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Food Fight Series 13: Chef Adam Beckett of Locale Market and FarmTable Cucina

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When Executive Sous Chef Adam Beckett moved here from the Bay Area in California, he jumped at the chance to work at a Mina project. Locale Market and FarmTable Cucina in St. Petersburg is, as he puts it, “2200 square feet of awesomeness.” Well, multiply that by the second floor and all the outside seating and you have awesomeness on an exhausting scale. As he points out, because of all the stations and differing menus, it’s more like seven restaurants under one roof. All of which need to be humming to exacting standards. How do they make it happen?

Featured Restaurant: Locale Market and FarmTable Cucina
Featured Wine: Langhe Nebbiolo Barbaresco 2016

Food Fight Series 12: Chef Chris Fernandez of Red Mesa

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Executive Chef Chris Fernandez worked in the best kitchens of Oaxaca, Mexico and learned to cook the nation’s regional dishes and flavors.

When Chef Chris came to St. Petersburg, he joined the Veytias and opened Red Mesa Restaurant. Obviously, it did very well. The city demanded more delicious Mexican food, so they opened Red Mesa Cantina… and Red Mesa Mercado. Now there’s Red Mesa Events gourmet banquets services and DeSanto Bar.

Each concept is a bit different, so how does he manage this empire?

Featured Restaurant: Red Mesa
Featured Wine: Bichi Santa, Rosa del Peru, Tecate Mexico

Food Fight Series 11: Chefs Shane Clark and Jonathon Wilson of Oystercatchers and Armani’s

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The Grand Hyatt in Tampa boasts two outstanding restaurants: Oystercatchers and Armani’s. As Chef de Cuisine at Oystercatchers, Shane Clark knows his way around Gulf Seafood. Since his customers are literally looking at jumping fish from their waterside seats, the pressure is on to keep the food on their forks just about as fresh.

14 floors above him (in a different building on the property) Chef de Cuisine Jonathon Wilson is busy cooking Northern Italian cuisine for the fine dining restaurant, Armani’s. That is, when he isn’t making cheese. He’s only been there for seven months, but he’s already updated the menu quite a bit. He’s launching a new Fall Menu, and we’ll get to see if he adds a favorite from his days in Wyoming: elk tartare.

Featured Restaurants: Oystercatchers and Armani’s
Featured Wine: Henri Perrusset Mâcon-Villages White Burgundy

Food Fight Series 10: Chef Rob Reinsmith of Noble Crust

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It’s a good thing that Executive Chef Rob Reinsmith worked at Bone Fish Grill while attending Le Cordon Bleu. At Bone Fish, he made such an impression on founders Tim Curci and TJ Thielbar, that they kept in touch while Chef Rob left Florida and went off to NYC. In New York, he helped open the Michelin star- awarded restaurant Torrisi Italian Specialties. With that massive success, they saw a need for a more casual spot next door, and so Rob designed the menu for Parm (2 stars from the New York Times). Eventually, Tim Curci and TJ Thielbar convinced Chef Rob to come back to Florida to help them open their latest Italian/Southern concept in St. Petersburg. We’re glad he did. After a year of sweat, culinary experimentation, and a visit from the Fire Department, Noble Crust opened to rave reviews.  It’s grown to 3 locations (with more on the way?), and Chef Rob even gives us a sneak peak at their latest projects: Fat beet Farm and Fat beet Farm market and bakery.

Featured Restaurant: Noble Crust
Featured Wine: Cedre Heritage Malbec, Cahors FR

Food Fight Series 9: Chef James Maita of Sacred Pepper

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Although he’s classically trained, Executive Chef James Maita has probably learned more from his 20 years of experience than any program could teach. Sacred Pepper is a bold restaurant, and the food he makes reveals plenty of twists. North Tampa has been energized by the contemporary American (with Italian flare) cuisine that Chef Maita brings to the table.

Featured Wine: Praja, Monica di Sardinia
Featured Restaurant: Sacred Pepper

Food Fight Series 8: Chef Felicia Lacalle of Hemingway’s

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It shouldn’t be a surprise that Chef Felicia (“Phe”) Lacalle won 1st prize for Best Cuban Sandwich in the home of Cuban Sandwiches mere months after opening her new restaurant, Hemingway’s, in the Heights Public Market at Armature Works in Tampa.

