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St. Pete Pier restaurant names familiar face as new top chef


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  • | 3:45 p.m. March 27, 2024
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Felicia Lacalle of Tampa has been promoted to executive chef at Teak of St. Pete's pier.
Felicia Lacalle of Tampa has been promoted to executive chef at Teak of St. Pete's pier.
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Teak restaurant, located on the fourth floor of the St. Pete Pier, has officially announced that Felicia Lacalle is the executive chef after a year working there. 

Teak officials say they have let Lacalle revamp the menu and that they are excited to have her expertise in Cuban food. Teak serves seafood, Cuban food and modern American cuisine.

"We are excited to bring her Cuban flair to the cuisine," says Heather Lorenz, a spokesperson for The Birchwood, a St. Pete umbrella company of boutique brands such as Birch & Vine, in a release. 

Lacalle claims cooking is "in her blood" thanks to learning her skills from her mother, says Lorenz. Her background includes long-term stints at Tampa eateries, including serving as the executive sous and regional pastry chef at Roy's, as well as executive chef at Samba Room.

Lorenz says Lacalle became widely known when she debuted her first restaurant, Hemingway’s (later renamed Kuba Cocina), inside the historic Armature Works in downtown Tampa. Lacalle's eatery quickly became popular "by bringing her bold and vibrant flavors to the plate," Lorenz says.

"Among other signature dishes like her homemade chicharrones and dulce de leche cake, and she became particularly famous for her Cuban sandwich, which won first place for 'Best Historic Cuban Sandwich' at the Cuban Sandwich Festival," says Lorenz. 

After leaving in March 2021, Lacalle opened Kuba en la Playa on St. Pete Beach.

But Lacalle was ready to get back to where she felt most comfortable: in the kitchen, not the office, Lorenz says.

"There's so much to stay on top of when you're running a business, and it made me lose sight of what I love the most, and that's to create truly delicious food for people," says Lacalle in a news release. "I mean food so good it elicits audible gasps after each bite, that's why I do what I do."

A Tampa native, with family ties to Cuba and Mexico, Lacalle was hired by Teak's owner, Birchwood properties, because the company's overall executive chef trusted her to run the Teak kitchen.

Teak opened in July 2020 during COVID-19 but succeeded anyway. A big reason, Lorenz says, are the food and view from the fourth floor of the pier.

"We are such a premier destination in St. Pete," says Lorenz. "Everyone has seen a view of the sun setting over the beach. It's very rare to see the sun set over the St. Pete city skyline."

This story was updated to reflect that Lacalle wasn't promoted, but instead she was hired in the executive chef role. Story was also updated to reflect the correct spelling of Birch & Vine.

 

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