News & Events

In The Garden With Freddie Gentile

Chef Freddie Gentile graduated from The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) A.C.E class in New York and has been cooking professionally now for over 15 years. He has worked at some of America’s most beloved restaurants including Gramercy Tavern (under chef Michael Anthony) and Betony (under Chef Bryce Shuman).

1. How/when did you develop a passion for gardening?

I have always been interested in gardening. When I started at Rococo, they had a small garden that I was able to “take over” and it slowly became a passion project of mine.

From a chef’s standpoint, I have found that it is sometimes easier to grow better quality produce that we can typically buy.”

2. Can you tell us more about the garden at Rococo? How do you make best use of your space?

Our dedicated garden area at Rococo is relatively small so I tend to get very creative with the space. I have found that using a shelving rotation system with two sets of shelves works best. The new seedlings are on the bottom shelf while the ready to use plants are on top. Once the bottom seedlings begin to sprout, we have usually already used up most of the product on the top shelf.

3. What are you growing in Rococo’s garden? Which is your favorite plant to grow?

Mainly microgreens, different herbs and a lot of edible flowers.  My personal favorite is a Nasturtium – they’re easy to grow, beautiful and the entire plant is edible.

4. How are the plants from the garden incorporated into Rococo’s dishes?

We use flowers and microgreens to garnish and finish most plates.  The herbs are also incorporated into a lot our recipes and seasoning. For example, we use whole basil leaves in the cracker for our Beef Tartare appetizer.

5. Will the change in weather as we head into Spring impact the garden?

With springtime around the corner we expect our garden to become self-sufficient. We are almost there now.

6. Can you share one gardening secret that people can use for their garden at home?

No secrets – a lot of attention, love and care.  I typically spend at least thirty minutes a day in the garden: watering, looking and tasting.  I start to think about how I can use some of the herbs in new dishes for the upcoming menu.

2020: The Year of New Wedding Traditions

By: Audrey Grounds

2020 has been a year of uncertainties and upset expectations, which has forced everyone to evaluate every aspect of their life, work and play, but the wedding and events industry is one sector that I have seen disrupted first hand. I have witnessed so many disappointed brides push back their wedding two to three times until they finally just cancel and go to the courthouse to get married.

That being said, 2020 has also been a year of perseverance, creativity and understanding for engaged couples while planning their wedding. At Rococo, we have enjoyed working with our brides to see all the creative ways in which they have embraced this year of COVID-19 along with all the new regulations and mandates. Some of our favorite items and ideas…

  • “Stay safe” welcome baskets as guests arrive into town
  • Sanitizing or hand washing stations at the wedding for increased cleanliness
  • Customized masks for guests and posing with them to commemorate this year
  • Social distance wrist bands (an extremely popular trend) in which the guests choose a colored band to demonstrate their level of comfort with interaction. For instance, a greenwrist band represents “let’s hug it out” while a red wrist band could represent “stay six feet away.”
  • Drive-in and tailgate weddings: Brides are surprising us with innovative wedding ideas, such as drive-in and tailgate weddings, to provide enhanced safety measures for themselves and guests with a more socially distanced concept.
  • Brides have gone beyond just a live streamed wedding and have created multi-day weddings (breaking up the guest list between various events) or shift weddings (where the guest list is broken up by time periods). By breaking up these large weddings, the couple actually is able to spend more time with their guests than they would at a regular wedding.

With smaller, more intimate (micro) weddings becoming the new trend, couples have been able to truly soak in their first moments of being a married couple with those they love and cherish most. Smaller guests lists have led to reduced stress, upgrades in food and beverage packages and adding additional details to their evening such musicians, photo booths, horse drawn carriages or yachts due to an increase in budget availabilty.

If you were to ask me my favorite part of 2020 weddings, it would be seeing the newlyweds glow on thier wedding day once all their weeks/months of changed plans are more perfect than they could ever have imagined.

I look forward to meeting all of our future brides!


Meet Sous Chef Chris Kent

Chris Kent’s passion for cooking began at a young age while helping his grandmother in the kitchen. The Florida native considers his first kitchen job to be peeling garlic for their family salad every night and making his grandmother’s favorite dinnertime cocktail, scotch on the rocks. Growing up, Kent always knew he wanted to become a chef. When asked in school, he always replied “a chief.” He was 6 at the time and spelling wasn’t his strong suit. 

