Welcome to the very first “People Pulse” feature of 2019…and actually first since we relaunched the site late last year! We’re thrilled to present to you James Emerson and the culinary adventure he calls Eating Orlando. We think it’s so important to continue to highlight and support folks who are doing really cool things in the Central Florida arena, so…thanks!
Q: What brought you to Orlando, and how long have you lived here?
A: I’ve lived in the Orlando area my whole life, except for my years at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Q: You’re a fan of food, obviously. Why a blog?
A: I am a fan of food. I’m also a fan of writing (journalism degree here). One day I decided to combine two of my passions and Eating Orlando was born.
Q: Your site is coming up on 10 years. Can you believe it? Any plans to celebrate being around a decade?
A: I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since I first put finger to keyboard and brought Eating Orlando to life. There’s been quite a few changes to the Orlando food scene since then. Food trucks have invaded. Celebrity chefs have invaded. More chains have invaded. But there’s also been a shift toward eating local and supporting local restaurants. All in all, there’s been a change for the better. Thinking back, 2009 seems like such an innocent time. Twitter was just starting out. Trump was just a reality TV star. There was no such thing as a cronut. The craziest thing you could get from a food truck was a taco. And all you could get delivered was a pizza. I am planning a big celebration later this year to celebrate 10 years. Look for some exciting give-aways from local restaurants and some guests posts from interesting people across Central Florida.
Q: I’ve been following you for quite some time on Social Media. How do you grow your audience?
A: I’ve grown my audience by being genuine and honest in my reviews and the information I put out there. I’ve tended to focus on restaurants and food that the average person enjoys, leaving the fancy joints to other bloggers. I think my audience relates to my Average Joe take on the Orlando food scene.
Q: If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what would you be doing?
A: I guess I would be eating and writing (just not together). Besides the blog, I also own a franchise development company called NEXT Franchise Systems here in Orlando that identifies up-and-coming brands and helps them to franchise. Some of the local restaurants that I’ve helped to become franchises include Porkie’s Original BBQ, Ray’s Fish & Chips, The Crepe Company and Kona Dog. It’s exciting to see locally-based concepts branch out and bring a taste of Orlando to other cities.
Q: What is one of the things people most often misunderstand about the food scene in Orlando/Central Florida?
A: Most locals know there are two food scenes in Orlando: The tourist corridor and the local Orlando scene. The two rarely meet, but they should. I get questions from visitors coming to Orlando from around the world asking me to recommend a good local place close to Disney. I wish I could. It’s my hope that more restauranteurs will open close to the parks to spread the message that Orlando isn’t a food wasteland and that good, quality food exists here in Orlando. The opening of The Polite Pig at Disney Springs is a good start.
Q: What’s one thing you love most about living in Orlando/Central Florida?
A: Orlando is blessed to be in the south, so you can get great southern food at many restaurants. Good BBQ, too. But Orlando is also blessed to be a tourist destination, with fine dining establishments at greater density than would normally be found in a city our size. It’s the best of both worlds. The international influence is also strong in the area, and that helps make Orlando a unique dining destination.
Q: Is there something you’d love to see come or develop in Orlando as it relates to food?
A: I would love to see more locally-sourced food on restaurant tables in Orlando. I would love to see more support for locally-owned restaurants. I would like to see more Orlando-based concepts make it big and open locations outside Central Florida. But I would also love to see In-N-Out Burger open here too. So there’s that.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
A: In my spare time I enjoy hiking Central Florida’s many trails and hitting the gym to try to work off all the food I have to eat for my job. I’m a big Orlando Magic and Orlando City supporter, so you’ll often see me at those games. I also enjoy binge watching old Star Trek episodes on Hulu and binge reading James Bond novels.
Q: What is one thing you hope to achieve in the coming year of 2019?
A: I’ve got a lot of plans for 2019. Two of the biggest: I’m moving the blog to a new server and expanding content offerings — look for that in the first quarter. I’m also currently editing season 2 of the Eating Orlando channel on YouTube. That will be launching soon. Oops, that’s two things.
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