VOTE via Facebook for Chef to Challenge Roy Villacrusis at Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival Grand Chef Throwdown

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In less than two weeks, one of South Florida's most exciting food events, the 6th annual Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival, will be upon us -- a time when the country's most famous chefs come to cook at Palm Beach's most prestigious resorts and restaurants.

The food fun starts Friday, December 7 with a food truck competition, and continues with a series of events ending with one of the most popular: the 6th annual Grand Tasting, where more than 30 chefs from New York to Los Angeles will showcase their skills.

But what about an event for local chefs only? In the past three years the Grand Tasting has also featured the Grand Chef Throwdown, where three local chefs go head-to-head for a $10,000 grand prize and the honor of being named the "Grand Chef Master" by a panel of celebrity judges including Norman Van Aken, owner of Norman's in Coral Gables.

However, before the show begins, two contestants must be chosen to compete against reigning champion and local chef Roy Villacrusis, the only chef to have won the Grand Chef Throwdown since the contest's inception in 2010, having taken home the title two years running.

See Also:
-- Palm Beach Food and Wine Fest 2012
-- Villacrusis Wins Food and Wine Fest Grand Chef Throwdown
-- Palm Beach Food and Wine Fest Features "Top Chef"

Contestants are chosen via Facebook voting, which is open to the public. Each chef interested in competing must post to the Grand Chef Throwdown Facebook page, where voters (you, me -- whoever) "like" their status in an attempt to rack up votes for their favorite competitor.

According to Palm Beach Food and Wine Fest Organizer David Sabin, the Grand Chef Throwdown began as a partnership with Creekstone Farms Premium Black Angus Beef, which sponsors the event. The competition was an "innovative way to connect with the culinary professionals," Sabin told Clean Plate Charlie during a recent interview.

The first Grand Chef Throwdown started with a general Facebook competition. The goal was to encourage local chefs to participate, while also giving the South Florida community a chance to actively select their favorite chef. While anyone can join the competition, professional chefs from Palm Beach and Broward County have been selected to compete the past two years.

As with previous years, the 2012 Grand Chef Throwdown will include the two chefs with the highest number of votes, who will compete with Villacrusis by making a dish using an unknown cut of Creekstone beef. Contestants are given use of a full pantry of spices and ingredients, and are allowed to bring one "special" secret ingredient with them to the competition. The winner will receive a $10,000 grand prize, half of which was once donated to the James Beard Foundation.

To make the competition even more exciting, this year the festival has a few firsts: the winning chef is now given the chance to select a charity of his or her choice, and Market 17 executive chef Lauren DeShields will be the first woman to compete for a spot.

Lastly, this year rumors of false Facebook accounts set up for the purpose of voting surfaced, and one contestant -- Delray Beach and Dada executive chef Bruce Feingold -- decided to drop out of the running because of it, frustrated with the seemingly mismanaged voting process. According to Sabin, using Facebook and it's "systematic procedure for voting" has worked well for the competition over the years, and there are no plans to change it or penalize competitors for racking up votes -- no matter how they get them.

Want to get in on the action to support your favorite chef? Simply go to the Grand Chef Throwdown Facebook page and vote before the final tally at 5 p.m. this Friday, November 30. But before you do, get to know all the chefs who want the chance to compete for the 2012 title:

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