Kent ended up choosing to attend a community college in Gainesville to study journalism and child psychology, where soon after, he transferred to a culinary program in Saint Augustine where he was able to pursue his love for cooking and began work at A1A Aleworks. Five years later, he moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where he worked at Bella Brava and helped opened Stillwater Tavern as sous chef under Chef Jeffrey Jew. Kent believes that change is a good thing and is needed for continued growth in his career. He was ready to take on his next challenge which landed him here at Rococo Steak. 

1.When did your passion for food and cooking begin? What led you to a career at Rococo?

My passion for cooking began around the age of 8, I have very fond memories of spending time with my grandmother and grandfather in their kitchen preparing our family meals.

I was attracted to Rococo because of the level of professionalism from the management and staff.  I was looking for a challenge and a place to learn and grow.  We make all our food from scratch and the menu is constantly evolving, it’s definitely challenging.  There is great skill and attention to detail in all the plates.  I knew immediately it would be a fit.


2. In a restaurant, how important is the relationship between the executive chef and the sous chef?

The relationship between Sous and Executive Chef is absolutely crucial, we work together to deliver meaningful memories through the food we create.  Chef Jordan and I have a great relationship and that might differ from other restaurants.  We work together to help create the culinary vision at Rococo and I am proud of that.


3. Is there a food that you secretly dislike?

If there’s a food I secretly dislike, it would have to be salmon. Although I enjoy it smoked, I can’t eat it any other way. I still try it every now and then just to be sure, but yep, I still don’t like it.


4. What food trends are you seeing today, and which are you most excited by?

I’ve always enjoyed simple food and flavors along with a simple but beautiful plate. I believe a lot of chefs tend to over complicate dishes.  Simplicity is a trend I’m excited to see.


5. If you had to recommend one dish on Rococo’s menu, what would it be and why?

If you were a first-time guest at Rococo I would say you must start with our crab cake. In my opinion, it’s better than any crab cake I’ve had in Maryland. I’ve been. I’ve seen. I’ve tried.

I am also a huge fan of our 10oz Angus Filet, cooked medium rare, with what is the best creamed spinach. A definite must. It’s simple comfort food that transports me back to a wonderful place.

Rococo Steak Visits Wine Country

Written by: Dave Madera, Director of Operations

Last month, Rococo’s General Manager Kevin and myself spent a few days traveling the Napa Valley meeting with winemakers and tasting their wines. This was my seventh trip out to Napa and Kevin’s first. When I looked over and saw Kevin’s face in amazement as we drove past each winery, it reminded me of my first trip. Beyond our obvious passion for wine, no words can truly express the beauty and vast scenery when you’re out there.


Our trip began with visiting Cornerstone Cellars, Opus One Winery and T-Vine Winery. Two boutique wineries and one that is quite possibly one of the most recognized wines in the world [ Opus One ]. One of the wineries had even hosted an event for the Chinese Government the week prior.

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The next day, our first winery was none other than Philip Togni Vineyard. We drove our little Nissan Solaris 2,000 feet up Spring Mountain to a small locked gate with no sign, just an old piece of wood with the address on it. The wines were jaw dropping.

After, we were off to a private lunch with Michael Honig, the President of Honig Vineyard and Winery. I’ve known Michael for almost 15 years now and have always been a fan of his wines.  The fact that we got to sit down with a winery owner and actually talk like friends and not clients, is always an amazing treat.

As we continued our journey for the day, we got to meet and taste with Luc Morlet, who in my opinion, is one of the best winemakers in California! Luc shared amazing stories with us which included the way he first got his start in the winemaking business, to where he is now. The wines we were able to taste and experience were unbelievable and unlike any I have tasted before. Sometimes words can’t describe how good something is and well, when it comes to Morlet wines, that is exactly the case.

Our final stop of the day was with Rich, the owner of Canard Wines. Hearing the stories of when he purchased the vineyards in 1982 and how he received a personal phone call from Robert Mondavi, really just blew our minds. Oh yeah, he also invited us into his private cellar to taste whatever we wanted and let’s just say, sometimes our jobs have perks!

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Tuesday started with a 9am tasting at Staglin. Though drinking wine at 9 am is not the most common, we were able to receive a more personal and hands-on experience learning the incredible history and community impact this vineyard has been a part of. They have raised over 400 million for mental health research and are continuing to grow this number every day.

