The competition was heated, but at the end Chef Ross Clingman of Marchand's Gril at the Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg walked away with the Giant Silver Spoon and 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," a sandwich using all locally sourced ingredients and paired with a local craft beer.
The winner of the People's Choice was Jill Johnson, owner and chef at Mangia Gourmet in Gulfport. Her dish incorporated all fresh ingredients to create a delicious wonton topped with hummus, ahi tuna, slaw and sprouts.
Top Local Chef took place in front of a sold-out crowd on April 26, 2015, at the Gulfport Casino Ballroom, with the support of nonprofit partner Gulfport Historical Society and event partners Out of the Weeds and Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce.
The other finalists in Top Local Chef 2015 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.
"Thank you so much for including Mangia Gourmet in your Top Local Chef competition! What an amazing event, I had so much fun, and a huge thank you to all of the people who voted for me!" Chef Jill said after winning the popular vote. "What an honor to win People's Choice! I hope to win the judges over next year!"
Chefs had to incorporate Must Thai, one of Intensity Academy Gourmet Sauces' newest creations, into their dishes.
The Judges Panel included an impressive roster:
- Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ, food writer, 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
- Cathy Salustri, freelance writer
The People's Choice Award was selected by the guests in the Top Local Chef VIP section, including 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.
The event this year also included the Top Local Chef marketplace, featuring a variety of products, including locally sourced food items from the following businesses:
Pinellas Chocolate Company
Gigi's Gourmet Caramel Sauce
Big Momma Donna's BBQ Sauce
The Pampered Chef
Green Living Mama
Citrus Blossom Scented Candles
Intensity Academy Gourmet Sauces
Top Local Chef is a production of LocalShops1 and Intensity Academy Gourmet Sauces, with the support of our nonprofit partner The Gulfport Historical Society and sponsors Out of the Weeds and the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce. For information email email@example.com.
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.