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Inside Look: A Refresh at Hemingway’s at Hyatt Grand Cypress Regency with Chef David Didzunas

Established in 1984, Hemingway’s is Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress’ signature restaurant drawing inspiration from the places and travels of the eponymous writer Ernest Hemingway – especially the flavors and aromas of Key West, Cuba and Spain.

The restaurant at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress recently underwent a renovation and refresh with a new sophisticated look and amenities, featuring a palette of grey and blue hues with golden accents, accentuated by the restaurant’s still stunning and gorgeous sunset and panoramic nighttime views of the Hyatt Grand Cypress’ private Lake Windsong.

One of my favorites on the menu is the coconut shrimp, a very unique rendition of the dish wrapped in shredded phyllo dough and served with a strawberry habanero chutney – divine! Tapas of the Sea – a sharing appetizer dish featuring Spanish Garlic Shrimp, Seared Scallops and Caviar, Octopus Ceviche, Salmon Beet Crudo was another standout. Along with the Deconstructed Lobster, Chilean Seabass, and the Cayo Hueso Crab Cake – these seafood dishes are sure to make any “Old Man” or woman happy.

Coconut Milk Marinated, wrapped in Shredded Phyllo, Strawberry Habañero Chutney, Pickled Mango

Hyatt’s global philosophy is “Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.” We spoke with Executive Chef David Didzunas about his almost 40 year career (beginning in 1981) with Hyatt Hotels as well as the recent changes at Hemingway’s. For the restaurant’s menu, Chef Didzunas stays in touch with the latest trends in food and wine by traveling to Spain, Italy and various parts of the U.S.

Deconstructed Whole Lobster, Saffron Potato Purée, Orange-Fennel Butter

Chef David Didzunas is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and he started his career with Hyatt Hotels in 1981 in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

From there, he held chef positions at properties in Dallas, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, and was executive sous chef for the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress and executive chef for the Hyatt Charlotte at Southpark in North Carolina. In 1997, he was appointed executive chef for Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport and returned to Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress as executive chef in late 2015.

Grilled Beef Tenderloin Steak and Lobster Tail, Horseradish Cheddar Cheese, Roasted Tomato Aioli, Bibb Lettuce, Squid Ink Sesame Bun, Shoestring Fries

Tasty Chomps: What are some of the biggest changes at Hemingway’s from the recent debut? What has stayed the same? 

Chef David Didzunas: The renovation of the dining room and bar are the most noticeable. With its blue and grey color palette, it’s comfortable, casual and relaxed.

We refocused our menu on the travels of Ernest Hemingway which lead us to Key West Florida, Cuba and Spain, these places inspire us with the flavors for our dishes.

Famous Recipe Crab Cakes, Congaree & Penn Purple Rice Grits,
Corn Salsa, Asparagus

Some menu items have stayed the same, such as the Cayo Hueso Crab Cakes, Duval Street Shrimp Scampi, and Calamari.  We changed up the accompaniments and presentations for a more modern updated feel, yet still kept the quality ingredients and recipes.

The physical layout is the same as it was, the individual rooms create an enjoyable dining experience, whether watching the sunset or overlooking the pool, each area has its own personality and feel, and many of our customers have their favorite spots that they request.

Grilled, Mojo Rojo, Mojo Verde, Pickled Mustard Seed

Why is now a good time for change at Hemingway’s? 

Right now is such a perfect time to debut a refreshed look and feel at Hemingway’s. Last year we finished our guest room refurbishment and in a few short weeks will be opening our brand new 25,000 sq. ft. Windsong Ballroom. We can’t wait to introduce Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress to all of our new customers and welcome back all our long-term guests.

Tell us more about the culinary team at Hemingway’s and their background

We have a team of seven with years of culinary service ranging from one year to over 25 years with Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.

All are passionate and driven by producing a consistent quality product every day.  Most importantly, they all care about each other as a team and for our guests.

For example, Sous Chef Ibis Lopez was born and raised in Humacao, Puerto Rico and was greatly influenced by his grandfather, a passionate home cook who grew his own fruits and vegetables, raised chickens and rabbits and handcrafted a variety of coconut desserts for which he became renowned in the east side of the island.

What are some of the most popular dishes at Hemingway’s right now on the new menu?

As far as starters go, the octopus, calamari, lamb chops and stuffed mushrooms are always moving fast. For entrees the Duval Street Shrimp Scampi, Bronzino, Scallops for the seafood and Vaca Brava, Ft. McCoy Grass Fed Ribeye are all very popular. And you can’t forget the Matador Burger.

Seared, Congaree and Penn Middlins Coconut Lime Rice, Baby Carrots,
Passion Fruit Butter Sauce (gf)

What are some of your personal favorite dishes on the new menu and why?

The Branzino for its simplicity and flavors; Chilean Sea Bass for its unique coconut lime rice and flavorful passion fruit butter sauce; the Vaca Brava for its high quality of 21-day dry age along with our Barbacoa butter and Patatas Bravas — this is our “Spanish influenced Steak Frites’.

Having worked at Hyatt over 35 years ago, what was it like in those first days when you were here in Orlando compared to now? How has the food culture from guests changed or stayed the same?

When I worked at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in 1988-89 as Executive Sous Chef, we were pretty much the only hotel in the Lake Buena Vista area, nothing much around at all like it is today. The food culture from our guests has stayed the same in some ways, always expecting great quality, consistency and something interesting.

Spanish Red Wine, Brandy, Fresh Fruit, Splash of Sparkling Water

What makes Hyatt a great company to work for all these years?

Hyatt gives us the opportunity to be creative, innovative and be the best leaders we can be. Our culture of caring so people can be there best is what drives us, along with treating our colleagues with dignity and respect every day.

“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.”
– Ernest Hemingway

Spanish Garlic Shrimp, Seared Scallops and Caviar, Octopus Ceviche, Salmon Beet Crudo serves 2-4 persons


Agostini Burrata Mozzarella, Arugula, Gazpacho Verde, Tomato, Toasted Pistachios, Toasted Crostini

Braised Short Rib, Tarragon and Boursin, topped with Au Jus (gf)

New York Strip Steak 12oz. 21 day dry aged, Grilled, Barbacoa Butter, Patatas Bravas

Florida Raised, 12 oz. Grass Fed, Duck Fat Confit Potato, Watercress Salad


Coconut-Almond Crust filled with Key Lime Custard, Coconut Sauce, Lace Tuile, Key Lime Meringue

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is located at One Grand Cypress Blvd., Orlando, Florida, 32836 with convenient access to Orlando International Airport and Interstate 4 off Exit 68 in Lake Buena Vista. For more information and reservations, call 407. 239.1234, visit and follow Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter at @HRGrandCypress and use #HemingwaysOrlando. Restaurant Hours: Nightly Dinner 6 to 10 p.m., Lounge: 5:30 to 10 p.m.

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