The competition was heated, but at the end Chef Ross Clingman of Marchand’s Grill at the Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg walked away with the Giant Silver Spoon and the Top Local Chef title in the annual competition produced by LocalShops1 and Intensity Academy Gourmet Sauces. Chef Ross wowed the judges with his “501 Reuben,” shown at left, featuring all locally sourced ingredients and paired with a local craft beer.
Jill Johnson, owner and chef at Mangia Gourmet in Gulfport, took home People’s Choice with her dish, shown at right, which incorporated all fresh ingredients to create a delicious wonton topped with hummus, ahi tuna, slaw and sprouts. The other contestants were Maggie Loflin, Maggie on the Move, St. Petersburg; Jonjie Sibayan, Pao Truck & Cafe, Tampa; and John Riesebeck, Smokin’ J’s Real Texas BBQ, Gulfport. The chefs had to incorporate Intensity Academy’s Must Thai sauce into their dishes.
Top Local Chef took place in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 350 guests at the Gulfport Casino Ballroom, with the support of nonprofit partner Gulfport Historical Society and event sponsors Out of the Weeds and Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Judges’ Panel included food writer Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ and a frequent guest on the Food Network; Ramon Hernandez, Pipo’s Cuban Cafe and two-time Top Local Chef winner; Janet Keeler, USFSP and former lifestyles editor of the Tampa Bay Times; Isabel Laesig, founder of Family Foodie; Mark Rivera, investigative journalist with 10 News; and Cathy Salustri, freelance writer.
The People’s Choice Award was selected by VIP guests St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and his wife, Kerry Kriseman; St Peterburg City Councilman Wengay Newton; Gulfport Chamber of Commerce President Barry Rubin; Three Birds Tavern owners Robin and Jack King; and dozens more.
This year’s event also included a marketplace featuring locally sourced food items along with kitchenware, oils and candles. Participating vendors included Pinellas Chocolate Company, Gigi’s Gourmet Caramel Sauce, Brooklyn South, Vicki’s Vittles, Big Momma Donna’s BBQ Sauce, Pampered Chef Consultant Kim Reed, Green Living Mama and Citrus Blossom Scented Candles
— LOCALSHOPS1 REPORT