Chef Tomas Vallejo is popularly situated as one of Florida’s culinary stars. With two highly successful restaurants and a martini lounge already under his belt, Vallejo’s entrepreneurial spirit and culinary imagination have earned him praise from restaurant reviewers, guests and entrepreneurs alike.
Growing up in a restaurant-centered family (his father managed the Coach and Paddock supper club in Ocala until the late 1980s), it’s no surprise that Tomas channeled his energies in a similar direction. A Florida native, he was raised in Ocala and graduated from Vanguard High School in 1981. At age 18, immediately after graduation, he opened his first restaurant in Live Oak, serving Southern-style food. From there, he moved on to another local venue, Horsefeathers. It didn’t take Tomas long to see untapped potential —mainly adding catering, banquets and live entertainment to the 300 seat facility — so he decided to go out on a limb and present a business plan to the owners. Within one year, the new concept, Bumpers, was bumping with success. Business and profits soared by more than 250 percent in two years. When the owners sold the business, Tomas took it as a sign to expand his culinary wings.
The following 25 years have been punctuated with similar success, mostly due to Tomas’ innate desire to learn and grown. Indeed, not one to rest on his laurels, Tomas chose to align himself with other restaurant visionaries in an effort to hone his culinary craft and business acumen. His stellar career trajectory has embedded himself under such luminaries as Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin), Chris Wing (Keystone Ranch) and Wolfgang Puck in Denver, Colorado. At long last, when his parents asked if he’d be interested in returning to Ocala to go into partnership on a fine dining type restaurant, he took them up on the offer — The Copper Pot opened in July 2004.
At The Copper Pot, Tomas introduced his special brand of cuisine, which layers textures and flavors in artistically presented dishes. The popularity of The Copper Pot –and, indeed, Tomas himself— earned him one of the highest possible Zagat ratings, putting The Copper Pot among the top-four restaurants in the Marion County area. At The Copper Pot, Tomas earned accolades from OCALA Magazine including Best New Restaurant and Best New Chef, the Star Banner and the coveted Pewter Platter — to name a few.
Recently, The Copper Pot — always in tune with popular tastes— realized an unanswered need in the Marion County market. In 2005, Tomas launched an upscale martini lounge next door to The Copper Pot-Ocala location. Warm and sensual, the lounge’s onyx bar top and imported rice paper wall coverings invite relaxation and intimate conversation. The lounge has quickly become a popular destination, appealing to a broader audience in Ocala and surrounding towns. Then, in 2006, looking to carry The Copper Pot culinary theme to a larger venue, Tomas opened the much-anticipated second location in The Villages. This 200-plus-seat restaurant, features Tomas’ creative American signature style in an atmosphere that is warm and lively.
For 2007-2008, Tomas plans include expanding his business to include Home Meal Replacement as well as a take-out gourmet retail shop. He also produces a line of gourmet products under The Copper Pot brand name.
Beyond his numerous culinary accolades, Tomas is very involved in philanthropic activities, which include a vast number of national and international charities. Closest to his heart are children’s charities, however he also feels a calling to mentor aspiring culinarians. Since 2005, Tomas has partnered with the Marion Technical Institute hosting monthly dinners for High School students, creating a practical externship program as well as underwriting annual fund raising dinners for the school’s culinary program.
Chef Vallejo received his A.S in Business Administration from Webster College in 1985. He resides in Ocala, FL.
Trilogy Restaurant, Denver, CO 01/94 – 12/01
Manager / Chef
Responsible for running and start-up activities during the facility’s initial planning. Restaurant seating capacity for 180, Lounge 75, and Banquet Facilities of 300 with off site Catering and Bake Shop. Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Catering and Room Service. Increased business by more than 300%.
Keystone Conference Center, Keystone, CO 06/92 – 04/93
Four Diamond Resort Convention Hall serving banquets from 5 to 1,500 with off premise catering, averaging 20 functions per day with annual sales of $5.5 million. Promoted to increase the quality and presentation of plates and displays. Ran 8.5 – 11% kitchen labor and 23 – 28% food cost. Trained CIA, JW and Scotts Dale Culinary externs every 6 months.
Keystone Ranch, Keystone, CO 01/90 – 06/92
Four Diamond, Fine dining restaurant rated in top 10 in the state. Also rated in top 10 by Di Rona. Responsibilities included menu writing, specs, weddings, banquet functions, Ralston Purina VIP parties, station schematics, purchasing, receiving, accounting, payroll, P&L’s and yearly budget forecasts. Responsible for bringing projections under budget. A 10.5% labor and 29% food cost. First year to show actual profit.
Brick City Café, Ocala, FL 06/88 – 11/89
Manager / Chef
Responsible for start-up activities during the facility’s initial planning. French style Bistro seating 75 with open air dining. Established and sold for 180% profit.
Horsefeathers/Bumpers, Ocala, FL 08/84 – 04/88
Seating 300, serving lunch, dinner, banquets, catering and live entertainment. Responsible for name change and new concept. Increased business and profits by more than 250% from start up until 04/88 when owners sold business. Ran a 17% payroll, 27% food and 17% beverage cost.
Consulting & Franchise Services
Adams Mark Hotel Big Boys BBQ Brassarie La Coze
Café de Antonio’s Captains Table Cheers
Cheese Cake Factory Coach n Paddock Einstein Bros Bagels
Einsteins Atlanta Forest Trails Georgia Grill
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JB’s Monkey Bar Jean Barns Joey’s Steak House
Keystone Main Kitchen Ski Tip Marriott International
Mirage Café Nichols BBQ O’Neal Brothers
Our Friends Place Pernices Peter Dinkles
Preferred Chef’s of Atlanta Red Lobster Rent a Chef
Road House Grill Saguaro Grill & Cantina Scandals
The Den at Fox Hollow Country Club Stage Stop SSS Country Club