Member Spotlight: Soseki Omakase
Member Spotlight: Soseki Omakase
The only thing hotter than the Florida heat this week is Soseki Omakase, winner of Winter Park’s first and only Michelin Star. “This is our Oscar/Grammy night for chefs and restaurateurs,” says owner and chef Michael Collantes. “I always say, I didn’t win the award. It’s a collective of people. We have an amazing team, and everyone cares so much about their craft.” The world-renowned Michelin Guide reviewed the Orlando area for the first time this year, bestowing single stars to just four area restaurants, as well as Bib Gourmand and Recommends distinctions to a handful of other restaurants. “The community response has been incredible. Even the Filipino community is raving about it. I had no idea it would reach all the way there. From chefs around the world to our local community, it’s just a win for everyone. It’s a win for Orlando,” says Collantes, a Winter Park native. He and his team had hoped for a mention by Michelin, but were completely blown away to receive a star.”
The 10-seat restaurant has only been open for a year, so to receive this type of award is completely unheard of in the culinary world. “Looking back, it was kind of insane to open this high-end of a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic. But it was all about listening to the community. They wanted more elevated restaurants to go to,” says Collantes. Collantes’ background spans a very wide and extensive range from fine dining to fast casual. He’s worked with some of the best chefs in the world and credits two experiences in particular for helping with his success and shaping him.
“Joël Robechon, the three Michelin-star restaurant in Las Vegas, really set the foundation of what it means to be at this higher level of service and just expectations. It was the hardest kitchen I ever worked in, which makes it even more sweet when the executive chefs there text you and say they are crying with you. I’m proud to carry on their legacy and say hey, 'You guys produced a chef that can stand with you.’”
“I also give credit to Jennifer Carrol who was on the show "Top Chef." She taught me how to be a leader. We worked together at 10 Arts restaurant in Philadelphia, and she was a chef at Le Bernadin of New York, which has received more James Beard awards than any other restaurant in the world. Jen taught me to be creative. She let me lead her team, and I traveled with her for many years. She showed me what it means to showcase yourself well and with integrity,” says Collantes. “We cried on the phone together. She is my mentor, and I have so much respect for her.”
Omakase, which essentially mean’s chef’s choice, is a formal Japanese style sushi experience where diners sit at the chef’s table or sushi bar and taste multiple courses, carefully crafted by a master sushi chef. “You’re paying for the experience of being with the team and seeing the process of your food being made in front of you and learning about it. We geek out about the local fish that we’re getting and the local strawberries," says Collantes. "We have two-hour conversations at midnight when the guests leave, asking each other, ‘Did we serve the guests right? Should we tweak this?’ Even down to rehearsing the things we want to highlight, like the vendors and farmers. That is what makes it special. I found a group of individuals who live and breathe this. Our six-member team works six days a week. Any given night we get to showcase six to eight local purveyors, gardeners, designers, artisans, cheesemakers. That’s really where the story lies is with our close connections to our local purveyors and the quality they offer to us,” says Collantes. Being a native of Winter Park, Collantes feels such pride to represent his hometown so well. "I went to Winter Park High, Glenridge Middle School and Valencia College. I wouldn't have this restaurant anywhere else. It is a true dream come true. Winter Park is home to me. I am very very proud that we get to be the first Michelin star restaurant in Winter Park."
"Soseki's Michelin star is the most recent proof that Winter Park's dining scene is on fire. Having world-class restaurants in our small town is the best of both worlds," says Winter Park Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Betsy Gardner Eckbert. "Michelin’s recognition of 34 Orlando restaurants, including 4 starred venues, 7 Bib Gourmands, and 23 Recommended, confirms what we in the destination have known all along - that Orlando has an exceptional culinary community," said Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit Orlando. "Like so many industries in Orlando, our dining scene is fueled by creativity and ingenuity. This incredible news elevates Orlando’s entire culinary scene, and we congratulate the many Orlando restaurants recognized in this inaugural Florida selection by the Michelin Guide."
What's next for Collantes? Soseki’s sake bar/lounge next door is expected to open by the end of the year. Collante says to expect amazing sake classes in a small 20-seat setting, plus an à la carte menu.