Honoring leading ladies of Orlando-area kitchens for Women’s History Month

7 female chefs make culinary magic in Central Florida’s restaurant scene

A cartoon cake crafted by Chef Jessica Bingham. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved)

ORLANDO, Fla. – National Women’s History Month is an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements, and it’s safe to say that food is an important part of any celebration.

Central Florida has a robust dining scene. So, fittingly, News 6 is recognizing seven chefs who have climbed the ranks at some well-known restaurants in the Orlando area.

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Chef Dee Rolle, Executive Chef of The Edison

She’s worked in the restaurant industry for over 20 years, but for Chef Dee Rolle, she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t preparing meals.

“My grandmother had a great influence on this as well by showing me how to make something out of nothing and using simple flavors to help make a meal so special,” Rolle said. “This is a simple rule I go by now and take pride in.”

Originally from The Bahamas, Rolle said the most rewarding part is being able to share her culture in a different way and have others enjoy the meals they get before them.

Chef Rolle is known for putting a Caribbean twist on American delicacies. Her flavors are featured on the menu at The Edison, located within Town Center at Disney Springs.

Chef Dee, Executive Chef of The Edison (Photo Credit: Patina Restaurant Group) (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved)

Chef Maria Sanchez, Pastry Chef de Partie at Caribe Royale Orlando

Getting paid to play with chocolate can be considered a dream job. For Chef Maria Sanchez, it’s a reality.

The Colombian native has spent nearly 10 years in the restaurant industry and says having creative freedom is her favorite part about being a chef.

“I’ve always enjoyed baking and being creative and becoming a pastry chef was definitely a path that would allow me to do both,” Sanchez said.

Chef Sanchez is also a chocolatier at Caribe Royale Orlando. One of her most notable contributions was part of the resort’s 2022 Holiday Wonderland Display.

Chef Maria Sanchez, Pastry Chef de Partie at Caribe Royale Orlando (Photo Credit: Caribe Royale Orlando) (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved)

Chef Jessica Bingham, Assistant Pastry Chef at Caribe Royale Orlando

Once Chef Jessica Bingham set her mind on cake, she knew that was her career.

“I love it because I can share my art with everybody,” said Bingham.

For the Orlando native, her niche for baking can be traced back to her Easy-Bake Oven days during her youth. Today, she is putting together celebration centerpieces at Caribe Royale Orlando and is even known as the “Couture Cake Queen.”

Bingham is always keeping up with the latest baking trends, like the cartoon cake. Some of her bakes can even have a touch of inspiration from her family.

Chef Jessica Bingham, Assistant Pastry Chef at Caribe Royale Orlando (Photo Credit: Caribe Royale Orlando) (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved)

Chef Crystal Dion, Sous Chef in Training at Maria & Enzo’s

Food can easily provide a sense of nostalgia or sentimental quality, and for Chef Crystal Dion, it’s what she cherishes most about her job.

“Being able to see and hear about people’s fond memories and know that my dish gave them something back was in the end why I wanted to be a chef, to be able to unlock fond memories that people may have forgotten,” Dion said.

Cooking at a Disney World restaurant allows for Dion to see many guests enjoy her food.

Along with being a sous chef in training, Dion calls herself an emerging culinarian. You can sample her dishes at Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante at Disney Springs.

Chef Crystal Dion, Sous Chef in Training at Maria & Enzo’s (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved)

Chef Nanako Lugo, Sous Chef at Morimoto Asia

Learning how to cook is something often taught by a family member. For Chef Nanako Lugo, cooking is a family business.

“My father was a chef, so I grew up watching the passion he had to create delicious meals day after day and it inspired me to follow in his steps to create meals that bring others joy,” Lugo said.

Originally from Japan, Lugo has worked in the food serve industry for over 15 years. She is the sous chef at Morimoto Asia and works alongside Japanese Master Chef Maraharu Morimoto. The Disney Springs restaurant specializes in Asian dishes such as ribs, sushi and Peking duck.

Chef Nanako Lugo, Sous Chef at Morimoto Asia (Photo Credit: Patina Restaurant Group) (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved)

Chef Romina Wagener, Pastry Chef at Space 220 Restaurant

At Space 220, EPCOT guests feel as though they are dining among the stars, and the menu itself is out of this world.

One of the creative minds leading the pastry team is Chef Romina Wagener.

“It started from curiosity. When Le Cordon Bleu open their first school in the Americas, it was in Peru. I enrolled, dropping my studies of journalism, but when I started working in restaurants, I fell in love with the satisfaction and feeling of having the customers enjoy the food I prepared for them.”

Wagener’s favorite part of the job is being able to develop new recipes and to experiment.

Chef Romina Wagener, Pastry Chef at Space 220 Restaurant (Photo Credit: Patina Restaurant Group) (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved)

Chef Beyla Garcia, Sous Chef at Jaleo

At the age of 20, Chef Beyla Garcia didn’t know how to cook, not even how to fry an egg. However, growing up in a household with parents who oversaw a cooking school in Venezuela gradually helped to inspire Garcia to get into the kitchen more.

“In the industry, you see a lot of male chefs, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It is a role for anyone that has discipline and a good work ethic,” said Garcia. “You don’t need to think that the odds are against you because you are a female. You just need to show up each day and put in the work.”

Seven years into the restaurant industry, Garcia works as the sous chef at Jaleo at Disney Springs.

Chef Beyla Garcia, Sous Chef at Jaleo (Photo Credit: Jaleo by Jose Andres) (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved)

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About the Author:

Haley is a producer at News 6 and has been with News 6 since October 2014. She's a graduate of Indiana University with a Bachelors of Arts degree in journalism. She specializes in lifestyle writing and volunteers for Canine Companions for Independence.