Behind the Scenes at Boxi Park
When entering Boxi Park, one thing is clear: This isn’t your typical outdoor dining and entertainment space.
From the live music on stage to the beach volleyball and the tantalizing aromas from each of the 12 dining concepts, Boxi Park is a place where the whole family can find something delightful.
Located in the Lake Nona Town Center, Boxi Park is made up of repurposed shipping containers, each with their own menu of food and beverage options, as well as beach volleyball courts, a children’s playground and off leash dog park. Hanging at Boxi Park means never having the same experience twice, and that includes meals too. The options are always changing.
The man behind the menus is Chef John Fahey, executive chef at Boxi Park. He sat down with us to answer some of our burning questions about how these shipping containers work as full-service dining experiences and the unique experience guests can expect at Boxi Park.
When you first heard about the concept for Boxi Park, what challenges came to mind and how did you solve for them?
Speed, execution and maintaining the level of hospitality that we’re committed to at Tavistock Restaurant Collection. These containers are set up as typical “quick-service” dining counters, but the level of service and the quality of the food should be on par with anything you’d see at one of our other full-service restaurants, and that was a challenge.
How does the preparation and plating of the food work?
It’s both a challenge and an opportunity because not every container has all of the equipment you’d have in a regular restaurant kitchen, so we had to be creative and think critically about what menu items we could execute and would work well for each concept.
We use the sous vide method of cooking — where ingredients are cooked in a water bath at a constant temperature in a vacuum-sealed bag — is our best friend because it can hold food at a certain temperature for a long time without sacrificing the quality. Technology has really helped us create new processes that deliver the best product to the guest in the quickest time possible.
What’s unique about the way guests experience dining at Boxi Park?
The biggest difference is that the cooks are the ones interacting with the guests, instead of having separate front-of-house and back-of-house staff. Open kitchens are nothing new, but it’s not common to have the people cooking your food as the ones also taking orders and presenting your food when it’s ready. There is actual cooking going on in these containers, too. Our chefs make the sauces and salsas during their prep, all our burgers and chicken sandwiches are made to order. It’s really like running 12 food trucks at one time, just without the wheels.
What dishes are you particularly proud of at Boxi Park?
The lobster fries from Claw & Order is the dish that has the biggest following on Instagram, so that’s a must. The mac ‘n cheese and the nachos are phenomenal as well. The events and festivals that we have here at Boxi Park afford us an awesome opportunity to create new dishes to surprise and delight our guests. For our Caribbean festival, we’re having fun developing some Jamaican-style jerk chicken, braised oxtail and beef patties that will really wow our guests.
These events give us a chance to be creative and try new things, and that’s what keeps it exciting for our staff. We’re limited with space, so we’re constantly being challenged to break down barriers and innovate when it comes to new ideas for dishes. It keeps things fresh, and our staff is integral in the development and execution of every dish.
What are some of the techniques and concepts you’ve brought from your fine dining background to Boxi Park?
The main thing is the consistency of product and the level of service. Whether you’re in a fine dining restaurant or a casual concept, it’s paramount that those fundamentals of excellence “from Google to ‘goodbye’” remain in place. That’s something I really stress here, that even though we’re in a casual environment, that shouldn’t affect how the guest feels when they’re here. We’ve also implemented many cooking techniques that higher-end establishments use to help maintain quality and speed at the same time.
The freshness of our ingredients and the respect with which we treat those ingredients is something to which we’re really committed. We use local ingredients whenever possible. Our honey is local, our truffles are sourced from a local company, our beef is from Florida, our tortillas are made in Orlando, and we source our seafood from Bar Harbor Seafood, which has an incredible selection of the freshest seafood from Florida’s waters.
Boxi Park is open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.