• fullslide1
    8 Top Restaurants
    from the Tampa Bay Area
  • fullslide2
    Only One Epic Chef
    will be declared the winner
  • fullslide6
    Our Community's
    fight against hunger
    Feeding American Tampa Bay

The Next Showdown:

Epic Chef Showdown

Epicurean Hotel and Feeding Tampa Bay are excited to welcome back this initiative for the fifth consecutive year as part of our partnership to fight hunger in the Tampa Bay community.

Epic Chef Showdown will pit the area’s top restaurants against each other in a friendly cooking competition. In each round, the two competing chefs will receive a mystery box of ingredients that are not commonly prepared together, and will be challenged to create two dishes that are unique, aesthetically pleasing, and of course delicious, under the pressure of the clock. When time is up, the chefs will present their prepared dishes to the judges to be critiqued and scored. At the close of the round, one of the chefs will be eliminated, and the winning chef moves on to the next round.

Epic Chef Showdown was created to bring the community together to not only enjoy the camaraderie and food from our local top restaurants, but to also take part in something much larger that is happening around us every single day. Hunger is a serious and severe issue in our area — affecting one in seven adults and one in four children. These are our neighbors, coworkers, veterans, and friends who need our help.

Come celebrate our local culinary talent, delicious food and lasting partnerships, but more importantly, join us to help our community in need.

Can’t make it to the Epicurean Theatre? Watch all the action live from the comfort of your own home with The Identity Tampa Bay!

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Feeding American Tampa Bay

Founded in 1982, Feeding Tampa Bay is the largest food rescue and distribution organization in the community, serving a food-insecure population of more than 700,000 people in a 10-county area. Feeding Tampa Bay recovers surplus food donations from local growers, manufacturers, supermarkets and organized community food drives and distributes it to those in need through a partnership network of more than 600 faith-based and other incorporated non-profit hunger relief organizations. Over the last five years, Feeding Tampa Bay has supplied more than 100 million pounds of food – enough to provide more than 3 million meals every month to those who would otherwise go hungry.

Event Dates

Chef Ryan Czternastek from Ichicoro Imoto noble-crust.com
Chef Ryan Czternastek from Ichicoro Imoto vs. Chef Angel Castillo from Red Mesa Restaurant

Monday, July 15th
6:30pm – 8:30pm

ichicoro.com redmesarestaurant.com
Parkshore Grill
Chef Alan Garcia from Parkshore Grill parkshoregrill.com
Chef Alex Hoaks from Oxford Exchange vs. Chef Alan Garcia from Parkshore Grill

Monday, July 22rd
6:30pm – 8:30pm

oxfordexchange.com parkshoregrill.com
Chef Wayne Mather from Mise En Place miseonline.com
Chef Wayne Mather from Mise En Place vs. Chef Allan Armstrong from The Mill

Monday, July 29th
6:30pm – 9:00pm

miseonline.com themillrestaurants.com
Chef Danny Autrey from Noble Crust noble-crust.com
Chef Danny Autrey from Noble Crust vs. Chef Arturo Rojas from Rooster and the Till

Monday, August 5th
6:30pm – 9:00pm

noble-crust.com roosterandthetill.com
Chef Alan Garcia from Parkshore Grill parkshoregrill.com
Chef Alex Hoaks from Oxford Exchange vs. Chef Alan Garcia from Parkshore Grill

Monday, August 12th
6:30pm – 8:30pm

oxfordexchange.com parkshoregrill.com
Chef Wayne Mather from Mise En Place miseonline.com
Chef Wayne Mather from Mise En Place vs. Chef Danny Autrey from Noble Crust

Monday, August 19th
6:30pm – 9:00pm

miseonline.com noble-crust.com
Chef Alan Garcia from Parkshore Grill parkshoregrill.com
Chef Wayne Mather from Mise En Place vs. Chef Alan Garcia from Parkshore Grill

