Tampa Bay’s hottest chefs put their reputations on the line, and their culinary skills to the test, when they face off in a one-night-only fight for regional bragging rights during this year’s Tampa Bay Food Fight: Battle of the Bay.
Who will be toasted... and who will simply be toast?
The competition is definitely keen but in the end the real winners will be the recipients of the culinary scholarships that will be paid for by funds raised at this annual food event. This year’s goal is to enable 100 students to earn scholarships to enroll in the culinary arts program offered by Tampa’s Metropolitan Ministries.
Check out the chefs Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Armature Works. Team Tampa took home the honors last year but a review of all of the chef-testants from Tampa and St. Petersburg restaurants makes the odds look pretty even for teams from both sides of the bay.
Chefs will not know what they will be whipping up in front of the event’s crowds until they are on-site that evening. Each team member is allowed to bring a single secret ingredient of their choice in hopes that what they pick will provide the winning edge to their dish. Otherwise, ingredients must be sourced from a limited pantry that is provided and two proteins must be incorporated. With just 10 minutes to convene, collaborate and determine what they will make with what they have on hand, the chefs must then work in tag team rounds to collectively contribute to their, hopefully, crowd-pleasing and prize winning creations.
Talk about feeling the heat!
Regardless of the outcome, there will definitely be lots of delicious food and drink for everyone fortunate enough to get general admission tickets that include gratis valet parking. If you wait you may be too late because this event could easily sell out.
Included in the food-related festivities will be live entertainment and a chance to cast votes in these categories: Best City, Best Restaurants, Best Cocktail and Best Craft Beer. Tickets are $125 and include a tax-deductible, charitable contribution of $100.
Team Tampa is chaired by Jeff Gigante of Ciccio Restaurant Group, and includes:
- Chad Johnson of Haven (Team Captain)
- Michael Buttacavoli of Cena (Team Captain)
- Jason Saldutti of Forbici
- Ferrall Alvarez of Rooster & The Till
- James Maita of Sacred Pepper
- Felicia Lacalle of Hemingway’s
- Courtney Orwig of Haven
- Erik Naval of Boca
Team St. Pete is chaired by Stephen Schrutt of HUNGER + THIRST Restaurant Group and includes:
- Ted Dorsey of The Mill (Team Captain)
- Tyson Grant of Parkshore Grill (Team Captain)
- Rachel Bennett of The Peabody
- Lee Jasper of Dr. BBQ
- Adam Becket of Locale Market
- Chris Fernandez of Red Mesa
- David Benstock of Il Ritorno
- Lee Aquino of The Birchwood
Plus additional restaurants from both cities will be on hand that night to ensure everyone is eating, drinking and enjoying the entire evening. Go here to review the complete list.
Well qualified judges from around the country will be watching over this intense competition adding to the pressure. Here are the food pros the chefs will be trying their best to impress:
- Serena Poon, chef to the Hollywood elite
- Cindy Hutson, executive chef/owner, Ortanique on the Mile in Miami
- Victoria Jordan Rodriguez, director of Sponsor Relations for the James Beard Foundation
- Cory Bahr of Parish Restaurant and Heritage Catering & Events
- Laura Reiley, Tampa Bay Times Food Critic and Pulitzer and James Beard awards finalist
These food festivities are hosted by Titus O’Neil of WWE fame, and radio personality Mike Calta. Rounding out the event’s special guests are Jeff Philbin, a food commentator who became well known as a finalist on Master Chef, DJ Fresh, an entertainer, producer and entrepreneur and honorary event chairs, Chas and Taryn Bruck, co-owners of Armature Works.
Photos provided by Tampa Bay Food Fight: Battle of the Bay