by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine
I was invited back to the 9th Annual Top Chef Preliminary Event, hosted by the Hope for Families Center again this year. Seven local chefs were in attendance, and they each made a dish to present and sample, and the guests attending the event had the opportunity taste them and vote for their favorite dishes. I was a little disappointed that only seven restaurants attended and that there were no dessert entries to be found. Last year they had nearly sixteen entries at the preliminary event. The date of it this year’s event was two months later, and right in the middle of season and spring break, so that may have had a lot to do with it.
Below are the chefs in this year’s competition, what restaurant they work for, and the dish they prepared for the event.
Now on to the FOOD, let’s see what I had to eat!
Booth #1 – Costa d’ Este
Dish Presented: Swordfish Kebob with a Malanga Puree and Mojo Sauce
by Chef Favio Paguada
Booth #2 – Vero Beach Yacht Club
Dish Presented: Citrus and Ponzu Marinated Ahi Tuna served with Fresh Avocado, Cilantro Cream Sauce, Siracha, and garnished with Chopped Green Onion
by Chef Bill Narhi
Booth #3 – A Fraiche Note
Dish Presented: Thai Beef Tenderloin over Coconut Jasmine Rice with Marinated Spring Vegetables served with a Beef Lemongrass Broth. A Coconut Ginger Lemongrass sorbet was served alongside as a palette cleanser
by Chef Cassandra Lynne
Booth #4 – Bent Pine Golf Club
Dish Presented: Fire Molad with Pesto, Manchego and Arugula, roasted Tomato Jam, Red Wine Demi, Purple Peruvian Scalloped Potato with a Truffle Mornaise sauce and garnished with Pickled Micro Carrots
by Chef Sara Wills
Booth #5 – Osceola Bistro
Dish Presented: Shrimp and Southern Style Grits, house made Italian sausage, roasted bell peppers, caramelized onions, topped with Shrimp Gravy
by Chef Chris Bireley
Booth #6 – Cuisine Machine
Dish Presented: Jerk Spiced Pork Belly with a Cannellini Beans puree, roasted heirloom tomato chili oil, and Crispy Toscano Kale
by Chef Edward Hunter
Booth #7 – 121 Tapas on the Water
Dish Presented: Shrimp and Chive Gnocchi served over a Sweet Pea puree with a Lemon Ber Blanc sauce
by Chef Jason Alfonso
Four of the seven Chef’s made it through to the finale and were announced at the end of the night. The four chefs move on to compete at the finale to be Vero Beach’s Top Chef for 2017. The finale will be on Monday, April 3rd at The Bent Pine Golf Club starting at 6:00 pm.
Chefs moving on to the finale:
Chef Sara Wills from Bent Pine Golf Club
Chef Bill Narhi from Vero Beach Yacht Club
Chef Chris Bireley from Osceola Bistro
Chef Cassandra Lynne from A Fraiche Note Catering
Left to Right: Chef Sara Wills, Chef Bill Narhi, Chef Chris Bireley, and Chef Cassandra Lynne
This was my second time attending this event, and I’m still really impressed with the level of talent located here in Vero Beach. The event was very well attended, but not as many participating restaurants as last year. They also must have read my comments in last year’s article about the hall being too small and moved it over to Bent Pine Golf Club. There was plenty of room for them to have the event without it feeling too crowded, and if they keep it here they will have lots of room to grow too. Good luck to the chefs moving on to the finale, I can’t wait to see who takes Vero’s Top Chef for 2017!
Want to find out who comes out as Vero Beach’s Top Chef for 2016? Tickets are still available at The Hope for Families Center website at http://www.hopeforfamiliescenter.org