Eric Grutka Won the 2014 Palm Beach Food & Wine Fest Grand Chef Throwdown

Categories: Behind the Line

All photos by Nicole Danna
Chefs Eric Grutka (left), Sam Horrocks, and Bruce Feingold competed in the fifth annual Grand Chef Throwdown took place Sunday, December 14, in Palm Beach.
Another year, another fabulous food event. Sunday night saw the final foodie gathering of the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, which held its signature grand finale event, the Grand Tasting, at 150 Worth in Palm Beach.

After four full days of food-lovers paradise in Palm Beach, the final event culminated with a tension-filled, cook-off-style chef throwdown. With 30 minutes on the clock, three chefs battled for $10,000 ($5,000 for the chef and $5,000 for his charity of choice) and a year's-worth of bragging rights.

This year, chefs Eric Grutka (executive chef and owner of Ian's Tropical Grill, Stuart), Bruce Feingold (executive chef and partner of Dada, Delray Beach), and Sam Horrocks (sous chef of Pistache French Bistro, West Palm Beach) faced off during the festival's fifth annual Grand Chef Throwdown.

More »

Benny's on the Beach Executive Chef Jeremy Hanlon Wants You to Help Select New Menu Items

Categories: Behind the Line

Benny's on the Beach
The Banana Bonanza is one of six new menu items at Benny's on the Beach in Lake Worth.
When our beloved iconic South Florida restaurants swap ownership, find new leadership in the kitchen, overhaul menus -- even redecorate -- the changes aren't always welcome.

But luckily, at Benny's on the Beach in Lake Worth, all the recent changes seem to have been for the better. And a lot has indeed changed since the long-standing breakfast and lunch spot reopened after the pier's renovations in 2011. Most recently, management announced veteran chef Jeremy Hanlon as a partner and executive chef of the popular, beachside eatery.

More »

Sous Chef Jimmy Holland Is Casa D'Angelo's Secret Ingredient

Categories: Behind the Line

Jess Swanson
Sous chef Jimmy Holland in his natural element.

Towering above patrons and staff with a benevolent smile, Jimmy Holland is not easy to miss. Decked out in his personalized white coat and black backward cap, the sous chef is seen in the open kitchen prep stations, tasting sauces and concocting new recipes. Although he's friendly with customers and most regulars know him by name, he usually stays behind the scenes.

He may not be as recognized as head chef and restaurant namesake Angelo Elia, but Holland has worked tirelessly for the past 15 years at Casa D'Angelo and become an integral ingredient in the Italian eatery's longstanding success.

See also: Peter Pan Diner's Debi Benninger Has Been Serving People Her Whole Life

More »

Peter Pan Diner's Debi Benninger Has Been Serving People Her Whole Life

Categories: Behind the Line

Jess Swanson
At 8 a.m. on a Tuesday, the waitresses at the never-closing, 24-hour Peter Pan Diner are clad in all black and quickly weave between booths and patrons, balancing trays of stacked pancakes, sunny-side-up eggs, and steaming cups of coffee.

With maroon spikes peeking around her face, 61-year-old Debi Benninger effortlessly pours a cup of coffee without looking. Her eyes are fixed on the four white-haired men who have just been seated at her table. Benninger leans in and whispers to them before she nimbly retreats to the kitchen, and the men erupt in laughter. She never took down their order, but their meals emerge from the kitchen within minutes anyway.

When owner Jeronimos Kourkoumelis is asked the secret to running the eatery that was opened by his father in 1978, he points to Benninger. She has been working there since 1994.

See also: Green Owl's Marie Estime Has Quietly Served You For 25 Years

More »

Green Owl's Marie Estime Has Quietly Served You For 25 Years

Categories: Behind the Line

Jess Swanson
Green Owl's dishwasher Mary Estime steps out of the kitchen, and takes off her apron, for a photo.
When we think of dining out, we picture servers and bartenders, maybe a smiling hostess. If someone were to ask us about the people responsible for creating our meal, we'd probably think of a chef. But in every restaurant, big or small, there is a bustling and hard working back of house staff that toils away at dozens of tasks we never thought of. Their unseen and unappreciated hard work keeps the restaurant going. Without them, our meals would never arrive.

Standing at 4'11" with an apron tied tight around her waist, Marie Estime isn't as recognizable as the Green Owl's servers that flit around the front taking orders with a smile. Instead Estime, with a shy manner and quiet laugh, stays unseen in the kitchen washing dishes.

Embarking on her 25th year at the Delray diner, Estime is a kind of matriarch. She has worked there longer than anyone else. Despite oftentimes going unseen, her labors are integral in the diner's day-to-day function.

