Epic Chef Showdown Turns up the Heat on Hunger

The heat was definitely turned up in the Epicurean Hotel’s theatre on Monday night during the finale of Epic Chef Showdown, benefiting Feeding Tampa Bay and presented by leading sponsor Florida Blue. Two chefs battled it out for an epic win after seven weeks of competition. Gabriel Lopez, Sous Chef of Mise en Place, and Andrew Silas, Sous Chef of The Mill, gave an amazing performance while preparing fine cuisine under the pressure of the clock. Two rounds, 30 minutes each, and an interesting combination of mystery ingredients – Velveeta, whole snapper and Vienna sausage; duck, Coca-Cola and soba noodles.

While this Epic Chef Showdown finale was not short on culinary talent, only one chef could prevail. Chef Gabriel Lopez of Mise en Place took home the victory, winning a year of bragging rights, a beautifully crafted award – named The Blitz – and a grand prize of $5,000 along with a prize package filled with VIP experiences and signed memorabilia.

Epic Chef Showdown is in its fourth year and was created by the Epicurean Hotel and Feeding Tampa Bay with a purpose to bring together culinary talents, local foodies, and community philanthropists to celebrate the common love of food and raise awareness of the local issue of food insecurity affecting hundreds of thousands of families across the bay. “Epic Chef Showdown has elevated the conversation around the important issue of food insecurity,” said Thomas Mantz, executive director of Feeding Tampa Bay. “Our mission is to strengthen our community, and food is the vehicle we use to accomplish this. Having such strong synergies with everyone involved in Epic Chef gives great lift to our work so that we can continue to feed the potential of those we serve.”

Feeding Tampa Bay named The Blitz award after one of Tampa Bay’s most well-known chefs in the restaurant community, Marty Blitz, proprietor chef of Mise en Place. Marty has shared his culinary talents with the community for the last 32 years and is admired for his dedication to giving back to his hometown. As a long-time supporter of Feeding Tampa Bay, The Blitz serves as an appropriate title.

But the competition for this respected award wasn’t the only excitement in the theatre. The Tampa Museum of Art proudly unveiled the creation of the Maryann Ferenc Culinary Arts Scholarship. Maryann Ferenc, CEO and proprietor of Mise en Place, has also been a dynamic leader in the restaurant community and a voice for our food insecure neighbors. Committed to the cause of fighting hunger for many years, Maryann won Feeding Tampa Bay’s 2018 Hunger Hero Award and is installed in the Hunger Hero Wall of Fame at the Feeding Tampa Bay facility. The newly formed scholarship will benefit Feeding Tampa Bay and pioneer its future back-to-work program through culinary training. The program will include comprehensive kitchen training, hands-on experience throughout Feeding Tampa Bay’s ten-county territory, soft skills training and job placement assistance.

The success of Epic Chef Showdown 2018 came through the support of partners like Florida Blue, Sysco, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Tampa Bay Times, among others and raised enough to create 750,000 meals for those in need in our community.