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Show-Stopping Chef Showdowns and Mouth Watering Selections From Top Local Restaurants Helped Served Up A Hugely Successful Weekend For The Inaugural Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival

The inaugural Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival (TBWFF) brought together an extraordinary lineup of top-rated restaurants, chefs, and exciting events during an all-out four-day-extravaganza celebrating the buzzing local food scene of the Tampa Bay area.

Show-Stopping Chef Showdowns and Mouth Watering Selections From Top Local Restaurants Helped Served Up A Hugely Successful Weekend For The Inaugural Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival

Featured as one of the top reasons to visit Tampa this spring by Travel + Leisure, the inaugural festival, brought to you by Breakthru Beverage and presented by GOYA Foods and Hillsborough County, brought an electric energy to the city beginning Wednesday, April 12th with demonstrations of culinary greatness and first-class entertainment.

The excitement of the festival reached a high point during Friday’s anticipated Chef Showdown, a riveting competition where the region’s top chefs battled it out head-to-head to determine who is the master of beloved dishes like fried chicken, sushi, burger, pasta, and more.

This year’s inaugural Chef Showdown champions included: 

  • Battle Burger presented by Halperns Steak and Seafood: Chef Freddy Figuera of American Social vs Chef Tyson Grant of Parkshore Grill (Winner: Chef Tyson Grant)
  • Battle Seafood: Chef Manuel Arevalo of Rusty Pelican vs Chef Eric Bach of Bouzy (Winner: Chef Manuel Arevalo)
  • Battle Fried Chicken: Chef Joe Dodd of King of the Coop vs Chef Richard Hales of Hales Blackbrick (Winner: Chef Joe Dodd)
  • Battle Tacos presented by Brickstreet Farms: Chef Chris Fernandez of Red Mesa Cantina vs Chef Christopher Yadid Garcia of Tacos Las Californias (Winner: Chef Christopher Yadid Garcia)
  • Battle Truffle presented by Tartufo Prestige: Chef Josh Werksman of The Tampa Edition vs Chef Matthew Zappoli of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tampa (Winner: Chef Matthew Zappoli*it was the closest battle of the night winning by 15 audience votes*
  • Battle Sushi presented by Brickstreet Farms: Chef Martin Hernandez of Kelp Sushi Joint vs Chef David Reyes of Haiku (Winner: Chef David Reyes)
  • Battle Pasta: Chef Antonio Casamento of Beccofino vs Chef Ricardo Nava of Cru Cellars (Winner: Chef Ricardo Nava)

The four-day foodie spectacular culminated with the “Grand Tasting” event on Saturday, April 15th, where Tampa Bay’s most notable chefs and celebrated restaurants showcased a selection of delicious dishes created by top culinary talent.

Presenting restaurants were the following: 4 Rivers Smokehouse, Allelo, American Social, Authentic Jerk Chicken, Azure at EDITION, Brickstreet Farms, Counter Culture, Datz, DeVito’s Italian Specialties, Forbici Modern Italian, Gather TPA, Haiku, Hales Blackbrick, JW Marriott Tampa Water Street, King of the Coop, Kona Grill, M&R Café, Mata’s Philippine Cuisine, Meat Market, Oddfellows Ice Cream, Oxford Exchange along with The Library and Predalina, Palazzo Pizza, Red Mesa Cantina, Rusty Pelican, Shula Burger, Soulfull Biscuit, Splitsville Southern + Social, Tacos Las Californias, Tanya & Matt’s Ice Cream Shop, The Battery, The C House, The Liberty Smokehouse, and Wagamama.

At Saturday’s festival, attendees themselves served as judges for the “Best of the Fest” competition, presented by Celebrity Cruises, as they indulged and later voted for the day’s prize-worthy dishes during the Grand Tasting; participating voters were automatically entered for a chance to win a grand prize: A 7-day cruise to the Caribbean, courtesy of Celebrity Cruises.

This year’s “Best of the Fest” bite-winner was JW Marriott Tampa Water Street’s Drifthouse Steakhouse with Executive Chef, Chef Matthew Brennan, who has officially crowned for their delicious Grilled Creekstone Farms Ribeye with a bitters green salad, with a side of The best carrot cake EVER composed of mascarpone and goat cheese crème, toasted hazelnuts, brulle baby carrots, and an orange carrot ginger jam.    

The inaugural Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival consisted of four days of events that took place throughout the week.

The festivities kicked off on Wednesday with “An Evening at The Tampa Club,” a private, invite-only ticketed experience featuring a beautiful evening at the Tampa Club on the 42nd Floor overlooking Downtown Tampa, hosted by Breakthru Beverage, Treasury Wine Estates, Woodford Reserve, Stoli Vodka, and Stella Artois featuring customized chalises as guests enjoyed a VIP meet and greet for leading partners of the festival, and hydrated thanks to Mountain Valley Spring Water.

On Thursday night, guests gathered at one of the area’s most stunning outdoor dining destinations for “Experience Hyde Park” where the festival partnered with four different restaurants to create various dining experiences, including Meat Market, hosted by Penfolds and Balvenie Scotch featuring the National Brand Ambassador for Balvenie, Naomi Leslie, Forbici Modern Italian, hosted by Folio Fine Wines to include Rare Champagne and Bibi Graetz, Timpano, hosted by Sonoma Cutrer, and Sur La Table, a uniquely French cuisine cooking class, hosted by Boisset.

Upon purchasing tickets, guests selected their preferred destination restaurant and delighted in a unique four-course “off-menu” pairing dinner at their favorite hot spot with wine presentations to transport them to unique destinations around the world curated by leading masters of wines and spirits. 