Next stop was Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma, one of the areas most respected producers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. What else is there to say besides we got to taste exactly why they deserve the respect and reputation they have obtained.

We ended the day in Diamond Mountain’s Checkerboard Vineyards. This place was so immaculate, you could eat off the floors. Kevin and I both agreed that these were our favorite wines of the trip. These wines are very expensive and extremely hard to get. All of them tasted like a silky mocha covered rose petal and could only be described in one word. Sexy.

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Our last day of the trip started out at Wheeler Farms Winery tasting Tor. Getting a tour around the facility and seeing wine making equipment that costs as much as a Bentley –  yeah that’s right – it shows how every dollar that is made from their wine goes directly back into the winery.

We then went down to Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards. Tasting nine wines in a cave and hearing the stories on how Todd Anderson was one of the pioneers of the Napa Valley in the 80’s was truly humbling. It also doesn’t hurt when they open a $1000 bottle of Ghost Horse for us to taste. I am excited to announce that this wine will be coming to Rococo very soon!

Last stop was with 2012 winemaker of the year Aaron Pott. I truly felt like this guy was one of us. He was dressed like he was going skateboarding and gave us a tour of his vineyards. After, we sat in his house on top of Mt. Veeder and tasted some of his best wines. Some of which he only makes 25 cases of. It felt like three friends hanging out, tasting amazing wines and talking about life.

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Even though this was my seventh trip to wine country, it is my favorite so far. From the wines to the company to the scenery, nothing compares.

Keep an eye out for our Somm Selection sheet at Rococo as we will be featuring some special pricing on some of the wineries we visited.


David Madera

What You Should Order For Sunday Brunch Based On Your Foodie Personality

Live your brunch life on Sundays at Rococo Steak! Executive Chef Jordan Buendia has created a brunch menu that goes beyond just benedicts. With so many tempting options, we understand it can be hard to choose what you want to try. Lucky for you, we’ve come up with a list of recommendations based on your foodie personality for the next time you’re stuck on what to order.

For the Traditionalist: Pork Belly Eggs Benedict

If you’re a traditionalist, you like to stick with what you know. Your eye probably gravitates to the classics, and it doesn’t get much more classic than eggs benedict. Our Pork Belly Eggs Benedict takes all the components of a traditional eggs benedict: homemade biscuits, soft eggs and hollandaise. To add unbelievable flavor, we add a heaping of juicy pork belly.

Recommended cocktail pairing: We recommend you pair this dish with our Loaded Bloody Mary, garnished with applewood bacon, celery and blue cheese olives.


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For the Health Nut: Avocado Toast

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring, and our Avocado Toast is anything but dull. Topped with heirloom tomatoes, arugula and a drizzle of EVOO, this nutritious dish is served on multigrain bread to provide you with long lasting energy. Wanting some extra protein? Add a soft egg for just $2.

Recommended cocktail pairing: Did you know champagne is one of the lowest calorie alcoholic drinks? Try a glass of the Laurent-Perrier to keep your brunch light.

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For the Sweet Tooth: Raisin Pecan French Toast

If sweets are your weakness, you must try our Raisin Pecan French Toast. Any restaurant can master a standard french toast, but here at Rococo, we take it up a few notches. We use a cinnamon raisin swirl bread with pecans that add a little surprising crunch to eat bite. Make sure to top it off with some warm cinnamon apple compote for a touch of fruity sweetness.

Recommended cocktail pairing: Our Kentucky Wake Up Call, made with coffee infused Old Forester, is the perfect pairing for this delectable dish.

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For the Adventurist: Bacon Flight

For some people, eating out is an exciting opportunity to try new things and broaden your palate. To those that are looking for that experience, we recommend you try our Bacon Flight featuring three different types of bacon: nueske, boar and duck. This dish is served with the finishing touches of jalapeno maple syrup and a toasted baguette.

Recommended cocktail pairing: Try the Rupert Holmes Breakfast make with Brugal rum, pineapple and OJ, toasted coconut and maple to complete your brunch experience.

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For the Visual Eater: Watermelon Salad

Food that looks good is just as important, if not more, than food that tastes good. Our Watermelon Salad will not only attract your eyes, but satisfy your stomach! A medley of unique ingredients including crispy pork belly, arugula, radish, pickled watermelon rind and feta cheese are dressed with a pomegranate vinaigrette and come together to create a refreshing dish that’s also picture worthy.

