Women + Food: Local Superstars of Orlando’s Culinary Scene – Part II

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Last week, we covered some of the women who have had an impact on Orlando’s culinary scene. Now, let’s dive deeper into our list of local superstars.

Christina Hollerbach

Christina began working at her parents’ restaurant, Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe, in downtown Sanford when she was just 14. After experiencing every single position, she’s now CEO of the restaurant and Hollerbach’s Magnolia Square Market as well as the owner of Hollerbach’s Outfitters. At the heart of every business decision is her love for her hometown. Working with local bar owner Paul Williams, she hopes to make Sanford even better by bringing new visitors and businesses to the area and growing its economy.

Roniece Weaver, MS, RD, LD; Fabiola Gaines, RD, LD; and Ellareetha Carson, RD, LD

As founders of Hebni Nutrition Consultants, Roniece, Fabiola, and Ellareetha teach healthy eating by example. With a focus on low-income African Americans in the Orlando community, they use culturally relevant strategies and behavior concepts. Their goal is to give soul food a face-lift. “We take a casserole and lighten it up,” Roniece explains. “Or we show you a heart-healthy way to make mac and cheese. We talk about portion control, too.” Given that only 2.4 percent of dietitians are of color, their work is particularly impactful.

Lindsey Thompson

At Lemonhearted, Orlando lifestyle and food blogger Lindsey excels at storytelling. She covers everything from her favorite items at Trader Joe’s to 32 (!) spots to grab ice cream in Orlando. When she launched her blog in 2013, her goal was connection during a time when Central Florida’s food landscape was changing. “I wanted to focus on supporting the local businesses that were starting to redefine the city and to share those places,” she shares. 

Gabriela Lothrop

It’s impossible to pinpoint Gabriela’s main project in the Orlando food scene. She joined the Orlando Slow Food USA movement in 1999, eventually becoming a regional governor. Next, she became the marketing director of Audubon Community Market, where she saw the beginning of Orlando Meats, Buttermilk Bakery, and more. She was also one of the visionaries of East End Market, working as project manager during groundbreaking and market director at the food hub’s debut. Her “longest-running cause,” though, is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). She worked with the team at Fresh Access Bucks to create a matching-incentive program: If shoppers spend $10 on fruits and vegetables at the farmers market on a SNAP card, they get an extra $10 of free, fresh produce. 

Chef Melissa Kelly and Chef Kathleen Blake

In 2003, Melissa and Kathleen, both young trailblazers during the early stages of the farm-to-table movement in Central Florida, opened Primo at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes. They first met at a women’s chef event in Washington D.C.. At the time, Kathleen was a chef at Restaurant Nova, America’s first certified organic restaurant. Melissa asked Kathleen to join her on this venture, and they immediately got started with a small garden at the restaurant and outreach to local and sustainable farms. In 2019, they headed to Rockland, Maine, to open another award-winning Primo and teach the next generation of chefs.

Julie Petrakis

When Julie and her husband James opened The Ravenous Pig in 2007, they were thrilled to return to their roots. Having met at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and worked in kitchens in New York City and Atlanta, it was a dream come true to return home to Winter Park to open their first restaurant. They have since expanded their brand to Cask & Larder in two locations at the Orlando International Airport and The Polite Pig at Disney Springs. Now, they also focus on local causes. Through their foundation Appetite for the Arches, they have raised  about $750,000 in just six years for Ronald McDonald Charities in Central Florida. “We grew up here, and giving back is the best way for us to stay connected to show our gratitude for all of the support from our patrons,” Julie explains. “It makes our work truly meaningful.”

Wendy Lopez

A love of food and cooking is in Wendy’s blood. She began working in her parents’ restaurants at the age of 15 and immediately felt comfortable in the kitchen. “It’s very natural for me to want to cook for people, host people,” she says. She followed her passion to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando and then to the executive chef position at Reyes Mezcaleria. She particularly loves the memories and feelings that live in every delicious bite.

Check out the Edible Orlando Summer 2021 issue for the full write-up

Read Part I of Women + Food: Local Superstars here!

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