August 9, 2020


The Next Winning Recipe?

A series of concepts has sputtered, and Darden is taking extra caution as it expands a new, healthy-eating chain of restaurants.

Amy Keller | 11/1/2007

Clifford Pleau moves about briskly as he hands out grades and critiques in his culinary class. His classroom is a kitchen in the Orlando offices of the Seasons 52 restaurant chain. His students are the executive chefs and general managers from the seven existing restaurants in the chain — the new “polished casual” concept that Orlando-based Darden Restaurants plans to expand in the next two years. As executive chef and director of culinary development, Pleau will be responsible for developing a new seasonal menu four times a year. Today, he’s teaching the autumn menu.

MAN FOR ALL SEASONS: Clifford Pleau, Seasons 52 director of culinary development, serves up entrées at Orlando’s Seasons 52. [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]
One team’s snapper curry needs a little more color, Pleau says. He shows the next duo how to stack the salmon salad higher and fan out colorful elements on the plate so the portions appear larger. Pleau’s students have two days to learn how to expertly prepare and present items ranging from the pan-seared snapper in spicy curry sauce to a cedar plank-roasted salmon. Once schooled, they’ll return to teach the chefs who work under them.

Season 52’s healthy-dining concept is uncharted terrain in the restaurant industry. And Darden has carefully considered everything from the restaurants’ design to the pricing of entrées.

Menus point out that no single entrée has more than 475 calories. There are no deep-fat fryers — most entrées and appetizers are grilled or roasted over oak or mesquite fires.

Sleek and modern, Seasons 52 interiors feature mahogany woodwork, high ceilings and a warm feel. The restaurant aims to offer service akin to that of a four-star restaurant, but with lower prices.

Entrées range from $10.75 for a barbecue grilled chicken salad to $24.95 for a six-ounce char-crust filet mignon. The wine list features 140 selections, with 70 varieties available by the glass. Tables are designed to provide 17½ inches of arm room for customers, instead of the 15 inches in most restaurants.

“There is nothing done inside this concept that is chance. The attention to detail is second to none,” says Seasons 52 President Stephen Judge.

IN SEASON: Seasons 52 President Stephen Judge: “There is nothing done inside this concept that is chance.” [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]

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