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Miami's 'Chef Showdown' Kicks off This October With a Lineup of All-Star Chefs, Presented by South Beach Seafood Festival


The Best Seafood in Miami: All-Star Chefs Compete at Chef Showdown in October, Presented by South Beach Seafood Festival

By Gary Duff | September 4, 2018 | Food & Drink

If you consider yourself a true foodie, we have an exclusive scoop about the best seafood in Miami just for you.

The annual South Beach Seafood Festival's VIP Chef Showdown event takes place on Friday, October 19, featuring the city’s top talent for an intense night of culinary competition. The event welcomes guests to the sands of South Beach for an all-inclusive evening of battle-worthy food tasting, premier open bar, endless VIP experiences and a live chef competition unlike anything you've seen.


The October party on the sands of South Beach in the GOYA Culinary Pavilion featuring South Florida's top chefs is one of fall's hottest tickets.

Armed with a special seafood ingredient provided during each hotly anticipated battle, 14 Miami-based chefs are tasked with creating their very best dish in front of a rowdy live audience, who will be voting for their favorite chefs throughout the night!

"The energy. The crowd. The chefs. It's an amazing night and a true beach bash of epic proportions on the sands of South Beach." said Kelly Blanco of NBC6, who is back to emcee this annually sold-out event for the fifth time. "I love to see South Florida's best chefs pull out all the stops to try and take home a championship title."

The event runs from seven p.m. to 11 p.m. with battles happening throughout the night leading up to the Main Event. This Vegas-styled "fight night" is the most highly anticipated event of the South Beach Seafood Festival. With 14 unique battles set for the night featuring Miami's best seafood, seven champions will reign!

Ocean Drive is excited to share a first-look at the 2018 Battle Pairings! Here's what you need to know about each upcoming battlee before the October 19 night of competition.

Battle Oyster Pit


The first chef battle of the night kicks off with Shelborne South Beach chef James Versfelt, who won the chef showdown category in 2017! He will be duking it out with challenger Lure Fishbar's Reiner Mendez. The must-use ingredient? Oyster. Will they broil, poach, stew, fry, or serve it raw? The choice is theirs! Every guest will get to enjoy both dishes and pick their favorite.

Battle Tuna


Rusty Pelican chef and Chef Showdown champion Jim Pastor will be defending his title against newcomer chef Raul A. Del Pozo of Lightkeepers at The Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne. Both competitors are restaurant veterans, with Pastor having cut his teeth at some of Miami’s biggest hotels including the Hyatt Regency in Newport Beach and W South Beach, while Del Pozo spent time working for legendary chefs David Bouley and Daniel Boulud in New York City. In the night's second battle, these chefs will have 15 minutes to wow the crowd with flavor and showmanship!

Battle Fish, Presented by Vaitaire Seafood


We love a good chargrilled Bronzino and we’re hoping that during this fish-themed battle presented by Vaitaire Seafood, we might get one from either Poseidon restaurant’s Demetrios Pyliotis or Seawell Fish N’ Oyster Bar chef Julian Garriga. Three-time champion Pyliotis is not ready to give up his title and this promises to be a nail-biter as we await to find out if Garriga can knock him out of the top spot.

Battle Sushi


Looking for the best seafood in Miami? When chef Masa Hamaya of Dragonfly Izakaya, a traditional Japanese restaurant in Doral, faces off against chef Edwin Delgado of Tanuki, an Asian hot spot that showcases Chinese, Japanese, and South Asian cooking in Miami Beach, he'll be defending his title as Chef Showdown champion in the event’s most technically challenging sushi dish-off. Sushi lovers get to enjoy both chefs' battle dish, but only one can be crowned champion.

Battle Surf and Turf, Presented by Halperns' Steak and Seafood


Also among the slew of chefs defending their titles, two-time champion chef Sean Brasel of Meat Market is set to take on newcomer Jeffrey Williams of The Social Club at Kimpton in a battle for the best surf and turf this side of South Beach. In addition to the audience vote, four Executive Chefs from around the country will be judging the battles on stage. Brasel is known for his showmanship; can Williams sneak out a win?

Battle Lobster


This battle's selection of local lobster as the competitor's must-use ingredient is sure to lay the foundation for some amazing dishes. And who better to highlight the event’s fresh seafood than chef David Salinas, who has been preparing some of Miami’s most delicious seafood plates at Joe’s Stone Crab, and AmericanAirlines Arena executive chef Jarod Higgins, who has entertained some of the world’s greatest chefs, including Massimo Bottura, who currently has the world’s number one restaurant. We're especially exicted to try their battle dishes; what's a seafood festival without some succulent lobster?

MAIN EVENT: Battle Taco


The indulgent night caps off with a main event featuring two try heavyweights. The match-up between three-time champion chef Bernie Matz of Bodega and #fireproof chef Ralph Pagano of Naked Taco, is sure to be the loudest, most exciting battle of the evening.

Matz, who has over three decades of restaurant experience, has faced Pagano in the competition before, but that doesn't always guarantee an advantage. Pagano, a Hell's Kitchen and Iron Chef alum sure to give Matz a run for his money, hosts his own food program, Pressure Cook, and took Miami's food scene by storm when he opened his Mexican-inspired restaurant, Naked Taco, in 2014.

Expect sparks to fly as these two chefs serve up some of the best seafood-inspired tacos Miami has to offer.


Event Producer Tod Roy says, "This is our favorite event we produce all year long. Chefs bring their best to the stage and the showmanship is top notch. Guests will see everything from Mariachi bands to Samurai warriors accompanying chefs to the stage—these Chefs put on one heck of a show. There is nothing like it on the beautiful beaches of South Beach!"

Ocean Drive is anxious to hit the sand and experience this one-night-only event on Friday, October 19. The VIP Chef Showdown is packed with the best seafood in Miami, premium open bar and a live showcase of all-star chefs! For more information about the Chefs and their restaurants, visit

2018 Battle Pairings Are:
  • Battle Oyster: Champion Chef James Versfelt vs. Challenger Chef Reiner Mendez
  • Battle Tuna: Champion Chef Jim Pastor vs. Challenger Chef Raul A. Del Poz
  • Battle Fish: 3-Time Champion Chef Demetrios Pyliotis vs. Challenger Juan Garriga
  • Battle Sushi: Champion Chef Masa Hamaya vs. Challenger Chef Edwin Delgado
  • Battle Surf n' Turf: 2-Time Champion Chef Sean Brasel vs. Challenger Chef Jeffrey Williams
  • Battle Lobster: Challenger Chef David Salinas vs. Challenger Chef Jarod Higgins
  • Main Event - Battle Taco: 3-Time Champion Chef Bernie Matz vs. Challenger Chef Ralph Pagano

For more information on the October South Beach Seafood Festival must-attend Chef Showdown event, visit The Chef Showdown is brought to you by Talbott Vineyards and presented by GOYA Food, Celebrity Cruises, Herradura, and City National Bank.

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