Food And Drinks

Chef Mike Collantes builds a collective in Orlando’s food scene

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Chef Mike Collantes is optimistic about Orlando’s food scene.

“Everyone says the Orlando food is on the rise. Well, I’ll tell him it’s here.”

He is from central Florida and grew up in Winter Park and Orlando. As a teenager, he got his first taste of culinary work.

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“I always tell people that I started at Fashion Square Mall at Sbarro’s School of Pizzerias when I was 16,” said Collantes.

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His real culinary training began while attending school at Valencia College. That led to a career that took Collantes across the country – Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Hawaii, all of which became stops on his culinary journey. During this time he worked for celebrity chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, Joel Robuchon and his mentor Jennifer Carrol.

After all of this, Collantes decided to return to central Florida when he and his wife decided to expand their family. When they returned from Hawaii, Collantes found that the area had changed.

“Orlando got cool, I guess, while I was away. It got really cool … the industry, the restaurant scene and everything, ”he said.

Upon his return, Collantes opened Taglish in November 2019 in a Korean supermarket on the outskirts of Orlando. A few months later, the pandemic hit and presented the young restaurant with new challenges, including the fear of some to visit businesses run by Americans from Asia.

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“I wanted to sink or swim. We wanted to do anything and everything during that time, ”said Collantes. “You know, it’s unfortunate that the coronavirus comes from China. So in the beginning there was just a little scare tactics. But I think we were ahead when they all closed in March (because) we were already feeling the effects (of the loss of business) in February. It really helped us spin before the big hit. “

The chef hasn’t slowed down since then. He has opened two more restaurants – Soseki, a high-end Omakase concept in Winter Park, and Perla’s Pizza at The Thirsty Topher near Ivanhoe Village in Orlando – all part of his growing Taglish Collective brand. Perla’s Pizza was actually part of an effort to bring business back to Thirsty Topher after bars had to close a second time last summer due to the coronavirus.

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“(The Thirsty Topher) closed for six months. You had to bring people back and it was the only way to do that with food. So we opened a pizzeria with them. Probably from the handshake to the first pizza, less than a month and a half, ”said Collantes.

Despite all this, Collantes is not slowing down.

“We already have a few more restaurants in the works. We have about three new restaurants opening later this year. We just opened our test kitchen / media company called 86 Media, ”he said. “We’re taking a very untraditional approach to growing and that works well for us.”

With all this growth and expansion, Collantes has not forgotten the people who work for him. He works to provide access to mental health for his employees and to ensure they have the opportunity to grow in their careers.

“That is the collective. We are all working towards the same goal. And I’ve always asked these people: what is your dream scenario? Where are you trying to be And how do we balance what we’re trying to do with what you’re doing? ‘And if we are on the same path we will ultimately achieve the same goals, ”said Collantes. “And it may not be where you want to be now, but it’s somewhere we might see it in the future. We grew so fast because we started having people who just didn’t want to leave. We had to give them new opportunities. “

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At the latest Florida Foodie, Collantes talks about what he wants to achieve in Orlando’s food scene. He also talks about Filipino American culture and food, and how he hopes it will get more mainstream attention.

Please follow our Florida Foodie hosts on social media. You can find Candace Campos on Twitter and Facebook. Lisa Bell is also on Facebook and Twitter and you can read her children’s books “Norman the Watchful Gnome”.

Florida Foodie is a bi-weekly podcast by WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it, and the impact it has on us here in Florida and on everyone everywhere.

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Find new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or anywhere you download your favorite podcasts.

Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.

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Janet Smith