Are you ready for the most exciting seafood competition in the country? Fourteen Miami chefs come together in October to battle it out during South Beach Seafood Week.
The VIP Chef Showdown is a one-of-a-kind event that is set up like a Vegas fight night! This event’s “fight card” pits Miami’s top seafood chefs against each other in seven different battles including lobster, surf n’ turf, sushi, and more!
During each competition, the best of the best will have their opportunity to showcase their culinary prowess at a seafood fest that’s the talk of the town every year. Set inside a VIP club built just for the night, right on the sands of South Beach, Miami chefs host a championship battle royale that’s both exclusive and exciting. This event provides the opportunity for guests to meet and greet with the best chefs in Miami and South Florida.
There’s a reason why the Chef Showdown has been named Travel Channel’s Best Seafood Competition in the country! It shows off how incredibly talented South Beach and Miami chefs have created an world-wide culinary arts destination.
At SoBe Seafood Week’s VIP Chef Showdown, the 14 best chefs from seafood restaurants in Miami and surrounding areas prepare what they hope is a championship dish. Guests get unlimited access to these five-star dishes so they can choose the best ones!
That’s right, event guests vote for their favorite dishes and make up a portion of the deciding vote, along with five formal battle judges! Check out this year’s Battle Reveal video to get excited for the upcoming competition:
Fall’s most talked-about foodie event is a chance to try some of the very best cuisine found at any Miami Beach festival. But don’t just take our word for it; check out the fourteen Miami chefs you’ll watch compete and get to know what drives their philosophy on food.
The 14 Best Chefs in Miami Will Compete at SoBe Seafood Festival
Chef: James Versfelt
Restaurant: Shelborne South Beach
Chef: Reiner Mendez
Restaurant: Lure Fishbar
Chef Reiner Mendez vs. Chef James Versfelt
You can’t have an epic seafood battle or a seafood and wine festival without oysters. Battle Oyster is a standout event in the Chef Showdown, not the least of which because of Chef James Versfelt. He’s the reigning champion and that means he’s serving up the best oysters in Miami at Shelbourne South Beach. As for why Chef James loves competition, “It’s great to meet new people in the industry and get out to breathe some fresh air. We don’t get out of our routines at the restaurants, and this gives us the chance to meet customers and shake hands and hang out with the other chefs.”
Challenger Chef Reiner is just as eager to create succulent oysters during the Chef Showdown, and he’s looking forward to the chance to show off (after all, his kitchen is at Lure Fishbar). He loves to compete. “The sensation of cooking under pressure and winning (most of the time) is so great,” Chef Reiner said. “You learn different cooking styles while you are out there with the other chefs and it keeps you thinking creatively.”
Here’s what these Miami chefs have to say about their cooking style and food philosophy:
“I loosely follow the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid. Source good local ingredients, keep the quality great, and present it uniquely for the group to enjoy.” –Chef James Versfelt
“Seafood is so simple that you don’t have to touch it. I like to keep the freshness, source from the best, and keep my dishes simple to enjoy.” –Chef Reiner Mendez
Chef: Jim Pastor
Restaurant: The Rusty Pelican Restaurant
Chef: Raul A. Del Pozo
Restaurant: Lightkeepers at Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne
Chef Jim Pastor vs. Chef Raul A. Del Pozo
What can you expect out of Battle Tuna? An epic competition. Reigning champion Chef Jim Pastor makes some of the most delicious tuna in all of Miami (you already know, if you’ve been to The Rusty Pelican Restaurant in Key Biscayne). Tuna lovers from all over rejoice whenever they hear his name, but he’s up against the equally impressive Chef Raul A. Del Pozo who puts his own spin on tuna.
However, while the competition will be fierce, Chef Jim isn’t worried. “Competitions are fun. I like doing them. It’s great to get to work under pressure, which helps you thrive in the moment.” As for Chef Raul (another Miami chef creating culinary magic out of Key Biscayne at The Ritz Carlton’s Lightkeepers), he thinks competitions are great because it gives him a chance to spend time in the cooking community.
“The comradery & community gained amongst chefs is the best part for me,” Chef Raul said. “We all go to win, but we also show up to see new techniques, push ourselves, and come together as a community united in the thing that we love FOOD!”
Here’s what these Miami chefs had to say about their cooking style and food philosophy:
“Miami is a melting pot with so many unique flavors all around. It’s great to be able to have the opportunity in this area to expand menu options and do almost anything here to cater to those different audiences.” –Chef Jim Pastor
“My cooking style is progressive. I use local ingredients inspired by techniques from around the world to create what I consider mine. Solid cooking, with a touch of whimsical flair.” –Chef Raul A. Del Pozo
Chef: Demetrios Pyliotis
Restaurant: Poseidon Greek Restaurant
Chef: Julian Garriga
Restaurant: Seawell Fish n’ Oyster
Chef Julian Garriga vs. Chef Demetrios Pyliotis
Battle Fish is a battle for the ages, and it’s one of our absolute favorite battles at any food and wine festival in Miami. Chef Demetrios Pyliotis from Poseidon Greek Restaurant can also be expected to bring something unique and delicious to the table. He never serves less than perfection, which is why he loves the competition and is a three-time Champion!
