After four years of virtual attendance, we are excited to once again host our annual Fork Fight in person on May 18. The gala is a celebration of our community’s dedication to envisioning a brighter, hunger-free future for Tampa Bay. It will be a night filled with delicious food and drinks, a live-auction, and the opportunity to engage with visionaries in our community.
This year’s event is thoughtfully curated by Chef Ferrell Alvarez, owner and executive chef of Rooster and the Till, a 2022 Michelin Bib Gourmand winner and beloved Tampa restaurant. Alvarez and his partners, who together make up the Proper House Group, also own and operate five other concepts: Nebraska Mini Mart, Gallito Taqueria, Dang Dude, Ash, and Lunch Lady. A renowned James Beard semifinalist, Chef Alvarez’s food pays homage to our city’s multiculturalism and his own latin heritage while also being inventive in technique, presentation and flavors.
Fork Fight’s menu features dishes prepared by eight of Tampa Bay’s best chefs. These culinary experts know the power of food and its ability to bring people together. We want to highlight them and share a little bit about each of their histories and foodie philosophies:
Allison Beasman – Edison Food Lab
Daily experimentation; food that is creatively crafted and flavorfully inventive, That’s the name of the game at Edison: Food + Drink Lab. And it’s a game that Chef Allison Beaman knows well. Beasman, a graduate of the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach is no stranger to the Tampa foodie scene, having worked at Bern’s and Sidebern’s in years past. As Executive Chef at Edison, Beasman can let her creativity run wild. Her dishes aim to wow and inspire.
Andrew Duncan – Baba
Andrew Duncan, Executive Chef at Baba in St. Pete is inspired by seasonality. At Baba, he can harvest and play with fresh ingredients from the restaurant’s on-site garden to make fresh, reinvented spins on classic Mediterranean dishes. Baba serves as a tribute to home, family, and togetherness, and Chef Duncan exemplifies this in his cooking.
Bryce Bonsack – Rocca
At Rocca, Chef Bryce Bonsack blends his passion for classic Italian flavors with modern cooking techniques. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Bonsack returned to Tampa from Michelin-starred New York kitchens determined to open his own restaurant. So he traveled to Italy on a culinary pilgrimage, where he met and became inspired by the Rocca family. Bonsack’s restaurant, which opened in 2019, is an homage to the family’s tutelage and hospitality. With his keen attention to detail and New York-polished technique, Bonsack has elevated Rocca to Bib Gourmand status. The restaurant is pasta-focused, and Bonsack’s goal of making all the food in-house showcases his thoughtfulness in meal curation.
Chad Johnson – Bern’s, Haven
Growing up, Chad Johnson solidified his interest in culinary arts after spending time at his friend’s family restaurant in Kentucky. The James Beard Award semifinalist attended the International Culinary Center, formerly the French Culinary Institute, in New York City. There, Johnson learned formal techniques and developed a passion for making dishes with fresh ingredients and simple, yet extraordinary, flavors. These techniques and dedication to skillful ingredient pairings shine through in his work as executive chef of Bern’s and Haven.
David Benstock – Il Ritorno
A St. Pete native, David Benstock left the Sunshine state to pursue culinary arts. From working at the Michelin-starred The Modern in New York City to training in Venice Italy, he crafted an arsenal of fine cooking skills from around the world. But after many years, the chef decided to return to his roots. In 2013, Benstock opened Il Ritorno, a restaurant serving modern Italian dishes comprised of interesting flavor combinations. Meaning “the return” in Italian, Il Ritorno is an homage to Benstock’s journey back home.
Eric McHugh – Hotel Haya
Chef Eric McHugh has had a lifelong passion for food, and that dedication is reflected in his 20-year culinary career. McHugh was recently named Executive Chef of Flor Fina at Ybor’s Hotel Haya. He has crafted a redesigned and refreshed menu that celebrates Ybor’s Cuban, Spanish and Italian heritage while blending it with the fresh and robust flavors of Mediterranean cuisine.
Michael Buttacavoli – Cena
Chef Michael Buttacavoli grew up enjoying authentic Italian cooking. He spent the first several years of his culinary career as chef de cuisine at Boca (closed in 2020), one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in the Tampa Bay areas, and SideBern’s (now Haven). Buttacavoli then served as executive chef at Fresh Harvest Buffet and Council Oak before opening Cena in Tampa’s Channel District. Cena is an ode to Buttacavoli’s Italian roots, serving modern, fresh and simple Italian cuisine.
Nic Bryon – Pasta Packs
Although he was laid off from Oak and Ola during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chef Nic Bryon didn’t let the stresses of the pandemic weigh him down. Instead, he found the opportunity to combine his cooking know-how with his brother Greg’s business skills to launch Pasta Packs. The meal-service kit was “born out of a desire to help you create special moments at home” and the brothers’ company became a hit despite the pandemic’s sense of social isolation. Bryon is committed to sourcing fresh ingredients and creating a relaxing atmosphere for his clients. He believes food begets a sense of unity and “brings joy to the table.”
If you are interested in learning more about the event and want to see our upcoming 2023 recap, follow @FeedingTampaBay on social media. For more information about next year’s event, please contact Jessica Butehorn at firstname.lastname@example.org.