Located in a rather desolate corner of Alafaya and Colonial Drive, ‘Kesh restaurant serves up an intriguing menu of sandwiches and flavors with an international flair, truly a hidden gem.
A visit to ‘Kesh, right next to the Orange County DMV, is like playing a game of food roulette. You literally never know what to expect – the menu changes daily, dependent on the whim and creativity of Chef Jerry Helminski.
The shop is sparse, with a layout similar to a deli – which it may have been in a previous time – with Chef Jerry manning most of the make-shift open kitchen area and doing his best to serve up creative street food dishes.
The dishes, though humble in name, are full of flavor and have a certain finesse to them, thanks to the culinary training of the chef.
The menu, sandwiches, shakes, and snacks – always changing
Chicago style Dog
Yakiniku beef sliders at Kesh
Chef Jerry grew up on the west side of Chicago, though starting out in architecture, after some jobs in the restaurant industry and becoming intrigued, began apprenticing at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in California and working in some of America’s most renowned resorts and hotel kitchens in Chicago, Atlanta, Orlando, Houston, and Amelia Island.
For more than 20 years, his passion has been driven by one simple rule: “Learn something new every day.” His love for learning and mentoring, in addition to being part of 5 hotel openings, has sharpened and broadened Jerry’s general management competencies, as well as his restaurant concept development skills.
Jerry has cooked for world leaders, dignitaries and celebrities including US President, George Bush Sr., the Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, Mayors of Galveston, Lyda Ann Thomas and Joe Jaworski, actor Anthony Hopkins, singer Rod Stewart, radio personality and voice actor, Casey Kasem, Astronaut and US Senator, John Glenn, hosted former WWF professional wrestling heavy weight champion, Hulk Hogan’s daughter’s birthday party, among others.
Jerry has also promoted the culinary trade through fund raising efforts since 1992 with the homeless and hunger relief organization Share Our Strengths. He is a member of the American Culinary Federation.
We talked with Chef Jerry about ‘Kesh and his inspirations.
Where does the name ‘Kesh come from?
The name ‘Kesh is short for Marrakesh, from the city in Morocco. My wife is from Morocco and we have been several times. In particular the marketplace there is an unbelievable experience…Jemaa el-Fna. While I don’t always have Moroccan dishes on the menu I am inspired by the excitement the memories of my time there.
What are some of your favorite food memories?
My favorite food memories are all family moments from the Christmas dinners with my family to my first dinner in Morocco with my wife’s family.
Tell us about the inspiration for the menu at Kesh – it is very diverse with elements from Asia to Africa.
The inspiration for the menu at ‘Kesh comes from all my travels. I love recreating classic ethnic dishes as well as putting my own spin on those dishes. Street food from all cultures is where I start and most times what I find at the markets and food supplies takes me the rest of the way…lately a lot of the menu comes from suggestions and what I call challenges from my regulars. For example, one regular asked me if I make good crabs cakes? Challenge accepted…lol.
How did the Supper Clubs start? What can guests look forward to?
Supper Club was an idea I always had planned, based on my food memories as I mentioned above…(dinner at the table with family and friends.) However, it took a spin when again customers wanted to see me do more than “sandwiches”. I did not want to compromise what I started with as far as menu prices. So I adjusted the Supper Club to be a little more upscale than originally intended. But never pretentious.
Guests can expect as I like to say at the start of the dinner…”good food, good friends and good music.” And sometimes bad dancing by me. .(have to be at the Supper Club to see that…lol)
Through out your career, do you have any special moments that you have had that you’d like to share?
The fondest memories I have from looking at my career so far would be my time spent working with my mentor Chef Bernd Mueller at three different hotels…Marriott, Gaylord Palms & Omni. He taught me more than I could ever explain. The best moments where working side by side with him at the Croc’s pool grill at the Omni with three other cooks in a kitchen designed for one cook…lol
Where would you go on your off days?
Days off now are spent spending time with my wife & son, going to my favorite Asian market JM on O.B.T. and Sushi take out from either Mikados or Suki Hanna.
This is kind of like asking who is your favorite child, but … what is your favorite dish and why?
Being raised in Chicago my heart will always have a place for a good steak (very rare) and Chicago style hot dogs. But I admit to having an unhealthy obsession for Asian food…Sushi, Spicy Thai Food and traditional Chinese food (mostly made at home as most Chinese restaurants food is too “Americanized” hence why I Love going to JM Oriental Market. The owner always gives me fun things to cook with. Got some black mushrooms, fermented black beans & dried shaved black fungus!
On every other Saturday, check out the Kesh Saturday Supper Club and enjoy a 4 to 6-course tasting menu delicately prepared by Chef Jerry Helminski. With dishes in the past have ranged from Maple-Sake Cured Salmon Belly to Prawns braised in sweet and sour sauce, you’ll never know what to expect.
Pre-dinner canapés will be served from 7:30 – 8:00 p.m.
First dinner course is served at 8:00 p.m.
$41 per person (includes pre-dinner canapés, 4 to 6-course tasting menu and paired beverages).
$72 per couple (includes pre-dinner canapés, 4 to 6-course tasting menu and paired beverages).
Group discounts available for parties of 4 or more.
Dress code: resort casual.
No children under 12, please.
Seating is limited so reservations are required.
Please call 407.203.0801 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Friday.