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Inspired by South Florida’s reputation as a “culinary crossroads,” the Food Network officially opened its first casual restaurant and gourmet market in the nation Thursday at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Foodies and fans of the popular lifestyle network, magazine and website can now get their fix at the Food Network Kitchen in Terminal 3. And while you’re likely to catch celebrity chefs such as Guy Fieri and Paula Deen in action only on the restaurant’s TV monitors, it promises to deliver fresh fare created and inspired by chefs in its test kitchens.
“Our fans watch us and say ‘I want to taste that,’ so this is our first opportunity to feed them and to do it in a fun way,” said Sergei Kuharsky, Food Network’s general manager, new enterprises. “Our goal is to entertain, inform and inspire, that’s really what Food Network is about and we feel that we can do that here.”
The Food Network partnered with the airport’s terminal restaurant operator, Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services, to launch the new eatery, which is located post-security in Concourse F, where JetBlue Airways operates.
Delaware North officials said the area’s culinary variety coupled with tremendous support of airport, airline and concession partners helped to make Fort Lauderdale the ideal launch pad for Food Network Kitchen.
“There are a lot of different culinary trends that meet in Fort Lauderdale, so it makes sense to have it here,” said Delaware North President Matt King, referring to South American, Central American and Caribbean influences that converge here.
Combine that with Buffalo, N.Y.-based Delaware North’s nearly 100 years of culinary traditions and Food Network’s cooking influence — it reaches more than 100 million U.S. households — and you have the makings of a perfect recipe, for success that is.
“It’s a great marriage,” said King of the restaurant partnership. “This is the only place to taste and sample food that’s been created and prepared by Food Network chefs.”
The restaurant’s menu includes sandwich and salad entrees made with organic, local and sustainable ingredients, as well as snacks, beverages and baked goods sourced from South Florida companies.
The prices of the made-to-order sandwich entrees, including the Lauderdale Club Sandwich and Nos Cuban Sandwich, range from $10 to $14.
Among the Fort Lauderdale suppliers of baked goods are Gran Forno and We Take The Cake, according to Food Network.
The eatery’s bar will have a variety of beverages, including wine, craft beer and locally inspired libations such as Lansky’s Run made with Canadian Club Whiskey and freshly squeezed Florida grapefruit juice.
The Food Network Kitchen sports design elements of the New York test kitchens, and its TV monitors will showcase Food Network programming as well as cooking tips and factoids to inform patrons.
“It’s decidedly a behind-the-scenes reflection of Food Network,” said Charlie Granquist, Food Network’s director of culinary development.
So far, the new restaurant is generating buzz and long lines since it quietly opened in mid-October, airport officials said.
“It’s a great shot in the arm for our concessions program, and we look forward to its success,” Airport Director Kent George said.
A second Food Network Kitchen is planned for Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which should open in about a year, Delaware North officials said.
For sure, the Food Network name is catching travelers’ attention.
“I love the design and ambience,” said John Mims, an engineer from Austin, Texas, who paused to watch the ribbon-cutting festivities Thursday. “If it’s anything like the TV show I’ll be stopping here to grab a bite the next time I’m in the airport.”
(c)2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.