Punta Gorda diners learned an important lesson when beloved Punta Gorda chef Keith Meyer fell temporarily between kitchens before launching F.M. Don’s.
Never get too attached to a chef.
They move. All the time.
Here are three whose new homes might be news to you.
Gourmet chef teams up with family food truck
While plating gourmet meals for three years at Punta Gorda’s Opus and for six at Port Charlotte’s JD’s Bistro & Grille, Chef Danny Cortes always wanted to quit his job and run his own food truck, like Jon Favreau does in the feel-good 2014 film “Chef.”
“Yeah,” said Cortes, laughing. “Now I feel like the same person as Chef.”
About a year ago, Cortes started working with his dad, Cesar, at the wildly popular Cesar’s Tacos food truck.
“I never wanted to be in charge as an executive chef,” admitted the self-taught cook whom former JD’s manager Joe LeClair, now at La Fiorentina, described as “pure natural talent.”
“I told them I just wanted to do my job and go home.”
But he was so gifted that he kept rising to the top and taking on more responsibilities in spite of himself.
“I told my dad that I’d like to open my own restaurant, but he explained how difficult that is. And after working in restaurants, I know how hard it is to find reliable help. So I decided, like my dad, to do a food truck.”
He and wife Jayna plan to travel to festivals, as well as park their new Danny’s Food Truck at the Hancock Avenue Marathon Gas station for breakfast and lunch, while Cesar’s Tacos remains loyal to its regular daily dinner customers, who pack the place until 9 p.m.
Danny serves tacos and lunch specials such as enchiladas. He also has breakfast sandwiches, classic Mexican huevos rancheros and scrambles with tomato, onions, peppers and cheese.
“I want to introduce authentic Mexican flavors to people who think Mexican food is Taco Bell,” he said. “My dad and I aren’t competing. We’re family, working together like we’re supposed to.”
Cesar’s Tacos ($), 941-623-3027, is at Marathon Gas, 4276 Tamiami Trail, Tuesday to Friday 3 to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m., now also selling burritos, rice and refried beans. Cash only.
Danny’s Food Truck ($), 941-276-1576, will also be at Marathon Gas daily, 9 a.m. until about 2:30, when his dad pulls in. Also cash only.
Schiro to chef at Sheraton
Four Points by Sheraton Punta Gorda Harborside had been executive chefless for some time, but was able to breathe a sigh of relief in October.
Chef Carson Schiro, most recently splitting his time between Manasota Key’s Beach Road Wine Bar & Bistro and The Waverly, now presides over two different waterside kitchens — those serving Dockside Grill ($$) and TT’s Tiki Bar ($).
Staff members who’ve taste-tested his food are delighted.
A Polk County native, Chef Carson started cooking with his mother when he was eight.
“My mom’s very off-the-cuff,” he said. “She never followed a recipe and taught me that cooking was more about how you felt. Now I follow my heart.”
His résumé includes acting as Farlow’s chef de cuisine, contributing to the original Zeke’s Uptown menu, and tutelage under the late Certified Master Chef Peter Timmins at the Gasparilla Inn.
Five years ago, his culinary education blossomed while he lived and worked at a Rastafarian compound in the mountains of Jamaica. Farming sustainably, foraging and gathering food meal by meal became routine.
It’s unlikely Schiro will forage for the Sheraton, but it’s certain that he’ll be creative.
“I like to make things as fun as I can,” said the dreadlocked young chef.
Everything’s coming up Rosy for Chef Rich
Chef Richard Howze might not be as well known to Punta Gordan as he used to be, but his recipes still are.
After more than 30 years as a chef, Chef Richard was one of the original trio to launch Leroy’s Southern Kitchen-Bar with Lee Richardson in 2015.
From his roots in rural Homestead he contributed country handle boards like today’s Meat Cheese Board, as well as that other farm-to-table delicacy: Roast Bone Marrow, ready to spread on grilled bread with garlic confit and a pinch of sea salt.
But his favorite might well have been heritage pork, which lives on in Leroy’s Pork Belly Steamed Buns and Pork and Pancakes.
After executive chef stints at south Fort Myers’ unfortunately named SS Hookers, rebranded too late as Summerlin Jake’s, and Babcock Ranch’s Table & Tap, Howze seems to have finally come home.
“It’s a wonderful place!” said the chef of Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm, Rose O’Dell King‘s sustainable, organic, holistic farm, serving the bounty of its own acreage in North Fort Myers.
Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm ($$), 239-567-6000, 8250 Nalle Grade Road, North Fort Myers, serves brunch Thursday and Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Send restaurant and bar news and recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Average price ranges are $ = inexpensive (under $10), $$ = moderate ($11-$30), and $$$ = pricey (over $30), including tip and beverage