Last year, the inaugural cooking competition sponsored by the Max Group allowed local chefs an opportunity to showcase their skills with a set of weekly showdowns. The rules: Each chef is given three secret ingredients that they must use to prepare two or three dishes within the one-hour timed competition. Qualified members of the culinary media and foodie community judge each event, last year culminating in the final win by James Strine, executive sous chef at Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach.
This year's event draw party took place Wednesday, June 15, when the brackets for each competition were announced, setting the schedule for the next 16 weeks. Moving forward, a new matchup will take place at 9 p.m. every Wednesday at the restaurant located in Delray Beach's Pineapple Grove district.
Week two of Chef vs. Chef continues with El Camino chef Victor Meneses and 13 American Table's Anthony Florin. Last year’s inaugural series of events drew hundreds of spectators each week, patrons looking for a front-row seat to all the action complete with music and entertaining commentary by returning Chef vs. Chef host, Max's Harvest executive chef Eric Baker.
Dennis Max, co-owner of Max’s Harvest, says the idea to continue the event was a no-brainer. "This has become an exciting competition, highlighting the best chefs in the area. It's really a great event for a good cause."
The 2016 Chef vs. Chef 16 participating chefs include eight returning competitors from last summer. The competitors are: Jarod Higgins (Cut 432, Delray Beach), Blake Malatesta (50 Ocean, Delray Beach), Adam Brown (the Cooper, Palm Beach Gardens), Eric Grutka (Ian's Tropical Grill, Stuart), John Thomas (Tryst, Delray Beach), Bruce Feingold (Dada, Delray Beach), Victor Franco (Oceans 234, Deerfield Beach), Aaron Goldberg (Bogart's Bar & Grill, Boca Raton), Anthony Fiorini (13 American Table, Boca Raton), Kemar Griffiths (Rusty Hook Tavern, Pompano Beach), Chuck Gittleman (Kapow! Noodle Bar, Boca Raton), Jordan Lerman (Jardin, West Palm Beach), Kevin Darr (City Cellar Wine Bar, West Palm Beach), Clayton Carnes (Cholo Soy Cocina, West Palm Beach), Jesse Steele (CWS, Lake Worth), and Victor Meneses (El Camino, Delray Beach).
Strine, the winner of 2015’s weeks-long bracket-style competition, will also make a return appearance this year as an honorary 2016 finalist. Of this summer’s 16 participating chefs, the last one standing in September will also be tasked with beating Strine in a final cook-off.
Chef vs. Chef takes place at Max's Harvest in Delray Beach at 9 p.m. every Wednesday through September. The 15-week event series is open to the public for a $10 donation, which benefits the Milagro Center, a Delray Beach-based nonprofit that works to enrich children’s lives through the cultural arts and academic support. Your admission gets you one glass of wine, beer, or cocktail and a seat for the culinary action.
Max's Harvest is located at 169 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-381-9970, or visit maxsharvest.com.