orlando, florida – Elliott Hillis has thought a lot about noodles.
“(Noodles) are a vehicle for so many options,” said the chef. “Just like there are countless combinations of pizza toppings, you can create noodles with countless ingredients. It can be hot noodles, it can be spicy, it can be creamy, it can be a combination of all of them.”
Hillis recently launched a new noodle-focused venture with longtime collaborator Seth Parker. The pair now operate a pop-up restaurant under the name Red Panda Noodles.
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“I am thrilled to have this blank canvas, deeply and richly bound by history,” said Hillis.
Red Panda may be new to Orlando’s dining scene, but Hillis and Parker are not. The pair have worked together at several restaurants in town for years.
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“I really wanted to open another restaurant, but I ended up at Orlando Meets,” Hillis said. “[We]did it for five years, but now we decided to leave and took most of the people with us. ”
Hillis said that even when he was working at Orlando Meets, he and Parker had already done workshops on the idea of red pandas.
“Seth and I did a workshop about five years ago,” says Hillis. “We were looking for a name that hinted at authenticity without being explicit and expressed a certain amount of playfulness.”
The chef describes the red panda as approachable, affordable, yet high quality.
“We want to get serious about our craft,” he said.
Hillis said he and Parker have different perspectives when it comes to approaching food.
“I had no formal education and Seth went to culinary school, which I didn’t. I started at Dishpit and just did what I loved,” Hillis said. “I literally just bought thousands of dollars’ worth of books and studied them, and I was like, ‘Okay, let’s read this, I’ll watch as much as I can.’ I’m going to learn from everyone.” I changed restaurants every two years or so to make sure I was learning, so I had a wide variety of perspectives on things.”
That willingness to learn has led Hillis to some very unique culinary situations, including running a kitchen along the Grand Canyon.
“I have this little cabin (near the kitchen) and I had to check the windows in the morning before I left because I left to go to the kitchen like it was dawn. I made sure there weren’t any deer outside.” I had to make sure…it would kill you,” he said. Now it was a really fun experience. ”
In the latest episode of Florida Foodie, Hillis talks about noodles. He also talks about his approach to creating new dishes and how he and his partners are expanding the business.
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Florida Foodie is a bi-weekly podcast by WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what and how we eat and how it affects everyone here in Florida and everywhere.Find new episodes apple podcast, A place to download stitchers or your favorite podcasts. You can also see Florida Foodie Always News 6+.
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