promote that.”

The Swine Family’s newest endeavor is a group effort in DoveCote, a French Brasserie that has moved the group from Winter Park into downtown’s Bank of America building. With DoveCote, they are partnering with Chef Clayton Miller who helped open Norman’s in Orlando before moving on to (among other places) The French Laundry. Gene Zimmerman of Courtesy Bar is also working with the team to provide some cocktail expertise.

Perhaps most exciting for Petrakis and what is taking up most of his time is a new partnership with his brother and the Disney company at Disney Springs.

Incredible reputation for sourcing the best ingredients

The Polite Pig will be a fast casual restaurant focusing on the lighter side of barbecue and doubling down on Petrakis’ incredible reputation for sourcing the best ingredients.

“Two-hundred seats, 26 taps,” Petrakis said of the new restaurant, “and we have tailored that menu toward A) speed and B) a little bit friendlier to the every-day customer. We’re not trying to get so chef-y or creative. It’s, ‘hey, let’s give ‘em solid, California barbecue — salmon, tri-tip, tuna along with some of the traditional options — alongside seasonal vegetables as some of the sides.”

The Disney Springs location places he, Julie and his brother Brian alongside culinary luminaries like Art Smith, Rick Bayless and Masaharu Morimoto — “500 yards away,” Petrakis noted — in a place where millions and millions of feet will walk by The Polite Pig and millions of noses will smell the slow roasted barbecue.

“We’re going to be seen with a lot more people against a lot stiffer competition,” Petrakis said.

“The one thing we have going for us is that we’re local operators. A lot of those people aren’t local. They’re not in their restaurants day-to-day. This is something my brother and I are putting our livelihoods on the line for. We’re going to be there every day. That’s what we’re banking on.”

Petrakis also pointed to working with the Disney team as a unique experience and honor, and said that the Disney Imagineering team has provided them with a lot of good ideas that he didn’t necessarily think would come from a bunch of non-chefs. He had been scared of the entire process but said it’s been a true partnership.

Moving forward, Ravenous Pig will move from its current location to the same property of Cask and Larder which “The Swine Family” owns. The two (vastly different) restaurants will co-exist alongside the shop as a bit of a hub of the Winter Park area and the Orlando food scene — an idea cribbed from James and Julie’s time at Atlanta’s Bacchanalia.

“Julie’s going to head that project up,” James said. “We have our provision shop that we want to expand into a little bit more of a grocery. We’ll have Ravenous. We’ll have Cask. We’re brewing our beer. We’re inputting wood-burning grills in there. We’re re-doing our dining room. That corner is our big focus right now. We can't wait to see what that corner is going to look like in five years.”

Restaurant and brand quintessentially Orlando

When I say that the Petrakis restaurant and brand is quintessentially Orlando, it’s not just in the type of food, but more importantly in the people who work there and the people who eat there. Even as the company expands and gains more and more national attention, the Petrakis restaurants feel far more like Orlando than other top area eateries, because that’s what they’ve always been meant to be.

“We definitely started as a local place. With some of the national attention, it’s probably about a 65/35 split with travelers and convention business. It’s a little lower down at Cask where it’s maybe 70/30 just because it hasn’t been around as long. We still have our same regulars ... we’ve had from Day 1.”

It’s easy to see that not much is going to change. Petrakis also noted how a new generation — his generation — of the city has taken greater ownership with an attitude of “Hey, I’m from here and let me show you what that’s all about.” These are no longer the “lost people” of Orlando’s past, but a generation that is truly Orlando and has people like James and Julie Petrakis helping them figure out what that means.

“Julie and I grew up in this neighborhood. Our families are here. Our kids are going to be raised here. It’s an exciting time to be here, because there are a lot of great things that are going to be happening here.”

Read more here.

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

  1. 27/02 18:46

    Greek FM: EU should begin North Macedonia and Albania accession talks

  2. 27/02 18:41

    Major cruise lines eye Piraeus in Greece as their key port of call

  3. 27/02 18:34

    Truffle hunting commences in Greek site of Meteora during March

  4. 27/02 18:28

    Aristotle University of Thessaloniki to promote Greek studies abroad

  5. 27/02 18:08

    Tokyo 2020: Details of olympic flame ceremonies in Greece unveiled

  6. 27/02 17:27

    Greece wins double distinction at 7th Historic Hotels of Europe awards

  7. 27/02 16:56

    Patras municipal council meets on cancellation of Carnival due to COVID19

  8. 27/02 16:56

    Coronavirus and migration top agenda in cabinet meeting chaired by Greek PM

  9. 27/02 16:01

    Three confirmed COVID19 cases in Greece cause cancellation of carnival events

  10. 27/02 14:05

    SETE on COVID19: Greek tourism has the maturity to cope

  11. 27/02 12:02

    Greek-American third-grader launches company to save sea turtles

  12. 27/02 10:51

    Greek-Americans take part in the 22nd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

  13. 26/02 20:20

    Renovated Omonia Square close to opening in central Athens

  14. 26/02 19:35

    11 threatened Greek grapevine varieties to be saved

  15. 26/02 19:29

    Minister interview: France will support Greece and Cyprus against Turkey

  16. 26/02 18:30

    Latest Greek high court ruling in favor of Hellas Gold mining investment

  17. 26/02 18:20

    Greek Alternative Tourism and Gastronomy Workshop 2020 in 4 European cities

  18. 26/02 18:17

    Prime Minister to migrants not qualifying for asylum: Don't come to Greece

  19. 26/02 17:45

    Next EUMed7 conference be organized in Athens during May 2020

  20. 26/02 16:16

    First case of COVID19 recorded in Northern Greece remains in good health

  21. 26/02 14:44

    Campaign against overworking of donkeys on Greek island of Santorini

  22. 26/02 11:59

    Popular Greek comic actor Kostas Voutsas passes at the age of 88

  23. 26/02 00:43

    Greek government signs cooperation deal with UEFA and FIFA in Athens

  24. 26/02 00:36

    Greek luxury travel firm launches contest on International Women’s Day

  25. 26/02 00:17

    Rich program of Carnival events all over Athens

  26. 25/02 20:25

    International buyers boost home rates in northern Greek city of Thessaloniki

  27. 25/02 20:12

    Cosco-controlled Greek port of Piraeus announces higher turnover and profits

  28. 25/02 20:07

    General strike on northern Aegean Region islands in Greece on Wednesday

  29. 25/02 20:03

    Survey: Bread prices in Greece second lowest in eurozone

  30. 25/02 20:00

    Blood sample of man hospitalised in Greek port of Patras negative for coronavirus

  31. 25/02 19:56

    InvestCyprus creates specialized unit to help attain 2030 tourist targets

  32. 25/02 19:56

    Ambassador in Athens: Qatar lives and breathes for 2022

  33. 25/02 19:05

    Bank of Greece head: Seven priorities for sustained economic growth

  34. 25/02 19:03

    LPC chief: Greece top in EU for recycling industrial lubricant oils

  35. 25/02 18:05

    Greek minority in Albania against government plan to seize properties in Himara

  36. 25/02 17:54

    Eurogroup president to take part in next month's 5th Delphi forum in Greece

  37. 25/02 16:55

    1,000 guests at Tenerife hotel quarantined after coronavirus diagnosis

  38. 25/02 16:13

    Greek government to pass act on measures to contain potential spread of coronavirus

  39. 25/02 15:36

    Three Greek firms awarded projects for construction of closed refugee camps

  40. 25/02 14:40

    Good news for Greek tourism: Warm weather may kill the new coronavirus

  41. 25/02 13:19

    Tyrini, Cheesfare week kicks off in Greece

  42. 25/02 13:17

    Greek Finance Minister to meet with hotel sector representatives

  43. 25/02 11:58

    National Museum of Contemporary Art opens in Athens on Friday

  44. 25/02 01:35

    Venice Carnival canceled and towns locked down after COVID-19 outbreak

  45. 25/02 01:30

    Greek Health Minister: All measures have been taken to protect public health

  46. 25/02 01:11

    Greek Health Ministry issues basic tips against COVID-19 as a precaution

  47. 25/02 01:03

    Greek tennis champion Tsitsipas wins second open title in Provence

  48. 25/02 00:44

    Aegean: No plan to cancel flights from Greece to Italy due to virus

  49. 25/02 00:31

    Tokyo 2020 Olympic flame to pass by historic landmarks across Greece

  50. 25/02 00:03

    Passenger traffic in Greek airports grows 5.4% in January 2020

  51. 24/02 22:41

    Compromise between an ancient necropolis and an ultra modern Cultural Center reached in Athens

  52. 24/02 21:47

    TrainOSE increases passenger capacity in view of Patras carnival in Greece

  53. 24/02 20:27

    Acclaimed Greek poet Kiki Dimoula passes away at 89

  54. 24/02 19:58

    Financial crisis drove Greece’s rents down but rebound makes them soar

  55. 24/02 17:19

    IFT 2020: Greece remains a top tourist destination for Serbs

  56. 23/02 19:21

    US students at Lafayette College to resume Ancient Greek program in Athens

  57. 23/02 17:03

    Greek Foreign Ministry voices support to Turkey and Iran over earthquake

  58. 23/02 16:41

    Greek Health Ministry to hold meeting on coronavirus precautions

  59. 23/02 16:35

    Region of Attica Governor wants to clear Athens from poster pollution

  60. 23/02 16:22

    Athens Science Festival to take place in Technopolis between April 1-5

  61. 23/02 16:17

    IATA: Coronavirus may slash $29 billion from Airlines’ revenue globally

  62. 23/02 16:04

    Greeks from “Diamond Princess” cruiseship test negative for coronavirus

  63. 23/02 15:59

    Initiative to rid central Monastiraki Square in Athens of plastics

  64. 23/02 15:52

    Washington Post: Greece should be the keeper of the Elgin Marbles

  65. 23/02 13:43

    Whistleblower in Novartis case to testify before Greek Parliament

  66. 23/02 11:30

    Minister: Building migration centers on Greek islets 'not a government plan'

  67. 23/02 00:51

    Yachting report: Flisvos Marina in Athens among the best in the world (video)

  68. 22/02 15:46

    Greek FM discusses renewable energy with Danish counterpart Kofod

  69. 22/02 15:29

    Promotion of renewable energy sources for electricity production in Greece

  70. 22/02 15:25

    Seven bidders for Thessaloniki port pier extension project in northern Greece

  71. 22/02 15:20

    Infographic: Europe’s most passenger-friendly train stations

  72. 22/02 14:52

    DEPA infrastructure privatization attracts 9 international investors in Greece

  73. 22/02 14:48

    Greek climate activist spreads message by cycling around the globe

  74. 22/02 14:32

    Greek champion wins gold at 2020 World Cup Gymnastics in Melbourne

  75. 22/02 13:43

    Grrek PM on EU summit: Some insisted we should do more with fewer resources

  76. 22/02 12:00

    ReGeneration Greece: Five years of supporting young people

  77. 21/02 19:49

    Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in United Nations event on homelessness

  78. 21/02 17:46

    Greek Foreign Minister Dendias visits the Danish capital Copenhagen

  79. 21/02 17:35

    Infographic: China is the planet's manufacturing superpower

  80. 21/02 17:26

    Greek Shipping Minister meets with EU Commissioner for Transport

  81. 21/02 17:06

    European court gives Greece green light for migrant detention centers

  82. 21/02 16:58

    Greek export performance achieves new historical record during 2019

  83. 21/02 16:24

    Greece's comics festival, Comicdom Con Athens, launched on April 10

  84. 21/02 16:18

    SEV proposes measures to reverse brain drain in Greece

  85. 21/02 16:12

    Bible of digital transformation to be presented in Greece until end of March

  86. 21/02 16:01

    Victoria Beckham’s Vogue Greece cover draws global media attention

  87. 21/02 15:51

    Total value of Greek-Chinese trade soars to record €4.5 billion

  88. 21/02 15:48

    Greece plays critical role in European Union ecology app program

  89. 21/02 15:44

    ECB net interest income on SMP holdings of Greek bonds at €94 million

  90. 21/02 12:37

    Connecticut University to create museum of ancient Greek city-state of Sparta

  91. 21/02 10:23

    Greek PM from Brussels: We cannot do more with less

  92. 21/02 02:16

    Carnival season peaks in Greece

  93. 21/02 02:09

    First smart-hotel to open in northern Greek city of Thessaloniki

  94. 21/02 01:56

    Foreign Ministry: Greece's foreign policy always serves international law

  95. 21/02 01:51

    St. Petersburg College cooperates with Greece’s University of the Aegean

  96. 21/02 01:35

    Condé Nast Traveler: Ftelia in Mykonos named Best Beach Club in the World for 2020

  97. 21/02 01:09

    Greek-American Chamber of Commerce hails exemption of local products from tariffs

  98. 20/02 23:00

    Hellenic Society of Constantinople to organize Annual Gala in LA

  99. 20/02 22:28

    Greek PM: More funding needed for climate change and border control

  100. 20/02 21:45

    Parliamentary Budget Office: Greek economy on positive track in Q4 2019