Chef Omar Torres, H2O Grill and Bonsai Sushi Bar
H20 Grill and Bonsai Sushi Bar, Pensacola Beach, FL.
Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Chef Torres’ family boasts Italian roots giving him a broad range of culinary inspiration. He warmly recalls childhood memories where fresh food was the focus of many family gatherings. His grandfather was well known for his charcuterie boards with accompaniments of homemade vinegars and jams – perhaps it was these experiences that beckoned Chef Torres to pursue a career in the culinary field.
The inception of Chef Torres’ journey began in Orlando, where he quickly became immersed in the local food scene. As a cook for the Hard Rock Café® Orlando, he soon promoted to banquet chef and found himself in the company of numerous celebrities. Opportunities to share his skills with prestigious venues including the Amway Center and The Orlando Arena – home to the NBA’s Orlando Magic – soon came to pass.
Feeling right at home with the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, Chef Torres trained under several nationally recognized and distinguished chefs, including Melissa Kelly, Mark Beaupre, and George Fistrovich. With such a strong culinary background, he became the recipient of a competitive award presented by the American Culinary Federation.
Like many parents, Chef Torres relishes time spent preparing meals alongside his three children in their family kitchen. “I enjoy continuing my father’s tradition – sharing meals prepared by the entire family,” he states. Chef Torres is currently teaching his children about the art of handmade pasta, a practice he finds calming.
One of the things he finds most appealing about our local community is the readily available farm-to-table offerings. “I enjoy surfing and relaxing on the beach, but you travel a little north, and there are farms everywhere,” he explains. Having easily obtainable garden-fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs from local sources is appealing to a chef who emphasizes fresh foods and flavors.
Whether Chef Omar Torres is whipping up a fresh plate of Mofongo – a traditional Puerto Rican mashed and fried plantain dish – or a hearty serving of Pastelón – a lasagna dish using plantains instead of pasta – he enjoys honoring his culture and culinary traditions. Using fresh ingredients, supporting local farms, and preparing recipes with sublime flavor are but a few talents he brings to our sandy shore.
Food Photography by Emily Veal