Monday, August 26th
6:30pm – 9:00pm

miseonline.com parkshoregrill.com


  • Chef Jeff Philbin

    Chef Jeff Philbin

    Standing Judge

Week 1 Judges

  • Ian Beckles

    Ian Beckles

    Radio Host

  • Michael Buttacavoli

    Michael Buttacavoli

    Executive Chef, Cena

  • Benito D'Azzo

    Benito D'Azzo

    Feeding Tampa Bay

Week 2 Judges

  • Eugenia Lun

    Eugenia Lun


  • To Be Announced

    To Be Announced


  • Carlos Hernandez

    Carlos Hernandez

    Food Critic/Blogger

Week 3 Judges

  • Helen Freund

    Helen Freund

    Tampa Bay Times

  • Rachel Bennett

    Rachel Bennett

    The Library

  • Cyndi Edwards

    Cyndi Edwards

    Daytime, News Channel 8

Week 4 Judges

  • Stacie Schaible

    Stacie Schaible


  • Andrea Gonzmart

    Andrea Gonzmart


  • David Benstock

    David Benstock

    Executive Chef, Il Ritorno

Week 5 Judges

  • Alexis Muellner

    Alexis Muellner

    Tampa Bay Business Journal

  • Derrick Brooks

    Derrick Brooks

    Former NFL Linebacker

  • Wayne Kostroski

    Wayne Kostroski

    Taste of the NFL

Week 6 Judges

  • Jeff Gigante

    Jeff Gigante


  • Chad Crawford

    Chad Crawford

    How to Do Florida

  • Vincent Jackson

    Vincent Jackson

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 7 Judges

  • Chad Chronister

    Chad Chronister

    Hillsborough County Sheriff

  • Ernest Hooper

    Ernest Hooper


  • To Be Announced

    To Be Announced



The late Bern Laxer believed strongly that in the business of food and wine, one must be a student for life. In this spirit, dedicated experts, eager novices and everything in-between come together to teach and learn from one another at the Epicurean Theatre. Inspired by Epicurus’ own philosophical school, this space acts as a forum for the open discussion of a range of topics, from cultural trends to the art of mixology and cooking techniques.

Welcome to our 40-seat fully equipped Viking showroom kitchen!


1207 South Howard Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33606

813-269-4902 (FAX)


Epic Chef is brought to you in part by these proud sponsors:

  • ©2018 Epicurean Hotel & Bern's Steak House.
speaker Bio image

The only thing MasterChef’s Jeff Philbin loves more than food and people, is bringing the two together to provide great culinary experiences!

Growing up, Jeff was drawn to cooking by watching Julia Child, Lidia Bastianich, & Jacques Pépin with his mother every Saturday afternoon on PBS. These culinary titans and their appreciation for their craft inspired Jeff to pursue a career in the culinary industry. With a love for guest engagement and interaction, he worked his way up from waiter, to events coordinator, to area sales manager, and then to director of marketing. It’s a journey which has spanned nearly 15 years.

But it was his appearances on Season 8 of FOX’s MasterChef that introduced America to Jeff’s humble, fun-loving, yet fearless personality. And it all started at a family dinner, when his brother in law said to him, "Jeff, I signed you up for MasterChef. All you need to do is show up in Orlando. I did all of your paperwork because I believe in you.” At that moment, Jeff's life changed forever.

Jeff went on to become a fan favorite and one of the most memorable personalities on the show. It was an incredible experience that has changed him forever. Back home in Tampa, Jeff began "paying it forward" by hosting weekly MasterChef viewing parties, raising thousands of dollars collectively for local charities. He is a Leadership Tampa Bay 2018 Class Project Chairman, "Up and Comer" recipient in Tampa Bay Business Journal's "Top 30 Under 30" list and has served on several boards or organizations.

Between appearances and community building, Jeff pursues his passion for food and cooking as a restaurant consultant, and spends the remainder of his time loving life with his beautiful fiancé Beth, son Holden, & dog Ruby!

speaker Bio image

Feeding Tampa Bay's Hunger Hero for 2018

Maryann Ferenc has spent her lifetime in the restaurant industry, beginning her career in her parents’ restaurant in Detroit as a bus girl. A passionate advocate for independent businesses, Maryann established Mise en Place in 1986, along with co-proprietor Chef Marty Blitz.

Maryann helped introduced New American cuisine to Tampa Bay and was involved in the downtown renaissance when she moved Mise en Place to Kennedy Boulevard at Grand Central Avenue in 1992, occupying a space that dates back to the early 20th century. Mise en Place is now Tampa’s premier restaurant for Modern American cuisine, 30 years later.

Maryann’s charitable work involves feeding the hungry while actively supporting downtown and Tampa’s independent businesses network. A visible and powerful presence in Tampa Bay, Maryann is indelibly linked to multiple community organizations, including Feeding America Tampa Bay, Taste of the NFL, Visit Tampa Bay, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Tampa Independent Business Alliance and Tampa Downtown Partnership.

“Mise en Place is really a combination of passions which, over the course of 30 years, have built a life I’m happy to live. Marty, myself, my parents (rest their souls), our staff and clients make us the restaurant company we are today,” Maryann said, “and I do not lose sight of that.”

Maryann served three two-year terms on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board which advises the Secretary of Commerce and the President. In that role, she was co-chair of the drafting team for the Board’s recommendations regarding the USA’s Five-Year Tourism Strategy. Maryann also sits on the US Travel Association Board and is past chair and current member of Visit Tampa Bay. Maryann has been on the Board of VISIT FLORIDA since 2011, currently serving as Board Chair. The appointment to the Brand USA Board was the pinnacle of her career. As a small business owner, representing the entire restaurant industry is a particular honor. As co-chair of the Start Up Scholars Committee of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce and a member of the University of Tampa Entrepreneurial Center Advisory Board, Maryann continues to work to improve the landscape for small business in Tampa Bay.

