FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GULFPORT, FL -- The competition was intense, but at the end Chefs Joseph & Le’Ann Jackson, Le’Anns Cheesecakes ‘N More in Tampa, received the most points overall for their orange-infused cheesecake in a jar, winning the 2016 Top Local Chef title, the coveted Top Local Chef Cutting Board and major bragging rights.
The event, which took place in front of a packed crowd on April 24, 2016, at the Gulfport Casino Ballroom, was emceed by Noah Pransky, award-winning investigative journalist with WTSP 10 News. The competing chefs were asked to incorporate Florida valencia oranges into their dishes. Top Local Chef is a production of LocalShops1. The 2016 nonprofit partner was CASA, and event sponsors Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce, Intensity Academy Gourmet Sauces, Red Hot Tiki Spicy Gourmet Market and Beach Bar | Restaurant. The VIP section was organized, decorated and staffed by Chef Helena Josephs, owner of Island Flavors And ‘Tings and her soon-to-be-launched event catering company, The Caterer.
In addition to the Top Local Chef title, awards were announced in several categories:
Chef John Riesebeck, Smokin’ J’s Real Texas BBQ in Gulfport impressed the crowd, winning the popular vote for savory dish with his smoked Pork tenderloin with jalapeño and pepper jack cheese and wrapped in bacon, topped with a Valencia orange glaze.
The judges vote in the savory category went to Chef Olive Davis. Stella’s Restaurant in Gulfport, whose Florida Citrus Cured White Tuna included a guava-orange-tamarind glaze and was garnished With wasabi leaves and spring watermelon radish-microgreen salsa.
In the sweets category, Le’Ann’s Cheesecakes ‘N More won the popular vote while St. Pete-based Chef Michelle Garner, OobAlaMode Pastries, captured the judges’ taste buds with its orange-scented chocolate tart, accompanied by orange-infused panna cotta and coconut cake, orange rum butter sauce and almond corn flake crunch.
Also competing were Top Local Chef finalists Chefs Jill & Maria Johnson, Mangia Gourmet; Chef Ramon Hernandez, Pipo’s To Go Catering & Pipo’s Cuban Cafe; Chef Sean Ford, Tryst; Chefs Shane Ibey and Cassandra Grawien, Tastes of Tampa Bay/Street Surfer Food Truck; and Chef Timothy Fling, Beach Bar | Restaurant.
The Judges Panel included an impressive roster including Isabel Laesig, founder, Family Foodie and Sunday Supper Movement; Kanika Tomalin, deputy mayor, City of St Petersburg; Ross Clingman, sous chef at Ritz Carlton, Sarasota, and 2015 Top Local Chef winner; and Janet Keeler, visiting assistant professor and coordinator of food writing and photography graduate certificate at USF St Petersburg.
The event also included the Top Local Chef Marketplace, featuring Beach Bar | Restaurant, CakeTastic, Cutco At Home Rep Michelle Linden, Intensity Academy Gourmet Sauces, Just Grillin, Lola’s Handcrafted, Pinellas Chocolate Company, Red Hot Tiki Spicy Gourmet Market, Takeout Button, Wild Boy Sauce and Wine Me Top Local Chef is a production of LocalShops1, Tampa Bay’s leading advocate for local businesses. The 2016 nonprofit partner was CASA, which offers shelter and support for survivors of domestic violence.
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.