James Beard Foundation’s Star-Studded “Celebrity Chef Tour” Benefit Dinner Coming to Brevard Zoo


September 1, 2018

Local Space Coast chefs joining celebrity counterparts in preparing six-course feast, with part of proceeds benefiting Indian River Lagoon cleanup effort

MELBOURNE, Fla. – For the first time ever, the James Beard Foundation is bringing its star-studded “Celebrity Chef Tour” to the Space Coast, with a benefit dinner planned for Brevard Zoo in Melbourne on Sept. 30. Proceeds from the event will benefit both the James Beard Foundation and sustainability efforts here in Brevard County, such as the Save Our Indian River Lagoon cleanup project.

Traveling to more than 20 U.S. cities each year, the Celebrity Chef Tour dinner series delivers a taste of what typically goes on inside New York’s historic James Beard House, the former home of the late cookbook author, teacher and champion of American cuisine.

Each one-night-only tour event begins with a cocktail reception and is followed by a multicourse dinner – replete with wine pairings – prepared collaboratively by a diverse group of JBF Award winners, assisted by local chefs. The evening concludes with a decadent dessert course and a question-and-answer session with the participating chefs.

The elegant, safari-themed event Sept. 30 will start with passed hors d’oeuvres and bubbly on the balcony, where guests can interact with some of the zoo’s wildlife inhabitants and listen to local musicians before entering the zoo’s Nyami Nyami River Lodge for the elaborate six-course dinner.

The culinary headliners scheduled to take part at Brevard Zoo include “Top Chef” alumna Chef Tiffany Derry, of Dallas, Texas; “Hell’s Kitchen” alumna Chef Paula DaSilva, of Coconut Creek, Florida; best-selling cookbook author Chef Doreen Colondres, from Puerto Rico; and two of restaurant reviewer Zagat’s top 15 “badass female chefs” for 2018: Chef Deborah VanTrece, of Atlanta, and Chef Soraya Caraccioli-Kilgore, a pastry chef out of Miami.

The celebrity chefs will be hosted locally on the Space Coast by Chef Toni Elkhouri, the executive chef at Melbourne’s Cedars Cafe.

The Brevard County-area chefs who will assist the touring celebrity chefs include Chef Katherine Fridl, of Foodscapes Consulting (in Cocoa Beach); Chef Justin Medina, of Brix Project (Titusville); Chef Brandon Basista, of The Bearded Chef Food Truck & Catering (Melbourne); Chef Josh Eslinger, of The Fat Snook (Cocoa Beach) and Crush XI (Melbourne); and Chef Kyle Hash, of Pizza Gallery & Grill (Viera). Bread service will be provided by Jacqueline Dittmore and Christophe Molitor, of Jacqueline’s Bakery & Café (Melbourne). Local restaurateur Chef Scott Earick, of Scott’s on Fifth (Indialantic), will serve as emcee for the evening.

“The Space Coast is honored to host such a prestigious culinary event, and we are thrilled that a portion of the proceeds will go toward improving our precious Indian River Lagoon for Brevard County residents and visitors,” said Bonnie King, the interim executive director of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism. “This will be a full evening of the best the Space Coast has to offer: delicious food, local musical entertainment, lively conversation and incredible outdoor experiences.”

Brevard Zoo is located at 8225 North Wickham Road. Tickets for this event start at $130. For more information, visit the James Beard Foundation website.


Bonnie King
Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism