Portfolio Restaurants’ Partner and Chef Brandon McGlamery Named One of Five Chefs Dominating the Florida Dining Scene
We’re so proud of Luke’s Kitchen & Bar and Prato Partner and Chef Brandon McGlamery for being named one of five Florida chefs dominating the dining scene by Flamingo Magazine. Read the excerpt on Chef Brandon McGlamery below, and check out the full article here.
CHEF AND PARTNER AT PRATO AND LUKE’S KITCHEN AND BAR
Brandon McGlamery took a trip to Austin earlier this year, his first venture out of the state in a long while. He ate really well there, he explains. That wasn’t a surprise, considering it’s such a well-known food town, but what did come as a revelation was how different the food was from Florida.
It wasn’t that Austin’s cooking was better. It wasn’t more sophisticated, McGlamery explains, because Floridians are certainly well-traveled, well-versed in what defines a good dish. It was something else, he says, struggling to put his finger on it. Overly composed? Just simply too much?
Diners in Florida, he’s come to realize, like a dish that highlights good, simple ingredients. The way it should be, McGlamery says. Scan through McGlamery’s Instagram and you’ll see examples, like the Rhode Island fluke that he balanced carefully with pomegranate and mint so you could still taste the delicate fish. At Luke’s, the specials highlight the season, like a spring vegetable and endive salad they serve with aged cheddar, sunflower seeds, preserved lemons and a buttermilk dressing light enough that it doesn’t overpower the veggies. Or, at Prato, there’s the olive oil cake they top with orange crema, fresh strawberries and a drizzle of olive oil—high-quality ingredients balanced so that each one hits you.
It’s like that even more nowadays, McGlamery says. As we all venture out, “people are going to want really good food and simple stuff they can relate to,” he adds. They’ll also, more than ever, want the experience of a night out, not a counter-service quick meal but a well-paced one, with theatrics, that counts as not just sustenance but a leisurely distraction to everything else in our lives.
“When we’re fully out of this, people are going to have that desire again to be entertained. You look at dining out. It’s entertainment. Dining out will be the prize, the thing they desire again.”
I first visited McGlamery five years ago, and he talked about his culinary upbringing, working for Alice Waters and Thomas Keller before heading to Europe to work for Guy Savoy and Gordon Ramsay. Working in kitchens with Michelin-starred chefs helped prepare him for a random call in 2005 to come to Winter Park to open Luma on Park. The job was only supposed to last six weeks.
If you sit there and you’re doom and gloom, nothing positive comes out of that. If you have a positive outlook, you’re going to have a positive outcome.— Brandon McGlamery
In September, he closed Luma on Park, ending a 15-year run after he was unable to negotiate a new lease. The toughest part about it might have been that the place was still doing well, and so closing it over a disagreement with the landlord stung. “Losing Luma was a blow, but that wasn’t us, that wasn’t our fault.” He’s still got his other two spots, Prato in Winter Park and Luke’s in Maitland, but this year he’s going to spend a lot of time thinking about what’s next. Lately, he’s been pondering an opening in the towns where he grew up, Naples and St. Petersburg, considering even relocating to get it going. He and his wife, though, can’t quite picture leaving Winter Park, a “little bubble of great people that just happens to be in the middle of Central Florida.”
For now, until he’s found that perfect new spot, he’s sinking his energy into the one thing he says makes or breaks a place—making sure his two spots are putting out great, consistent food every day, like the piled-high burgers at Luke’s, or the roasted cauliflower with snap pea verde or butternut squash ravioli at Prato. He’s also undeniably positive about the future of the restaurant industry in our fair state.
He says, with an optimism that’s totally contagious, “I think that’s the only way you can look at it. If you sit there and you’re doom and gloom, nothing positive comes out of that. If you have a positive outlook, you’re going to have a positive outcome.”
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