See also: The Green Owl, a Delray Beach Establishment for 30 Years

More »

Make Your Own Lobster Mac 'n' Cheese With The Tipsy Boar

The Tipsy Boar's Lobster Mac 'n' Cheese. You can do it at home. Seriously.
National gourmet macaroni and cheese month is now behind us, but it doesn't mean we have to return to eating those irradiated looking cheese sauces and powders you find lining grocery aisle shelves.

Your basic cheese sauce is cheap, easy and quick to make. It can be as thick or as thin as you like, and because you choose the cheese the sky is basically the limit. Hello blue cheese sauce with bacon.

See also:
- The Tipsy Boar: The Sardellis Roll the Dice on a Hollywood Gastropub
- Slideshow:The Tipsy Boar in Hollywood

After the jump we'll show you how to make your own basic roux and reveal the Tipsy Boar's Lobster Mac 'n' Cheese recipe.

More »

Dada in Delray Beach: Q&A with Executive Chef Bruce Feingold Who Shares Ghost Stories and Cooking Tips

Chef Bruce Feingold.
Bruce Feingold's first job was in a bakery, washing dishes and decorating cookies with sprinkles and frosting. Little did he know it would lead to a future career in one of South Florida's most beloved restaurants situated in a historic home on the outskirts of downtown Delray Beach.

A New Jersey native, Feingold began cooking at an early age -- just 17 -- a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Fate brought him to Florida, when -- just three weeks before he graduated -- a friend called from Palm Beach. A month later he was working at The Colony Hotel on Palm Beach Island, where he cut his teeth at the resort's high-end steak house.

Today, Feingold is best known as the executive chef and part owner of Dada, the popular Delray Beach restaurant with an anti-establishment flare and cult-like following. Here waiters serve up some of the best food in town, while the bar whips up the area's finest mojitos.

Clean Plate Charlie had a chance to speak with Feingold about how he and his team built one of South Florida's most iconic restaurants.

See Also:
-- Best Places to Order a Mojito in South Florida
-- Dada Executive Chef to Bring Back Popular Wine Pairing Dinners

More »

Big Umm's Cajun Cuisine at the Yellow Green Farmer's Market

Categories: Behind the Line

Photo courtesy Yellow Green Farmer's Market.
Charolette and Ellis Moore.
Charolette and Ellis Moore moved to South Florida about eight years ago, when a new job tempted Ellis away from his native New Orleans. They intended to return to the Big Easy, then Hurricane Katrina hit, flooding vast swaths of the city.

"After that all of our plans changed," Ellis said.

Charolette long had a side business putting together gift baskets stuffed with rich New Orleans pasties, pies and cookies. She was also, as Ellis said, "one hell of a cook."

More »

Former Emeril's South Beach Chef to Lead Thasos

Christine Capozziello
After opening just three and a half months ago along East Oakland Park Blvd. a block away from the ocean, Thasos Greek Taverna has changed up its top toque.

Gone is William D'Auvray who opened the upscale Greek eatery with chef/consultant Giorgio Bakapsias. Both were from North Carolina. In their place comes Brian Cantrell, former head chef of Emeril's on South Beach and A Fish Called Avalon.

More »

Scott Kennedy: From Accountant to Co-Owner of Union and Creator of Candyfish Gourmet Sushi (Which Officially Opens Tomorrow)

Categories: Behind the Line
Here in South Florida, sushi spots are as familiar as burger bars and taco food trucks -- and a lot of them have the same myriad interpretations of the spider and California roll at varying price points. 

First-time restaurateur Scott Kennedy hopes to stand out in the crowded sushi marketplace. He revamped Delray Beach's former Caliente Kitchen space to become Asian gastro-lounge Union, a place where you can find Chinese- and Thai-inspired comfort food and a stellar cocktail lineup.

Now, he is presenting "gourmet" sushi with Candyfish, a sushi den inside the restaurant proper that officially opens tomorrow, October 13 (although the menu has been available to patrons a few weeks now).

Union has a cavernous interior, with worn wood tables replaced by a chic cement-cast bar and high-top tables, and white-washed wood plank walls offset by chic black leather seating. Palm Beach County's largest pro-panel TV screen, 16 feet of screen that swallows the back wall, is often set to a default fish-tank screenscape, helping create the "lounge" part of the gastro-lounge concept, made complete with throbbing beats and pulsing LED lighting to attract the late-night crowd. 

The gastronomes may be more interested in the menus, however, one for Union and one for Candyfish -- as well as one for the drinks and happy hour. Here, hipsters and snowbirds commingle, sipping three-for-one happy-hour cocktails and perusing a list of specialty Asian-oriented dishes.

Kennedy talked to Clean Plate Charlie about how he went from working as an accountant at a private equity firm to becoming co-owner of Delray Beach's first "gourmet sushi bar."

More »

Now Trending