Grilled In a Minute: Cory York
Julie Mautner / February 4th, 2013
Born and raised in Brookhaven, Mississippi, Cory York is chef de cuisine at Deep Blu Seafood Grille in the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek. Since the hotel and restaurant opened in September 2011, York has been hauling in impressive accolades for sustainable, pristinely fresh seafood. The 165 seat restaurant, with another 65 seats in the lounge, serves dinner only, with checks averaging around $60.
York knew early on that he “wanted to explore the world through food.” He began his culinary career as saucier in a French bistro in Brookhaven at age 16, then went on to the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts (Pittsburgh), graduating in 1997.
Then it was off to Hawaii, for jobs at Roy Yamaguchi’s restaurant in the Hilton at Waikoloa Village, Roy's Waikoloa Bar & Grill, and the Koa House Grill in Wiamea. In Hawaii, York began a major love affair with all types of fish and seafood…and with the nuances of Pan Asian spicing.
Back on the mainland, York put his seafood expertise to good use as exec chef at the Oceanaire Seafood Room (Charlotte, NC) and the Nantucket Seafood Grill (Greenville, SC), where he was a partner as well as exec chef.
It’s hard to imagine Wyndham having found anyone better qualified to run their signature seafood restaurant Deep Blu. Indeed the accolades came quickly after opening: York was named Best Chef in Orlando (Orlando magazine Readers Choice Awards, May 2012) while, in the same awards, Deep Blu won Best New Restaurant, Best Hotel Restaurant, Best Seafood, and Best Appetizer (for York’s crab cake).
Other honors? York was recently asked by the College of DuPage (Illinois) to participate in its Visiting Chef Series and produce a seven course wine-pairing menu for 130 VIPs. The event took place at the school’s newly renovated Culinary Institute in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and a scholarship was dedicated in his name.
Meanwhile, York’s early enthusiasm for exploring the world through food hasn’t dimmed. He recently received a diploma from Escuela Internacional de Cocina in Valladolid, Spain, where he was trained in modern cuisine and the history of tapas.
York and his wife, Mickelle, live in Wekiva Springs, Florida.
What was your family’s approach to food when you were a child?
Harvesting from the land; grow it or hunt it was our motto.
At what age did you start cooking?
I started cooking at 16, but I didn’t know if I had what it takes to become a true chef. The word is used very loosely in this industry. I still try every day to become better in my profession and to help my line cooks to be better than I was.
What story does your cuisine tell?
It’s the road that I’ve traveled, the influences of every person I’ve worked beside over the years.
What aspect of the business do you love the most?
The freedom to create.
And what’s your least favorite part of your job?
Missing cherished time away from my family.
What’s the one thing in your kitchen you couldn’t live without?
What’s your favorite comfort food?
I love a greasy hamburger.
Where will your next foodie trip be and why?
I hope to return to Spain, to eat in the coastal cities of the Mediterranean.
What's the worst thing you ever saw happen in a kitchen?
I saw a line cook step into a hot fryer while trying to remove the hood vents.
Were you ever fired from any job?
Yes! I was working at Roy’s on the Big Island of Hawaii. I had no vehicle or actual living arrangement when I first arrived, so getting to work on time was a challenge. My plan of hitchhiking back and forth was working at first, until one day there were no compassionate people driving my way! Reliable transportation was the issue.
What one character trait is most responsible for your success?
Being able to lead and being able to follow.
If you could drink just one wine for the rest of your life, what would it be?
2009 Protos Verdejo. I had the opportunity to experience this great Spanish wine while in Valladolid, Spain, studying at Escuela Internacional de Cocina. The light crisp acidity of the Verdejo grape is perfect for Spanish influenced cuisine. Any time you have the opportunity to meet a winemaker and hear his story makes the product that much sweeter!
What’s one thing your customers do that makes you nuts?
Show up late for reservations. Punctuality is very important in our industry!
What's the best advice you ever received?
KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid! This helps me not over-think my dishes. (Thanks, chef Wade Wiestling! I worked with him at the Oceanaire Seafood Room.)
And your best advice for a young cook just starting out?
Knowledge, speed, and dedication are the building blocks for any young chef.
What would your employees say is your biggest strength and your biggest weakness?
Strength? Execution. I work the line every night…you have to inspect what you expect! Weakness? I slightly freak out when I feel the quality of food or service is not up to our standards.
What's your biggest worry these days?
That the restaurant industry will be overtaken by large companies who put numbers before quality of food and training.
Professional goal or fantasy not yet attained?
One day I hope to have a Michelin star.
If not this, then what? Meaning what would you be doing if not cooking/running restaurants?
I would have been a fisherman.
If you were to close your restaurant today, what would you do tomorrow? Next month? Next year?
Sleep…and then start over!