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Interview with Chef Nathan Hardin – Highball and Harvest at Ritz Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes

Nathan Hardin was recently appointed Chef de Cuisine of Highball & Harvest at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, a restaurant praised for its Low Country-style cuisine featuring ingredients from local purveyors and the resort’s 18,000-sqaure-foot Whisper Creek Farm.

A Tampa-native and graduate of the Culinary Arts from the Art Institute of Tampa, Chef Hardin will bring his experience and expertise in Southern inspired cooking to Highball & Harvest. Most recently, he was Executive Sous Chef at the award-winning restaurant Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami Beach, where he worked with two-Michelin-starred Chef Danny Grant, and prior to that at Copperfish Grill and Oyster Bar in Tampa. At both restaurants he successfully led teams of more than 30 staff in the production of high-quality, exceptional local and seasonal specialty dishes. His earlier experience includes four years as Sous Chef and Head Line Cook at J Alexanders in Tampa.

Here is our recent interview with Chef Nathan Hardin as he assumes the position of Chef De Cuisine for Highball & Harvest.

Photo by Michelle Valle, Grande Lakes Orlando Resort


What are some changes that may come to Highball and Harvest under your leadership?

As a chef you always want to show respect to those who precede you, I don’t want to walk into a new establishment and tear the menu apart, instead I will continue to enhance the flavors and concepts of the current dishes. Yes of course, I will add a few of my own dishes, but that will come in due time. As of right now, I want to really utilize the amazing ingredients that we have growing in our farm. I have yet to have this sort of opportunity to truly be self-sustainable.

Please say you are keeping the Parker Rolls?

I figured this question was going to be of concern. Of course the parker rolls will stay on the menu. To me they are a reason in and of itself to come back to the restaurant. I would love to play with the accoutrements that come with the rolls, though. Switch them up with the seasons and what we can grow, and/or source locally.


Any favorite dishes on the menu now?

I must say, there is one dish that stands out, it would have to be the beet and goat cheese salad. Such a classic dish, that I think Mark Jeffers really did justice to. Roasted beets, with pickled candy cane beets, and a puree of golden beets. Is it necessary to put three variations of beets on one plate, no, but that’s what makes it. To top it off, spiced pecans, marinated hearts of palm, and goat cheese. Magic!

What are some popular dishes at the restaurant now?

The most popular dish is our Booker’s Skirt Steak. The steak is marinated for 24 hours, grilled, and then accompanied with a potato puree, grilled corn + arugula salad, and a charred onion vinaigrette. Right before the dish goes out, we shave a small amount of Winter Park Tomme cheese. This cheese is the perfect garnish for the dish, slightly acidic, and it just melts over the dish.

Booker's Skirt Steak
Booker’s Skirt Steak

How is Orlando so far compared to Miami and Tampa?

I wasn’t exactly sold on the city prior to actually visiting, and getting to know the people here. Now that I’m getting a little more familiar with the areas, I’m infatuated. So many great nooks and crannies to search out and enjoy. I definitely look forward to immersing myself in the food scene in the Winter Park and Mills 50 district. Feel free to send me any recommendations, I’m always hungry.

What do you do when you are not at the restaurant ?

I love to golf. It’s exactly the opposite of being in the kitchen, the other end of the spectrum. I am lucky to have a few friends from back home in Tampa, that are always willing to make the drive across the state to come play the immaculate courses in the Orlando area. I think it’s the peace and quiet that surrounds you on the course. The fact that before every shot, you know there won’t be a ticket ringing in. Just silence.

What are some great lessons that you have learned in the kitchen before coming to Highball and Harvest?

How long do you have?

If there was only enough time in the day. I guess I’ll just share one. Possibly the most important one. Short and concise conversations. Too many words, people get confused and lose interest, too few and you’re unclear with your intentions. Communication is what makes or breaks a team. If there’s a lack of communication in any facet of the kitchen we have issues. Whether it be someone walking behind you with a hot pan, or an item that has to be 86’d from the menu, or an allergy from a guest, these are all things that come back to communication. These conversations are what really allow us to thrive and give our guests the best possible experience.

Highball & Harvest

4012 Central Florida Pkwy, Orlando, FL 32837, United States
+1 407-393-4422

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