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Brevard Chefs Host James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour

Written By Scott Joseph On October 1, 2018

Beard celebrity room

The James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour stopped in Melbourne Sunday for a six-course dinner cooked by visiting chefs assisted by culinary professionals from Melbourne and Brevard County.

The dinner was held at Brevard Zoo, which shared the proceeds from tickets sales with the Beard Foundation’s scholarship fund. The crowd of nearly 200 people gathered for a sparkling wine and cocktail reception on the patio outside the zoo’s event space. Volunteer servers passed hors d’oeuvres — the Jamón Ibérico Fermin, which fairly melted in the late afternoon heat, and the Ceviche in Ajo Blanco from Doreen Colondres of Miami were favorites. Most guests headed to their tables far in advance of the scheduled 7 p.m. seating just to get out of the heat and into the dining room.

Toni Elkhouri, chef and co-owner of Cedar’s Cafe in Melbourne, was instrumental in bringing the Beard tour to Brevard. (Elkhouri was one of the winners of last year’s Blended Burger contest conducted by the New York based foundation. She was invited to cook at the Beard House in January. The Celebrity Chef Tour (which does not feature the same chefs at each stop) visits only 20 communities during the year.

All of the lead chefs for Sunday’s dinner were female. Each took a course, assisted by local chefs from Melbourne businesses.

Beard celebrity cabbage

Tiffany Derry, a Top Chef contestant from Dallas, started the dinner off with Charred Cabbage, with apple and onion marmalade, mustard greens, bits of chewy crackling and a sauce fashioned out of foie gras. She was assisted by Brandon Basista, owner of the Bearded Chef food truck and, coincidentally, a winner of this year’s Blended Burger contest. He’ll travel to New York to cook his burger at the Beard House on Oct. 18. Drerry’s course was paried with 2016 The Vice Rosé.

Beard celebrity wagyu

Elkhouri was in charge of the second course, Wagyu Zabuton, with goat cheese sage cream, sauteed king mushrooms, almond dust and red pepper harissa. Ksara Reserve Du Couvent, a red wine from Lebanon, accompanied.

Beard celebrity pork

Colondres, a cookbook author from Miami, served Iberian Tear, a cut of meat from the pig’s rib, with squash puree, beer mushroom picadillo and clinatro gremolata. Justin Medina of Playalinda Brewing Co. assisted. The pork was paired with 2015 Bodegas Imperiales Abadia San Quirce “6 Meses.” (With the exception of the sparkling wine and the reception, the rosé and a riesling with the dessert course, all the wines were red.)

Beard celebrity duck

The fourth course was Candied Duck Wing from Deborah Vantrece of Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pour, Atlanta. Vantrece was featured on NBC’s Food Fighters and was named by Zagat as one of 15 “Badass” female chefs. The wings, which looked like little drummies, were served with sweet potato brie spoonbread and collard green persillade with pot liquor. Katherine Fridl of Foodscapes Consulting was the commis. Wonderment Pinot Noir, 2013, was poured.

Beard celebrity shank

Paula DaSilva of Burlock Coast at the Ft. Lauderdale Ritz-Carlton, and also a Hell’s Kitchen survivor, presented the main course of Braised Lamb Shank, served family style, with yellow corn polenta, roasted carrots and mint chimichurri. Josh Eslinger of the Fat Snook assisted. 2012 Truth red wine accompanied.

Beard celebrity dessert

The final course was from Soraya Caraccioli-Kilgore of Alter in Miami, a Goat Cheesecake with roasted white chocolate. The aforementioned Riesling was the 2016 State of Mind.

The evening was hosted by Scott Earick, chef and owner of Scott’s on Fifth in Indialantic, and Suzy Fleming Leonard of Florida Today.
It was nice to see so many enthusiastic Space Coasters appreciative of the fine cuisine that was being offered, and I was delighted to be invited to experience not only the food of the visiting chefs but to also get a closer look at their talented local assistants. Clearly I need to spend more time in Brevard County.

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