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

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Chef Lauren DeShields

Lake Worth resident and chef Lauren DeShields found out about the Grand Chef Throwdown from a friend -- none other than fellow chef Roy Villacrusis, who posted a comment on his Facebook page urging fellow foodies and chefs to give the competition a try.

"I thought it would be fun," DeShields told Clean Plate Charlie during a recent interview.

A South Florida native, DeShields career is marked by her adventurous spirit, which led her to San Francisco after she graduated from Johnson and Wales Miami. She fell in love with the city, which she describes as her own "culinary mecca" with a unique culinary atmosphere.

"I was interested in everything they had going on there, especially their use of produce and the whole philosophy of using the entire plant from leaves to roots. Just the idea of respecting the whole plant [or animal] you are cooking with," said DeShields. "It's simply the best city in the country for food -- in my opinion -- even better than New York or Chicago."

During her stay in San Francisco, DeShields worked for a number of well-known restaurants -- including the urban wine bar known as RN74 -- while also garnering influences from her time at the 18-seat, high-end dining establishment Saison, as well as the techniques she learned cooking for the small, family-owned Korean restaurant, Namu Gaji.

DeShileds later returned to Florida several years ago for an opportunity to open 3030 Ocean at the Marriott resort on Singer Island with modern American seafood phenom, chef Dean James Max. When the restaurant changed hands, she was given an opportunity to run the kitchen at Market 17 in Fort Lauderdale, where she has worked as executive chef for close to a year.

What makes her style so unique? "I think my technique is a little bit more modern. By going to San Francisco, my style is not as classical as you will find in a lot of restaurants in South Florida," said DeShields.

With an Asian and Middle Eastern influence, DeShields added her cooking is emblematic of an American style, but often fuses a unique twist -- her love of Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine -- into dishes that highlight Moroccan or Japanese ingredients, spices, oils or vinegars. Her favorite dish right now: a French-style curry that uses a special spice she may take with her as her "secret" ingredient if she is selected to compete.

If she is able to compete and wins, DeShields added she would like to choose a charity that will benefit cats.

For more information about the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival, visit the event website.





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