Chef Ross Clingman, Marchand’s @ the Vinoy; in downtown St. Petersburg, was the judges’ favorite; Chef Seston Ramadori, Da Sesto Italiano in Pinellas Park, captured the popular vote.
First runner-up in the judges’ vote was Chef Chris Fernandez, of the Red Mesa restaurant group in St. Petersburg; and second runner=up was Chef Patrick Collins, of Deuces BBQ, also in St. Petersburg.
The other five finalists were Chef Richard Ge, Countryside Café in Clearwater; Chef Gary Mayfield. Hurricane Seafood Restaurant in St. Pete Beach; Chef Patrick Collins, Iberian Rooster in St Petersburg; Chef Lauren Macellaro, Reading Room in St. Petersburg; and Chef John Riseback, Smokin’ J’s in Gulfport.
The event took place April 30, 2017, with Celebrity Chef Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ, serving as head judge, and award-winning journalist Noah Pransky of 10 News returning for another year as the event emcee.
Passengers sailed along Tampa Bay as they sampled the newest creations from the competing chefs. All dishes incorporated this year’s selected ingredient, Kahwa Coffee.
Guests also enjoyed desserts from sponsors Le’Ann’s Cheesecakes and Datz, as well as hot sauces, jams and other samples from the event vendors.
The judges’ choice was determined by rankings including presentation and taste. In addition to head judge Ray Lampe, the judges’ panel featured St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin; The Mill Restaurant owner/chef Ted Dorsey; Family Foodie founder Isabel Laesig; and USFSP visiting professor Janet Keeler, coordinator of the school’s food writing and photography graduate certificate program. Popular vote was determined by a dollar per vote, with all the funds going to the profit The Kind Mouse Productions, which helps feed local children and families.
Another new component this year was the Student Smackdown, sponsored by Out of the Weeds and Three Birds Tavern, and in cooperation with The Ryan Wells Foundation, which provides support and scholarships for students going into the culinary industry.
The winner of the Student Smackdown was Samuel Schaefer, of Northeast High School in St. Petersburg. Finalists were Zach Frisco, also of Northeast High; Brennan Hinkofer-Cino of Tarpon Springs High School; and The Holy Molés team (Denna Harry, Briana Michael, Alexis Kaiser, and Katherine LeFleur), also of Tarpon High.
Two-time Top Local Chef winner Ramon Hernandez, of Pipo’s Cuban Cafe, was back this year as an event sponsor, along with sponsors Moorman Photographics, Kahwa Coffee and Out of the Weeds. Top Local Chef also featured several other local businesses and nonprofits, including Club Savor, Intensity Academy Gourmet Sauces, Brimstone Originals and My Hope Chest.
For information contact Ester Venouziou, LocalShops1 and Top Local Chef founder, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-637-5586.
LocalShops1 is a coalition of hundreds of independently owned businesses and tens of thousands of energetic shoppers with the mission of advocating, promoting and offering support services to companies throughout Tampa Bay. Founded in August 2008, LocalShops1 is the region’s most active voice for small businesses.