Fish To Fork Weekend at The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort
By Chad H. Vorbrich
What happens when eight of the most talented chefs from around the country converge upon a luxury beach resort, set to compete both as individuals and as teams to see who can serve up the best seafood dish?
Throw in the challenge that they must all venture into the fertile waters of Florida’s First Coast and catch their main ingredient. This set the stage for what proved to be a plethora of culinary experiences packed into 3 nights and 2 days, all set against the coastal beauty that is the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort.
Offering an unmatched “foodie” experience, including true farm-to-table and dock-to-dish specialties, “Fish to Fork” challenged nine award-winning chefs from across the country to showcase their skills. The invited chefs included Joey Ward, Executive Chef at Atlanta’s famous Gunshow restaurant; James Petrakis, Chef/Owner of Orlando’s Ravenous Pig; Russell Jones, Previous Executive Chef at award-winning Jack Rose Dining Saloon and recent Owner/ Founder of Columbia, South Carolina’s Tallulah; Waylon Rivers, Executive Chef at Jacksonville’s Black Sheep Restaurant; Tenney Flynn, based in New Orleans and known as one of the country’s foremost seafood authorities; Brad Kilgore, owner of Miami’s Alter and named “Best New Chef” by Food & Wine in 2016; Shuai Wang, Owner/Operator of the Short Grain food truck in Charleston; Mike Mastrantuono, Executive Chef at Roux in Singerlands, New York.
The Resort’s Executive Chef, Daven Wardynski
Events began on Thursday by “Meeting the Competition,” an outdoor dining experience with the assembled Chefs at The Sprouting Project. The Sprouting Project, under the direction of the Resort’s Executive Chef, Daven Wardynski, consists of state-of-the-art aquaponic greenhouse, expansive organic garden, a large collection of beehives, chickens and a barrel room. The Barrel Room offers an assortment of gin, rum, dandelion wine, bourbon and more, alongside palmetto honey made in the apiary and basil grown in the organic garden.
Friday morning welcomed special guests and the Chefs to the docks to embark on a fishing expedition. Charter captained vessels took guests and chefs out to fish the local backwaters, jetties, and the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Fish caught on this day would later be used in dishes created at the “main event.”
Friday afternoon included a “Mixology Experience” back at the resort. The class demonstrated the art of cocktail blending.
Friday night featured a “Coastal Cuisine” dining experience at the resort’s Veranda restaurant. Guest indulged in an intimate dinner with the chefs, and relished in multiple coastal-inspired creations, all perfectly paired with a wine.
Saturday afternoon offered a relaxed and private beach lunch, where guests were served traditional low-country fair with a twist, all the food was charcoal grilled in a stack of barrels. Saturday evening featured the Annual Fish to Fork Main Event. The award-winning chefs competed in an individual and group challenge, where they showcased the versatility and quality of the island’s native ingredients.
During the individual challenge, chefs incorporated the fish they caught to create a signature dish. A surprise ingredient, sea beans, was introduced to the challenge by Executive Chef, Daven Wardynski.
Later in the evening, the team challenge divided competing chefs into groups that then went head to head against a clock to create a winning dish. The chefs were ultimately tested by way of a live vote from the guests
The “Fish to Fork 2017” Challenge Winners:
Chef’s Choice: Chef Joey Ward
Individual Challenge: Chef Joey Ward
Team Challenge: Chefs Shuai Wang, Waylon Rivers, Brad Kilgore and Michael Mastrantuono M