On Friday, the now-legendary “Chef Showdown” competition made its debut on Florida’s west coast as Tampa Bay’s 14 top chefs and restaurants geared up for an unforgettable night of 7 ultimate cook-offs to include Battles Pasta, Burger, Seafood, Taco, Sushi, Truffle, and the highly anticipated, Battle Fried Chicken.

Attendees sampled around the event and voted on their best bites with final points given by an impressive panel of VIP judges who helped weigh-in to find the champions.

The evening’s dishes were supported by an official purveyor of the Chef Showdown, Halperns Steak & Seafood.

This year’s GOYA FOODS Main Stage was presented by Mountain Valley Water and the esteemed judge’s panel included Chef Sean Brasel (Meat Market), Shawna Wiggs (Tampa Magazines), Chef Ferrell Alvarez (Rooster & The Till), Chef Jeannie Pierola (Edison: Food + Drink Lab, Counter Culture, and Swigamajig), Helen Freund (Tampa Bay Times Food Critic), and Commissioner Harry Cohen (Hillsborough County).

The event’s CHEF REF MC was Java Ingraham of 10 Tampa Bay’s Great Day Live who led the competitors through their battles on the energy-filled Main Stage which saw bands, entertainers, and more as the chefs were led to competition in style. 

Friday night’s Chef Showdown was hosted by Milagro Tequila, Stoli Vodka, and Celebrity Cruises. Wine partners included 19 Crimes and MatuaFolio Fine Wines featuring Bibi GraetzJuggernaut, Phantom Wines, and Rabble

On Saturday, the culmination of the festival, ticket holders headed to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park for an afternoon at the “Grand Tasting,” where an extensive array of flavor-packed bites and refreshing libations from Tampa Bay’s leading restaurants awaited, paired with internationally recognized wine, cocktail, and brewery experiences set for a VIP, presented by exclusive wine and spirits partner, Breakthru Beverage.

The day involved live music from featured Florida bands, with the main stage hosted by Demesmin & Dover, the festival’s accident attorney, including Miami’s own, Mama Fuma Band, and headlined by Key West’s The Swayzees.

Interactive experiences by leading national brands were a highlight including the Milagro Tequila Cantina and the always-popular GOYA FOODS sampling experience.

Thirsty guests strolled into the Stoli Vodka lounge to enjoy new vodka cocktails, featuring fresh juices by Ripe Bar Juice, visited Woodford Reserve, Whistle Pig, and Woodson, among other spirits partners, and sampled some new Ready to Drink Cocktail Village featuring Onda, Ohza, Batch & Bottles, Sips Margs, and more refreshing beverage options.

There was an array of international wines featured from Treasury Wine Estate featuring Matua and 19 Crimes, Rabble Wines, Sonoma CutrerJuggernaut, Phantom, Folio Fine Wines featuring a Rosé Garden featuring Villa Sandi, Donna Fugati, and more, were also on hand to offer the perfect pairing to the event’s tasty food selections.

For beer lovers, Stella Artois was featured throughout the festival day.

Guests visited the Cadillac Experience, the official auto partner of the festival jumped in with El Dorado Furniture, the official outdoor furniture partner of the festival, who held an ultimate dance party ready for guests, and with the hot Florida day, hydration was provided throughout the festival thanks to the help of official water of the festival, Mountain Valley Spring Water.

The fun didn’t stop there with DJ Paule’s always popular, Paule’s Pop Up, flanked by product provider of the festival, SYSCO, and guests received special gifts with the help of UBER ONE

CI Management, the team behind some of South Florida’s leading wine and food festivals and experiences (including the immensely popular South Beach Seafood Festival and producers of the Las Olas Wine and Food Festival among others), is thrilled to have inaugurated yet another fabulous annual festival, this time celebrating the best restaurants and creative kitchen talent of the Tampa Bay area during a week in support of community initiatives that engage the future leaders of the area.

This year’s festival supported CI Foundation’s EAT SMART program, a 501 © (3) nonprofit program that provides healthy meals and nutritional guidance to the local community and Florida’s youth through programs in our event destinations local school systems, and partner education non-profits.

Since its launch, the program has raised over $1 million for several South Florida non-profit organizations. More details to come with programs that will be launched throughout the year in the Tampa Bay area. 

The Inaugural Tampa Bay Food & Wine Festival was brought to you by Breakthru Beverage Florida, presented by GOYA Foods and Hillsborough County, and hosted by Mountain Valley Spring Water, Celebrity Cruises, Cadillac, Milagro Tequila, Demesmin & Dover Law Firm, Hines Securities, and El Dorado Furniture.

Additional hosting partners include Stoli Vodka, Treasury Wine Estates, Folio Fine Wines, Rabble Wines, Phantom, Juggernaut, Sonoma Cutrer, and Korbel.

Corporate partners include Siesta Key Rum, Woodford Reserve, Whistle Pig, Herradura, Onda, Batch & Bottle, Ohza, Altamar Brands, Yave Tequila, Total Beverage Solutions, Blue Ice Vodka, Whistle Pig, Woodson, Charles Jacquin Et Cie, Scandi, Spirited Insider, Disaronno, Blue Ice Vodka, Fisher’s Island Lemonade, Chinola, and Chatham Imports.

Additional sponsors included Brickstreet Farms, Tartufo Prestige, Uber, and Ripe Juice. 

For more information on the inaugural Tampa Bay Food & Wine Festival, please visit

Follow along on Instagram at @tampabaywff  and on Facebook at @tampabaywff

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