No one would be surprised if you rolled your eyes at all the things that cities are trying to pass off as their own these days: a signature bird, a signature weed, a signature mineral. The list goes on. Mostly, no one cares. Food is something everyone can get on board with, though, which is why most cities have their own signature dish. Orlando has one too, and any visit to our great city isn’t complete without giving it a try…if you can wrap your head around what it is and how it came to be.
In 2017, honey nougat glace took the spotlight as Orlando’s signature dish by official decree.
If you’ve lived your life in the city and never heard of honey nougat glace, you’d be quickly forgiven. That’s because the “signature dish” doesn’t necessarily have much to do with Orlando. It was awarded the title after a competition sponsored by Visit Orlando. Chef Catherine Delrieu decided to try her mouth-watering recipe for honey nougat glace, and the judges all agreed she was the winner.
She moved to Orlando from France a few years before the competition, and manufactured the dish to suit the American palate she encountered here, i.e. our penchant for overly sweet foods. In addition to honey, she made sure the dish provided a varied blend of different textures and flavors.
Honey was chosen as the most important ingredient before the competition began, because it represents a $27 million industry in the state of Florida. That amounts to about 17 millions pounds of the sweet, sticky goo. After the dish was awarded its spot in the history books, the president of Visit Orlando acknowledged that restaurants would be allowed to build on the recipe, serving their own unique interpretations of honey nougat glace.
But where did the need to find a signature dish even come from? According to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, she felt a twinge of inspiration during a trip to Philadelphia. They have the Philly cheesesteak. Why couldn’t Atlanta have something else to call its own?
Many have criticized the outcome of the competition, suggesting instead that the signature food should have included an ingredient that most people associate both with Florida and Orange County, like an orange.
Chefs, judges, and Mayor Teresa Jacobs all seem to have had one goal in mind as they set out to find Orlando’s signature dessert: transforming the city into a mecca for culinary expertise. When people think of New York City or Chicago, they think of pizza and hot dogs. Why shouldn’t they think of honey nougat glace when they think of Orlando?