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Emko Chef Nick Martinkovic Wins The Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival Grand Chef Throwdown

Another year, another fabulous food fest event: the ninth annual Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival has come and gone, but we have so much to look back on.

PBFWF culminated on Sunday, December 13 with the event's grand finale, the Grand Chef Tasting, when hundreds of people flocked to the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens for samples of food and drink from more than 60 South Florida establishments and 30-plus wineries.

Twice the size of last year's, the event made the move to the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, where it took over the entire first floor. The expansion into a larger venue was necessary to accommodate both the guests and the participants, said the festival organizers.

Event-goers were in for a real treat Sunday night, rubbing elbows with a number of celebrity chefs including Robert Irvine, who has become a regular attendee of the annual food festival. The British chef has appeared on a variety of Food Network shows including Dinner: Impossible, Worst Cooks in America, Restaurant: Impossible, and Restaurant Express. Just in case you missed an opportunity to snap a photo with him, giant head shots were circulating for a different type of celebrity spotting.

A number of well-known local chefs also made an appearance at last night's Grand Chef Tasting, including Tim Lipman (chef-owner of Coolinary Cafe in Jupiter), Bruce Feingold (chef-owner for Dada in Delray Beach), and Matthew Byrne (chef-owner of Kitchen in West Palm Beach). Ian's Tropical Grill chef-owner Eric Grutka — winner of the 2014 Palm Beach Food and Wine Fest Grand Chef Throwdown pictured here — made an appearance at this year's event as well.

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The Grand Chef Tasting saw a number of celebrity faces last night, including New York chef Marc Murphy. A Chopped judgeMurphy was on hand to sign copies of his debut cookbook Season With Authority, a work dedicated to home cooking with recipes that include everything from how to make a chicken liver mousse and deviled eggs, to a broccoli and cheddar frittata.

Each year, the Grand Chef Tasting goes out with a bang: an exciting timed chef cooking competition. After four full days of food-loving paradise in Palm Beach, revelers gathered to watch as the fest wrapped up with a tension-filled, cook-off-style chef throwdown. With 30 minutes on the clock, three local chefs battled it out for $10,000 ($5,000 for the chef and $5,000 for his charity of choice) and a year's-worth of bragging rights.

This year, Jereve executive chef Nick Martinkovic faced off against Café Boulud's James Strine and Taylor Balderson during the festival's sixth annual throw down. A newcomer to both the area and the event this year, Martinkovic took the winning vote from a celebrity judge's panel that included Robert Irvine. " I am not as throw down worthy as the children I am competing for," said Martinkovic, before his win. "This why if I have the opportunity to throwdown and win I have selected No Kid Hungry to receive the donation. A cause everyone should get behind, especially during the holiday season. While food for me is a passion and art form for these children it is a basic necessity that they struggle without."

Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.

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