Maryann is the proud recipient of numerous awards, including the eWomenNetwork of Tampa Bay’s 2009 Women in Business Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2009 Lou Groza Let’s Kick Hunger Award, the 2011 Tampa Bay Business Journal Businesswoman of the Year award, the 2014 Gonzmart Family Ambassador of the Year and the 2016 Tampa Chamber of Commerce Leadership Award.

speaker Bio image

Author & Broadcaster

Simon Majumdar is a world renowned broadcaster and author who has dedicated the second half of his time on this planet to fulfill his ambition to "Go Everywhere. Eat Everything." It is a journey that has taken him to all fifty states and to dozens of countries around the world. He has written two books: Eat My Globe and Eating for Britain. His latest book, "Fed, White, and Blue" which catalogs his journey to American citizenship, will be published by Hudson Street Press (an imprint of Penguin Books) in 2015. Simon is also a well-recognized personality on the Food Network, regularly appearing on shows such as Iron Chef America, The Next Iron Chef, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Cutthroat Kitchen, Extreme Chef and Beat Bobby Flay. He has also recently appeared as an expert commentator on National Geographic's major new series “EAT:The Story of Food.” He lives in Los Angeles.

speaker Bio image

Chef & Culinary Educator

Emily Ellyn is the Home Economics teacher you’ve always wanted! She single handedly started the Retro Rad cooking movement and encourages everyone to dig through their mother’s recipe box, dust off their pressure cookers, and take the old and make it new. She takes the retro, remixes it, and makes it RAD.

With her quirky persona and trademark cat-eye glasses, you’ll find this retro rad diva cooking up fun and inspiring audiences at food events around the world; all while developing her culinary television career and finishing her Ph.D. in Food Service Education. Emily also donates her time helping non-profit organizations including Florida Hospital and Give Kids The World, writes for “edible” and “BAR” magazines, and lectures at the University of Central Florida. Through it all, she’s gained a loyal cult following. You’ve seen her on Food Network’s “Food Network Star,” “Cupcake Wars,” “Cutthroat Kitchen” and morning news shows across the country; as well as a cameo cartoon appearance on the “Simpsons!”

Emily grew up harvesting food and raising animals on a farm in rural Ohio. Eager to dive into the culinary field, she worked in Cleveland’s top restaurants and started her own catering company while still in high school. Upon leaving Ohio, Emily graduated with a degree in Restaurant Management from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. There, she worked as a teaching assistant until moving to Paris to attend graduate school at Academie Internationale de Management. Emily then went on to earn two master’s degrees in Hospitality Management; one in Paris and one from UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management in Orlando.

Between appearances, Emily stays busy prepping her first cookbook due out next year.

speaker Bio image

10 News Anchor

I was born in Midland, Michigan and grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio and in a small town in rural Connecticut. My dream of being a TV news anchor began as a child, when my mom suggested I start watching 20/20 with Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters to learn "proper English". After that, I was hooked! My days as a reporter started while finishing up college at Emerson in Boston. Days were spent commuting from class to a TV station about 90 minutes away in Springfield, Massachusetts. The business then brought me to Kansas City, to anchor weekends, and then weekday mornings at the #1 ABC affiliate in the country.

Prior to Florida, I've worked as the early evening, then 5 and 11 p.m. anchor at the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, NC. When I'm not bargain hunting, nothing makes me happier than travel, adventure and good eating! All of the above is best with friends and while meeting new people. Chances are you'll also find me working out and enjoying the outdoors, along with my husband, a professional poker player, and two fur children, Frankie the dachshund and Georgie the Yorkie.While I've anchored and reported for many Emmy award winning shows, the honors I'm most proud of, are being named Best Morning Anchor in Kansas City only about a year after my arrival, and then voted by the Charlotte public as Best TV News Personality. People versus a panel of judges any day! There's something magical about Tampa Bay. The people here work hard, and the weather and water make for active lifestyles year round.

My goal as a television news anchor is to be more than a talking head inside a television screen. My purpose and passion champion young people, women, and the community to empower themselves and have the self-confidence by sharing my own struggles navigating life and career. I want others to share in the motivation to chase after their dreams.

speaker Bio image

10 News Anchor

Like many television journalists, I worked in several other media markets before finding my broadcast home here in Tampa Bay.

I grew up, earned a business degree and started a family in the “other” Bay Area of San Francisco. My late entry into broadcasting at age 29 qualified me as the oldest intern the CBS affiliate in San Francisco had ever had.

The first on-air job offer came from a station in Austin, Texas. In one of my first assignments, they sent me right back to San Francisco to cover the Loma Prieta earthquake that interrupted the World Series and claimed 63 lives in 1989.

In a few short years, I filed dispatches from Cuba, Iraq, and Vietnam, picking up a regional Emmy award for reporting. I also spent weekend evenings in the anchor chair.

When WFTS television in Tampa picked up the ABC network affiliation in 1994, I, along with over a hundred other professionals moved to Tampa to start a brand new news operation. I’ve been proud to anchor the evening newscasts ever since.

In my spare time, I play a little guitar, read books, and get dragged around the neighborhood by my 90 pound canine companion, Finnegan.