Chef Felicia was the Executive Sous and Regional Pastry Chef at Roy’s, and Executive Chef at Samba Room. Recently she’s been busy with her own meal prep service, but now she’s jumped back into the restaurant scene with her own concept. Hemingway’s serves traditional Cuban cuisine with a soulful twist and only the best ingredients. Is there more to come?

Featured Wine: Vina Sastre, Ribera del Duero, Tempranillo

Featured Restaurant: Hemingway’s

Food Fight Series 7: Chef Courtney Orwig of Haven

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The grandson of a spice merchant, Courtney Orwig moved to Florida from St. Louis and learned the art of pastry. After a few years he expanded to savory cooking, and eventually he became Sous Chef at SideBern’s (now Haven). Now Chef de Cuisine of Haven, Courtney has cooked at the Mondavi Winery, Star Chefs annual International Chefs Congress, and the James Beard Awards. Check out his thoughts on the changing restaurant and brewery scene in Tampa Bay.

Featured Wine: Drouhin Oregon “Rose Rock” Pinot Noir
Featured Restaurant: Haven

Food Fight Series 6: Chef Michael Buttacavoli of Cena

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After a serving as Chef De Cuisine at Boca and SideBerns under Chef Jeannie Pierola, Chef Michael Buttacavoli helmed Council Oak at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Now, of course, Chef Michael is the Executive Chef of the award-winning restaurant, Cena. The modern Italian menu has been a hit in the Channel District, even as the neighborhood has changed.

But wait… Chef Michael has just added something new to his resume: Cover Model. He’s on all the marketing materials as the face of the 2018 Tampa Bay Food Fight. Because of his experience as one of the contenders from last year’s close match, he returns to the fray this year as a coach for Team Tampa. In this episode, Chef Michael gives us the inside dirt on the importance of a game-plan, and what it takes to compete in the Tampa Bay Food Fight.

Featured Wine: Alberto Nanclares “Dandelion” Albariño
Featured Restaurant: Cena

Food Fight Series 5: Chef Ferrell Alvarez, Co-Owner of Rooster & the Till, Nebraska Mini Mart, and Gallito

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If you’re into the Tampa Bay food scene, then you already know who Chef Alvarez is. The James Beard semi-finalist for Best Chef South is the co-owner of Rooster & the Till, named the best restaurant in the Tampa Bay area by The Tampa Bay Times.

From the Cincinnati Culinary Arts Academy, Chef Alvarez worked his way up to Chef De Cuisine at Mise en Place, and then Executive Chef at Café Dufrain. Of course, now you can find him cooking at Friends of James Beard dinners or appearing on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel.

But if you only know Chef Alvarez from his work at Rooster & the Till, you’re missing out on the whole picture. He and partner Ty Rodriguez own Proper House Group, which is the umbrella company for the new Nebraska Mini Mart and the soon-to-open Gallito taqueria at Sparkman Wharf. Listen in as Chef Alvarez gives us the breakdown on these two new concepts.

See if you can catch the deafening silence that follows when, while reaching for an easy analogy to describe one of his dishes, he asks the hosts, “Have you ever had Indian Mango pickle?” Come learn how he’s breaking the clichés of the restaurant industry, and why he’s here in Tampa instead of NYC.

Featured Wine: Terre Nere Etna Rosso
Featured Restaurant: Rooster & the Till, Nebraska Mini Mart, and Gallito

Food Fight Series 4: Chef Brad Sobo of Cru Cellars

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Executive Chef, St. Louis transplant, and Hand Model. A graduate of the Florida Culinary Institute and formerly of Sidebern’s; the enigma that is Chef Brad has brought inspired cuisine to Cru Cellars for the last 4 years. But all of that will amount to nothing if he doesn’t do well in the “Make Me Cry” onion chopping contest.


It’s a shame you can’t see his hands in this photo, but then we’d have to pay extra.

Join us for a fun discussion on food, the best wine bar in Tampa Bay (Cru), wine, and the restaurant scene in Tampa.

Featured Wine: Eric Texier “Chat Fou” Cotes du Rhone

Featured Restaurant: CRU CELLARS!