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I came from modest beginnings, although I never realized it.

We always had the best of everything, in abundance. Born and raised a proud Floridian in Ocala; a small cracker town, surrounded by all the wonders; sunny, beachy, Florida had to offer. Hunting, fishing, foraging, gardening, sharing are my family traditions and the memories of my childhood. I didn’t realize how special my agrarian, hunter-gatherer upbringing was, until I moved away from home.

My father an avid fisherman, and encyclopedia of nature; always had a garden. Outside of the dead heat of mid-summer, our family feasted on fresh seasonal produce and shared the rest. Our neighbors and friends enthusiastically accepted baskets of sun kissed produce, home baked desserts, or an invitation to share a weekend meal. I apprenticed with two grandmothers; one born and raised during the Great Depression, she prepared everything from scratch, rarely using a recipe, just her senses, muscle memory, and instinct. Proud to be her “official” helper from the time I could stand in a chair, at the counter; connecting with ingredients involved all five senses. She taught me my greatest lessons in life and career, encouraging me to exploit my senses and trust my instincts. The other walked right out of the pages of Southern Living Magazine; teaching me the beauty of a perfectly prepared meal, against a backdrop of homemade flower arrangements and a beautifully set table. Whether a holiday meal or a dish for church potluck it was always “done right” not a single detail was missed.

Each turn of the season brought a new culinary delight; fall was hunting season, game like deer and wild boar had a prime location at holiday meals next to the honey baked ham and green bean casserole. Spring, brought the annual trek to Plant City for the Strawberry Festival, a precursor to blueberry season, where local farms allowed you to pick until you were literally, blue in the face. My family was cool, before farm to table was cool.

Giorgio’s on Hillview is my opportunity to share, my traditions and showcase the flavors of my life, and travels, with ingredients that are reminiscent of my organic upbringing. I truly believe in supporting community farmers and local producers; they take great pride and care in what they do, they harvested their crops when ripe, care for the land in which they sow, and preserve the traditions of their families and because of that, their goods usually taste better.

Please friends, be my guest, this is my home, and my family; enjoy your meal and help us in sharing and preserving the best our region has to offer.  

—Chef Rebekah