Vivacious, inspiring, honest, dedicated, a savant chef, and an incredible mom, Chef Kathleen Blake could easily be nominated for epitome of womanhood award. It is with immense pleasure and pride today we share her story at the most fortuitous moment – helm of the five-year anniversary of Rusty Spoon, the brain child of Chef Blake and husband Mr. Blake.
Located in the heart of downtown Orlando, Rusty Spoon defines ‘Farm to table’ cuisine with focus on their collective commitment to responsibility and care for food, prepared with passion and only the best of ingredients!
A food and life philosophy with sustainability and local produce at it’s epicenter, Chef Blake is a staunch advocate of supporting Central Florida’s local community of farmers she considers “Super Heroes”. Few of her friends – Jim Wood with Palmetto Creek Pork, Melani and Roger’s Waterkist Farm, Dale Volkert’s Lake Meadow Naturals, and Wild Ocean Seafood Market have earned a permanent spot at Rusty Spoon.
In fact, Chef Blake’s Super Heroes feature predominantly in CFL restaurants that take their food seriously. K Restaurant, Prato, Luma on the Park, Primo, Highball & Harvest, Cress, Siro, Norman’s to name a few.
Bokeh Studio was on-site to capture the essence of Chef Blake’s mesmerizing creations while yours truly on the sidelines, literally devouring every word, moment, defining her illustrious career all the way back to being appointed as Chef de Cuisine of the first certified organic restaurant in the US – Nora in 2001. Fast forward to present times with 7 Silver Spoon awards, 2013, 2015, 2016 James Beard Award Nominee, Best Chef South, 2013 Best Chefs America Southern Region, and nominated for both Golden Whisk and Community Service Awards by Women Chefs & Restaurateurs under her belt. Hell of a woman, no?
Lake Meadow “Red Devil” Stuffed Eggs – Tabasco, Cornichons, Tons of Herbs & Oven-Dried Tomatoes. With the variety of dishes and flavors she can create from one single egg, Chef Blake is the “Egg Queen”. Red Devil Eggs simply put are a gastronomical quickie!!
“Lake Meadow” – Spinach, Escarole Hearts & Watercress with Lake Meadow Soft Cooked Egg & Sautéed Chicken Livers tossed with Warm Bacon Vinagrette. It doesn’t come fresher than this – a perfectly poached Lake Meadow egg adorning sweet chicken liver bites, smoky bacon dressing, local greens. It’s the definition of farm to table on a plate.
Waterkist Farms tomato salad with ricotta, drizzled with balsamic glaze. No matter where you are, the “best tomato” is the closest one; showcasing it’s sweetness, freshness, and terroir. And nothing is closer or sweeter (aside from San Marzano of course) than Waterkist Farm’s heirloom bounty. Ms. Julia Child’s famous words come to life each bite – “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients”.
Q: Culinary journey into becoming a Chef.
Chef Blake: I spent ALOT of time with my fraternal Grandmother preparing the Sunday supper for our extended family. That is what inspired me on this path. I spent 13 years developing my palette in San Francisco, working for so many amazing Chefs and Restaurateurs. Working often times for free to get my foot in the door or to just experience a different style of cooking.
Q: What foods are you craving most right now?
Chef Blake: Blood Oranges, Avocados, of course Arugula and I miss the herring from San Francisco!
Q: Your food philosophy and how did it shape?
Chef Blake: Keep it simple, seasonal and sexy! Really great, thoughtful, ingredients! I think the pleasure and the leisurely way everyone ate at my grandmother’s table started it all. Then seeing the simplicity and incredible freshness of California Cuisine early on, ( I moved to San Francisco at 17), kept me on the same path for my entire career. I sought out jobs and Chefs that kept me immersed in that philosophy.
Remodeled Lasagna – Mélange of Local & Wild Mushrooms with Wilted Spinach, Roasted Butternut Squash, Shaved Pecorina & Brodo. We all are intimately familiar with lasagna Bolognese, the Northern Italian casserole made with pasta layered with cheese sauce, slow-cooked meat sauce, and cream. I am here to remind you that in all my numerous travels in Italy, I not even once ate this sloppy mess. What I tasted, relished, all over Venezia, Milano, Florencia, and Roma, and to date crave was a rendition similar to Chef Blake’s deconstructed plate of happiness. Keeping up with seasonal ingredients, earthy mushrooms, sweet squash, swimming in deeply flavored yet delicate broth, it’s feel good food without comprising flavors or your waist. I could live on this and never even crave meat. Yeah baby, I went there!!
Jamison Farm Lamb Shank – Fragrant Couscous, Wilted Greens & Moroccan Chermoula. Singularly the most handsome chunk of lamb I have had the privilege to experience in Florida. Transported all the way from Pennsylvania, Jamison’s Farm all natural, free of hormones, antibiotics, herbicides and insecticides seems the only choice for Chef Blake’s soul satisfying lamb boasting deep and savory flavors. Do restrain from an inexplicable desire to literally lick your plate.
Q: You have cooked and broken bread with incredible chefs. Is there an unforgettable meal or moment?
Chef Blake: So MANY, I cooked for Julia Child’s 90th birthday, they asked all the chefs to line up for a photo and because I was one of the shorter ones, they asked me to move to one of the chairs, Julia walked in and sat down right next to me, took my hand and asked me my name. Cooking for Madeleine Kamman’s 75th birthday dinner at Primo. Barbara Tropp walking my newborn twins back and forth through China Moon Cafe so I could eat a meal with both of my hands and have a conversation with my husband. Eating artichokes on the Amalfi Coast with Melissa Kelly, I could write a book on so many of these amazing opportunities.
Grown-Up S’More – Graham Cracker, Milk Chocolate, Marshmallow. Even I am rendered speechless in describing this ethereal chocolate indulgence. I highly recommend ordering it before your meal, heck who said sweets can be relished only after an entree? Another exemplary example of my admiration for Chef Blake’s ingenuity – each dish a balance of sweet and savory, textural interplay which I personally consider Chef Blake’s culinary fingerprint. Yes, even in a blind tasting setting, I will be able to identify Chef Blake’s dish.
Q: James Beard Nomination – What does this bring to you and your restaurant?
Chef Blake: A sense of being on the right track. That hard work and staying true to what I know is appreciated and recognized by my peers!
Q: How can we as Orlando residents elevate Orlando food culture and where do you think we are today?
Chef Blake: Support Local Chefs, eat out often, talk about what we are doing to change the world’s perception that we are just one great big theme park. Orlando is starting to hit her stride, more great chefs are collaborating to organize and sustain our amazing food system
Q: As a full time mom, how do you juggle being a chef, restaurateur, mother, friend?
Chef Blake: Maybe not quantity of time but quality of time. I stay present and focused. All four of my kids know they are first in my book! I love Facetime, it keeps me connected with my three older kids.
Its been said that the difference between a Good meal and a Great meal is that, with the former, you finish the meal thinking, “The Food was Good“. With a great meal, you can’t help but think, “Life is Good“.
When food is treated with the respect it so richly deserves, it becomes a way of life. Chef Blake’s undettered focus on seasonality and highest quality ingredients on a daily basis is a full circle farm to table experience. And that my dear friends, is where you can taste the difference!
Cheers to Rusty Spoon and to the next five years!!!