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Newsy Nuggets: Liguori sells Valdiano to Liguori; Wolfe returns to catering; new exec chef at Maxine’s; and odds get better for a local Best Chef award

Written By Scott Joseph On May 22, 2023

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Pizzeria Valdiano has been sold, but it’s still staying in the Liguori family. Founder Joe Liguori, who also has the growing Hangry Bison brand, has sold the Pizzeria Valdiano business to his sister Angela Liguori and two longtime employees, Michael Fiorino of the Winter Park location and Adrian Zumbado in Lakeland. Asked if he was selling to focus on Hangry Bison, Liguori said: “Yes, that is the primary reason, but it is also for Mike and Adrian, my sister, and the Pizzeria Valdiano brand as well. The timing is right that The Hangry Bison needs my full attention, and Pizzeria Valdiano deserves new leadership as well.” Liguori is seeking franchisees for the Hangry Bison concept. Closing date for the Pizzeria Valdiano sale is Sept. 1.

Jason Wolfe, who recently left the kitchens of Tornatore’s, has joined Millenia Catering as chef de cuisine under executive chef and owner Lo Soukahvong. This is a return to the world of catering for Wolfe. Before Tornatore’s and K restaruant, he was chef de cuisine at Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine and Events.

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Speaking of chefs, you may have noticed that Maxine’s on Shine, the neighborhood restaurant in the Mills 50 District, has been promoting a new executive chef, Fabiano Olmo, in social media posts. And Olmo, too, on his Instagram page lists his position as executive chef at Maxine’s. He’s been with the restaurant since 2018.

So what happened to George Vogelbacher, who has been cheffing at Maxine’s since 2014? Well, the man just turned 83, so he’d be forgiven for wanting to retire. But that isn’t exactly the case. Maxine’s co-owner Kirt Earhart said in a phone conversation that Vogelbacher is “taking care of his health” and that he plans to return to focus on making desserts, which, added Earhart, was the original plan when he joined Maxine’s.

I spoke to Earhart as he was taking down what were supposed to be temporary outdoor dining structures put up during the pandemic in anticipation of getting approval to rebuild permanent outdoor dining structures. Maxine’s is the only business in a predominantly residential area, and the teardown came after a complaint from a neighbor. “Basically,” he said, “you’ve got a hundred neighbors around you and 99 of them love you and one doesn’t.” He added that unfortunately the one complainant prompted the removal.

So essentially it’s the restaurant equivalent of banning a book.

Speaking of chefs, Orlando’s Henry Moso of Kabooki Sushi has one fewer contender for the Best Chef: South Beard Award. Timothy Hontzas of Alabama, who was named along with Moso as one of five finalists for the award, has been disqualifed by the Beard Foundation for allegedly violating the organization’s code of ethics. Hontzas told the Washington Post that he spoke via Zoom with an independent investigator for the foundation who asked about several alleged incidents, including yelling at staff and yelling at customers, mainly for not shutting the front door. Hontzas said the latter is something of a schtick at the restaurant, more of a ritual than an actual chewing out. However, the ethics committee “found it more likely than not” that Hontzas violated the Code of Ethics and deemed that he was ineligible for an award this year. John Currence, a Mississippi chef and friend of Hontzas and previous winner of the Best Chef: South award, protested by taking his framed award off the wall and smashing it with a brick. A judge on the national awards committee resigned in protest.

Moso is the first Central Florida chef to advance to the finals for a Beard Award. The winners will be announced in a ceremony in Chicago on June 5.

We hope you find our reviews and news articles useful and entertaining. It has always been our goal to assist you in making informed decisions when spending your dining dollars. If we’ve helped you in any way, please consider making a contribution to help us continue our journalism. Thank you.

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