Recommended cocktail pairing: Pair this salad with glass of Saint Cosme Syrah. The deep flavors of this red wine will compliment the pork belly to make it the perfect match.

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Visit Rococo Steak for brunch on Sundays from 11 am – 3 pm. Reservations are recommended.

Meet Sous Chef Donald Burnett

Chef Donald “Donny” Burnett began cooking as a little boy at the apron strings of his grandmother. His impressive resume spans from heralded restaurants in the Tampa Bay Area to serving as a personal chef to working as a restaurant consultant across the East Coast. He is always searching for fresh, local ingredients to use at Rococo, and his inimitable style is recognized for its determined approach to the food he creates.

Chef Donny credits his 98 year old grandmother, Miss Charlotte as his path to his career and his wife, Sara-Ellen, as his muse.

  1. When did you decide to become a chef? 

“I knew I wanted to become a chef at an early age while cooking and spending time with my Grandmother in the kitchen.  It just made the most the sense to me.”

  1. What do you love most about your job and why?

“The opportunity to make guests happy. To see the happiness on people’s faces after they’ve eaten. Knowing I put that smile on their face is what it’s all about.”

  1. How do you and Executive Chef Jordan work together to create new menu items at Rococo?

“Having vastly different backgrounds is quite beneficial for us. It allows both of us to cohesively utilize our creativity to present the most unique, creative and colorful dishes that we are both proud to serve to our guests.”

  1. What’s one ingredient you couldn’t live without?

“Salt. Both cooking and finishing salts are essential to my process, as it really opens up the flavor profiles. Pepper changes, salt enhances.”

5. What is a good piece of advice to up-and-coming chefs?

“Have a deep passion and energy for what you do every day. Work hard, stay humble.”

Sous Chef Donald Burnett

Meet Rococo Steak’s Executive Chef, Jordan Buendia

Jordan Buendia, Rococo Steak’s Executive Chef, has been with Rococo since the very beginning. In 2013, Chef Jordan moved from the Florida Panhandle to Saint Petersburg. Starting as line cook, he worked his way up to sous chef and then was promoted to executive chef. Having been in the restaurant industry for over 20 years, Jordan is continually refining his skills and techniques to innovate the recipes that are prepared. His attention to detail, open-mindedness to new ideas and passion for cooking shine through in the decadent, unique dishes offered at Rococo Steak.

  1. When did your love for cooking begin?

“I was born in the Philippines and came to the United States at age five.  I started cooking at a very young age to help my mom cook for my six siblings.  All my love and inspiration for cooking comes from my mom.”

  1. Which dish that is currently on your menu are you most proud of at Rococo?

“I am most proud of the lobster bisque.  It’s soup, seems like a simple recipe, but it’s not. I have spent countless hours perfecting this soup.  It is very delicate and takes patience and precise timing.  It’s one of the most popular items on the menu and we consistently receive accolades for our lobster bisque.”

  1. What do you love most about being a Chef?

“It’s hard to pin this to just one thing because I am so passionate about the entire process.  It’s receiving fresh food in the morning, the controlled chaos, the sound fish makes when its being seared in a hot sauté pan and the beautiful aroma of an aged piece of meat cooking in the broiler.  Every night you test your limits with your team, you become uniquely bonded to them.  I love learning from my team and sharing my passion for cooking with them. This industry, more than others, has an amazing sense of community.”

  1. Is there a chef you admire most? Who and why?

“I would have to say Martin Yan. I remember as a kid watching his show, Yan Can Cook.  As he was cooking, he would tell stories about the dish he was making and always made his audience laugh. He made cooking fun.  His fast and skillful knife cuts with a cleaver always amazed me.  His motto was, “If Yan can cook, so can you”.”


Spring Time excitement at Rococo Steak

We are getting ready for some very exciting changes to our menus at Rococo Steak. All our menus will be changing to reflect the new spring season and we couldn’t be more excited to share them with you.

Here are just a few examples of what’s to come.

