Edgardo Raúl Rodríguez didn’t always know he wanted to be a chef. In fact, the Puerto Rico native’s plan was to go to law school, but that dream changed shortly after he accepted a dishwashing job the summer before starting college. One fateful day, the kitchen was short staffed and Edgardo was called to fill in. Overnight, he began to develop a deep fascination for the high-pressure environment and work camaraderie of the kitchen. That curiosity stayed with Edgardo and led him to start cooking small meals around the home with his parents.
“I would cook simple dishes like mashed potatoes, but they would turn out better than what the recipe said. That made me a little more confident so I decided I wanted to go to culinary school.”
Not only was Edgardo a fast learner in the kitchen, one might even say cooking was in his blood! His grandmother was a well-known cook in Puerto Rico who sometimes received hundreds of weekly orders from people trying to purchase her meals. In a move that would surely make her proud, Edgardo attended a culinary school on the island and then the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Florida before starting his first real cooking job at a former Orlando restaurant named Blue Bistro. Two years later, Edgardo made his next career jump to The Ravenous Pig.
“That’s where I learned how to make everything from scratch and fine tune my crafts. I developed more of a passion and more of a respect for the ingredients. Buying whole animals, whole everything and using every single part of it.”
In 2008, two years later, Edgardo accepted his first offer to work at Vines Grille & Wine Bar. He served as Sous Chef for the award-winning steakhouse for three great years before departing to enter the world of fine dining at Wolfgang Puck. Just four months later, he returned to Vines Grille for another three years before accepting an offer from neighboring Eddie V’s. Two years after that, Edgardo made a career jump to Kokino Restaurant and then just 6 months later, his heart called him back to the job he had enjoyed the most. The restaurant that had always felt like home for a multitude of reasons.
“The purchasing power that we have here at Vines is a freedom that a lot of other people don’t get. I can buy the best of the best of anything. I’m proud to work here because we’re one of the only mom-and-pop restaurants on Dr. Phillips so we can do what the other guys can’t. They’re limited by corporate constraints and they can’t evolve like we have and be fluid like we can be.”
So what does the future hold for Executive Chef Edgardo Raúl and Vines Grille? Well for one, you can expect to see a lot more fusion dishes, more seafood and the start of a new dry aging program! Edgardo also looks forward to purchasing more organic products and ethically-treated animals.
“What I want to do here is bring back that level of exclusivity. Dishes we can make at any time that you can’t get anywhere else. A menu that we can change out whenever we want. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re rejuvenated. You’re going to get an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Edgardo has had many kitchen jobs over the years, but each of them has played an important role in helping him to become the exceptional chef he is today. From learning how to create new menus every day at Blue Bistro to making everything from scratch at The Ravenous Pig to understanding the fine-dining aspects of Eddie V’s and more—Edgardo has taken a little bit of knowledge from every restaurant and a little bit of technique from every chef he’s met along the way. Fortunately for patrons of Vines Grille, Edgardo is just as happy to have returned as we are to have him back.
Vines Grille & Wine Bar
7533 Sand Lake Rd. Orlando, FL 32819
Reservation #: 407.351.1227