I have been saving this beautiful deco style blue hat with a veil for a special occasion. I was very excited when my friend Maria Lewis, Director of Development for The Child Abuse Council, invited us to a one-of-a-kind culinary adventure featuring some of Tampa Bay’s prominent chefs. This event would raise much needed funds for their organization.
Eight premier chefs would bring their own ambience and excellence for an evening of very fine dining. Each chef prepares – tableside – a five course meal with accompaning wine for a table of twelve people. Chefs receive points in an attempt to claim the title of “Top Chef of the Year Tampa Bay”.
I was happy when my friends and I were seated at the Oystercatchers table as this is one of my favorite restuarants. Although, I doubt that there was any disappointment as others found themselves at the beautifully decorated tables of Armani’s ( Chef Mike Von Burg), Fleming’s (Chef Ryan Mitchell), Capital Grille (Chef James Shields), Gaspar’s Grotto (Chef s Darlene Herrick & Craig Smith), A La Carte Pavilion (Chef Jim Rice), Blue Water Grille (Chef Kelly Marshall), Palagia Trattoria (Chef Daniel Goldich), and independent Chef Anthony Kelly.
As we wandered the room admiring the gorgeous tables, I couldn’t help but remark on the exquisite place settings. One of the awards tonight would be for best table decor. Each guest could cast a vote and I really had a hard time choosing – they were all so beautiful!
Also, as we enjoyed our meal, we would be rating our own chefs in several categories such as pesonality, presentation, menu, wine selection and the taste of each of the five courses.
Our Master of Ceremonies was Jack Harris, without a doubt the most popular and most recognized media personality in Tampa Bay. He currently co-hosts the “A.M. Tampa Bay” morning show. He is engaging and personable and really knows how to squeeze the most out of a live auction! I was pleased to visit with him and tell him about my blog. And, of course, I loved the photo op!
This was no “Kitchen Nightmare”. These chefs prepared scrumptious dishes tableside that looked and tasted like those from any five-star restaurant! I got up several times to check out the other menus and found unbelievable courses, e.g. “Oysters menage ‘a trois” (Gaspar’s Grotto), “Bronzino Saltimboca” (Armani’s), “Anise Butter Braised Sablefish” (Blue Water Grille), “Mint & Sage Marinated Lamb Tenderloin” (A La Carte Pavilion), “Browned Butter Pistachio Tart” (Fleming’s), “Alaskan King Crab Salad” (Capital Grille), “Fennel Crusted Scallops” (Chef Kelly) and “Veal & Spinach Ravioli” (Pelagia Trattoria).
I have to admit that I was partial to our Oystercatchers chefs and their menu. They were adorable and entertaining. And most importantly – generous with the wine! I loved our “Kobe Beef Strip Loin” which they served with “The Prisoner”, a blended red wine that was delicious. And, the “Deconstructed Key Lime Pie” was served with Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial. Chef Kory Foltz was definitely out to impress!
During the live auction, my friend Lucy bid on and won a 4-day/3-night stay at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, Colorado plus breakfast and signature massages. Immediately, Shirley said “I’ve got the airline passes”, Donna said “I’ve got the locale experience” and I said “I’ve got the ski clothes”. We can only hope that she will somehow pack up all three of us for the trip!!
When the points were counted for all categories, it was a dazzling victory for Chef Kelly Marshall of Wyndam’s Blue Water Grille. She wins “Best Decor” for accessories and menu based on the song, “My Favorite Things”, from “The Sound of Music”.
And Kelly claims the title of “Top Chef of the Year Tampa Bay”. She also wins the esteemed title of “Top Philanthropic Chef of the Year”, which is awarded to the chef who raises the most money in donations/sponsorships prior to the event and with their live auction item. So, congratulations to Chef Kelly Marshall, our “triple crown” winner!
With the overwhelming appeal of famous television shows featuring outstanding chefs who have been praised for their culinary genius, this wonderful event has definitely put our own accomplished Tampa Bay chefs in the limelight. My friends and I have already made reservations at some of their restaurants. We will surely participate again next year to see who will earn the honor of being called “Top Chef Tampa Bay”.
Congratulations to Maria Lewis and The Child Abuse Council of Tampa Bay for this impressive and delightful evening, which raised $26,650.00 to help towards its mission – to build stronger families through child abuse prevention and family education programs.