All the dishes on the Festival de Fresas menu feature strawberries from Southern Hill Farms, located in Clermont, Florida, just southwest of Orlando. Southern Hill Farms is a family owned and operated u-pick and commercially harvested blueberry, strawberry, peach and seasonal vegetable farm. They currently have 40 acres of blueberry bushes, five acres of peaches, 15 acres of strawberries and one acre of blooming sunflowers on the 120-acre farm, open for u-pick December-May.
Tasty Chomps Interview with Jaleo Disney Springs’ Head Chef Kristopher Anderson
Ricky Ly: Tell us about your background – how did you end up in Orlando?
Chef Kristopher Anderson: Growing up I never wanted to be a chef. It wasn’t until I received my first job in the kitchen at 16 — just as a way to make money over the summer — that I considered it.
Fast forward two years, and it was time for me to go off to college. I really excelled in the kitchen, and I enjoyed going to work more than I enjoyed going to school. I was always afraid to tell my parents that I wanted to be a chef. They wanted me to go the traditional route of going to college and focusing on a degree. I met them halfway.
I ended up attending Le Corden Bleu College of Culinary Arts here in Orlando, and that’s pretty much how my career started. I worked at Emeril Lagasse’s Tchoup Chop for four years. This is where I held my first sous chef position in 2015. Emerils eventually closed in 2017. I had a small stint at Seito Sushi in Baldwin Park before José Andrés Group called me in 2018, to help open Jaleo Disney Springs.
In 2021, I opened Jaleo Chicago as the Executive Sous Chef, and then in March 2022, I headed back down to Disney to take on the role of Head Chef at Jaleo Disney Springs.
What is your inspiration behind this strawberry menu?
The inspiration behind the menu comes from a mindset of simplicity, where we try and let the product shine without adding too many different flavors to the actual product. We also want to pay homage to classic Spanish dishes, such as Fresas con Nata (strawberries and cream), which had a huge influence.
We know what José likes and how he treats the product. For the chefs and I, we always pay close attention to a few main points when creating dishes. First, we talk about the product. And with the strawberries from Southern Hills Farms, we didn’t have to do much to create beautiful dishes. Next, we think about Jaleo, our brand and making sure we are staying in the realm of José’s vision.
This doesn’t mean we can’t limit our creations, but we want to make sure what we are doing makes sense for our restaurant and guests. There are some dishes on the menu that are Jaleo classics and some where we stepped a little outside the box to create something new that works for our restaurant.
Tell us about Southern Hill Farms – Why is the relationship with Southern Hill Farms important?
At the end of 2022, the chef team and I talked about some goals that we had for 2023. One of the main points was getting more of the locals from Orlando to come and try our restaurant. Sometimes it’s hard to get people to come out to Disney from the other side of town. We are not a small restaurant.
And even doing things like a festival for two weeks takes a lot of prep. We are serving anywhere from 800 to 1,300 guests a day.
We want to show the local Orlando community that even though we are a big restaurant, we can still specialize in local ingredients and make special plates that are off our menu for guests to enjoy.
What are your upcoming plans for the menu in the future?
We have one of the biggest menu changes that this restaurant has ever seen coming at the end of March. We have over 10 new dishes coming to the menu. I am really excited about our Paellas also.
In the past, we offered only 1 paella and we plated it on a small plate. Now we will have 5 paellas readily available, and they will be ordered by the Full Pan. Each pan feeds six to eight people.
Guests will enjoy the real experience of enjoying the paella straight out of the pan. We have a lot of ideas and goals this year to get our name to the local crowd of Orlando, and we are excited!
Jaleo Disney Springs x Southern Hill Farms Strawberry Festival Menu
March 14th-26th, 2023
Sopa de Frutos Rojos ($12)
Cold soup of Southern Hill Farms berries with olive oil yogurt ice cream
Ensalada de Cerezas y Fresas ($14)
Salad with cherries, Southern Hill Farms Strawberries, goat cheese and Pedro Ximenez Reduction
Cono de Hígado de Pato y Mermelada de Fresas ($8)
A savory cone with Foie Gras Mousse and a strawberry marmalade made from the hand-picked strawberries at Southern Hill Farms
Tarta de Queso con Sorbete de Fresas ($16)
Our Basque-style cheesecake served with local strawberries from Southern Hill Farms
Fresas con Nata ($10)
A traditional Spanish dessert, “strawberries with cream”
Helado con Fresas y Vainilla ($6)
Vanilla soft serve with macerated strawberries
Gazpacho de Fresas ($10)
Cold soup with strawberries and “Pipirrana”
Jaleo Disney Springs
1482 E Buena Vista Dr, Orlando, FL 32830
Photos courtesy of Jaleo and @bytiffanynguyen