  • Chef Jordan and team are putting the finishing touches on some new items that will be coming to our food menu. New salads, appetizers and new Chef’s Favorites. There will be something for all to enjoy. Please stay tuned for more news on our upcoming new menu.
  • Our Wine Director, Will Howard has been able to taste some wines that are quite honestly, out of this world. We will be changing up our by the glass list with new sparkling wines, new white wines that should be married to our beautiful oysters.  A more diversified selection of red wines that will offer our guests a wider selection of varietals from different regions and flavor profiles. Will has also added some incredibly rare wines to our bottle list. Some of these wines are so hard to get that some people try for years to get their hands on them. Wines such as Morlet, Italics, Rhys, Littorai are just a few producers that we have added to our inventory. Please ask for Will and ask him about our new wine friends, he will be more than happy to share them with you.
  • Our Bar crowd is growing each day. If you have already visited our bar, you might have seen some of our funky concoctions that we craft. Our “Smoke” cocktail, which is our old fashioned with a maple syrup lardon bacon ice cube then smoked with apple wood chips has been an amazing hit with our bourbon guests. The “St. Pete Fog” cocktail has Tequila, Aperol and Ruby Red Grapefruit placed upon a bowl of fresh herbs then hit with dry ice is a cocktail that hits all your senses.  It is a cocktail that you absolutely must take a picture of. Well, we are not stopping there.
  • This spring be on the lookout for the following:
    • Gin and Tonic for Two – We take a coffee siphon and make our own “Bathtub Gin”. In the bottom bowl we place Vodka. In the top bowl we place botanicals (peppercorn/rosemary/thyme/lemon and grapefruit rind/juniper berries). Using a small burner we then heat the bottom, causing the pressure from the heat to make the vodka rise into the top bowl, infusing for several minutes with the botanicals. As it cools, the infused vodka (AKA Bathtub Gin) drains back into the bottom bowl. We then add a little dry ice to instantly cool down the hot Gin and pour it over two large lime and tonic ice cubes. Sound cool? We think so.
    • Cappelletti Watermelon Spritz –We take fresh watermelon and infuse it with Cappelletti (An Italian Wine Based Aperitif) and freeze until slush-like ice. Then place the infused watermelon into a mixing glass and add the gin. Shake and pour into a glass of choice. Top with sparkling wine. 

So, these are just a few things that Rococo Steak is getting ready for the upcoming Spring season. Hopefully we have made your mouth water just a bit.


Classified Growth Bordeaux Wine Dinner

Recently, Rococo Steak hosted an exclusive wine dinner to unveil some of its beautifully aged wines, including a 1977 Mouton Rothschild. The intimate atmosphere coupled with a personal talk with Jean-Sebastien Calvet, the renowned owner of Aquatine Imports which specializes in Bordeaux wines. The dinner also included five decadent courses exceptionally paired with seven different wines including a 1977 Mouton Rothschild. The Classified Growth Bordeaux Wine Dinner emphasized the distinctions among the Classified Growth categories within the Bordeaux region.

The wines featured included Chateau La Freynelle, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon/Muscadelle, Entre-Deux-Mers; Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal, 2006, Cinquieme Cru, Pauillac; Chateau Branaire-Ducru, 2006, Quatriemes Cru, Saint-Julien; Chateau Malescot-St. Exupery, 2006, Troisemes Cru, Margaux; Chateau Montrose, 2006, Deuxiemes Cru, Saint Estephe and finished with the 1977 Mouton Rothschild.

The incredible lineup of wine was exquisitely paired with five courses created by our Executive Chef Matthew Rainey.

With wine flowing and decadent dishes from the kitchen, it was truly an incredible evening.

Holiday excitement at Rococo Steak

One of my true passions in life is getting to try amazing food and wine. Chef Matthew Rainey is getting ready to unveil our fall menu.  Our sommelier, Will Howard and I have been working on the wine list and getting it ready for its next evolution. We are also changing the Sommelier Selection sheet to showcase some of our vintage wines as well as some of the rarest and most sought-after wines in all of California, at an amazing discount. We are calling it our ‘Old and New Friends’ list. For example – wines such as 1977 and 1979 Mouton Rothschild for $400, which you can’t even find online for that price. How about California? Ever hear of Mithra, Staglin and Amuse Bouche wines? Well honestly, most people have not and that’s because they sell out so quickly, it’s almost impossible to get them. Rococo will be featuring these wines plus many more for the upcoming fall season. Please visit Rococo Steak and try our new menu, ask for Will Howard, our wine Sommelier, he will be happy to answer all of your questions about our wines.

— Dave Madera, Director of Operations