When we asked Chef Demetrios what his favorite part of the Chef Showdown is, he said, “The BATTLE! HA.”
He went on to say, “But seriously, people LOVE to try the different food from all the different cultures from each of the chefs. It’s amazing to have all these options in one area. The chefs have a great time and the challenge of giving the guests a bite filled with all the flavors of the full dish is really so much fun and rewarding to see their faces.”
As for his competitor, Chef Julian Garriga is looking forward to the new challenge. “I have to say that this is my first time competing but I am a very competitive person so the challenge and excitement around a competition to showcase our new restaurant and the food from our new concept at Seawell Fish N’ Oyster is going to be a lot of fun.”
Learn what each top Miami chef has to say about their cooking style and food philosophy:
“I’m about simplicity and the raw material. I like to find high-quality, non-processed foods. Use some good olive oil from Greece accentuated with raw materials.” –Chef Demetrios Pyliotis
“I’m very ingredient-driven, and I don’t like to cover up flavors. Nature is an amazing thing, and you have to treat it right for it to work.” –Chef Julian Garriga
Chef: Masatomo Hamaya
Restaurant: Dragonfly Izakaya & Fish Market
Chef: Edwin Delgado
Chef Masatomo Hamaya vs. Chef Edwin Delgado
Battle Sushi pits premium ingredients and artful flavors against each other in a competition that delivers the best sushi in South Beach. These two Miami chefs have perfected their crafts, and it’s a wonder to behold!
“I never liked cooking competitions, to be honest,” said Chef Masatomo of Dragonfly Izakaya & Fish Market. “Everyone has a different culture and different palate, and everyone is going to like different things. But, what I do like is being with all of the other chefs and having fun together in front of our potential customers.” For someone who doesn’t like competition, you’d never know it. Chef Masa put on quite a show in 2017 and he is the favorite to repeat win in 2018.
As for his competitor, Chef Edwin of Tanuki is coming in ready to unseat the champion, and he’s looking forward to the challenge. “I like to see what others are doing and showcase my style. See what the customers think of some of the creative ideas I have.”
Take a look at what these top Miami chefs have to say about their cooking style and food philosophy:
“I’d say I’m a purist in cuisine. Japanese cuisine is simple and food-driven, so the food has to be food and stand out without soaking it up in sauces.” –Chef Masatomo Hamaya
“The simplicity of Japanese cuisine makes everything worth it. I’m Latin but have always worked with Japanese cuisine because I enjoy all the flavors and traditional ingredients that help respect the fish being served.” –Chef Edwin Delgado
Battle Surf n’ Turf
Chef: Sean Brasel
Restaurant: Meat Market Miami
Chef: Jeffrey Williams
Restaurant: The Social Club
Chef Sean Brasel vs. Chef Jeffrey Williams
We love the combination of steak and seafood, so Battle Surf n’ Turf is a personal favorite. There’s just something about a savory meat dish combined with delicate seafood. And when it comes to surf n’ turf, no one does it better than Executive Chef Sean Brasel out of Meat Market Miami. One of the best Miami chefs, he’s a pleasure to watch in competition.
Surprisingly, he loves to watch the guests just as much as we love to watch him. When we asked his favorite thing about cooking competitions he said, “Definitely the guests. The excitement from the guests and the look on their faces when they try our unique dishes gives you that rush of why you started cooking in the first place.”
As for his challenger Chef Jeffery of The Social Club, he loves the guests too and interacting with them is his top priority. “I’d have to say the face-time with the customers and giving them an opportunity to meet the staff behind the scenes in the kitchen. We keep to our routines and are always behind the scenes so to share the moment with your team, shake some hands, and celebrate with the staff together giving them an opportunity to connect with the customers is a special moment.”
Read what each Miami chef has to say about their cooking style and food philosophy:
“My goal is to compliment whatever product is the main focus that I’m accentuating in the dish, in the best way possible.” –Chef Sean Brasel
“I’m really influenced by all the chefs around the world that I’ve worked with and they all taught me to highlight that signature dish. At the Surfcomber, we sell an experience! I’ve really made a menu that within each signature dish, travelers will remember for a lifetime.” –Chef Jeffrey Williams
Chef: David Salinas
Restaurant: Joe’s Stone Crab
Chef: Jarod Higgins
Restaurant: AmericanAirlines Arena
Chef David Salinas vs. Chef Jarod Higgins
Battle Lobster is an epic battle to create the most succulent and tender lobster dish imaginable. This year, Executive Sous Chef David Salinas is picking up the reigns from this Miami Chef, Executive Sous Chef David Salinas, Andre Bienvenu to keep the Battle Lobster championship with Joe’s Stone Crab, and he’s looking forward to it.
“The pressure you have while on stage is definitely the best part [of the competition],” said Chef David. “Being under the gun while the crowd is cheering you on is so much fun and, to be honest, we love cooking and making good food, doing so while watching our guests with big smiles on their faces, makes for a great experience.”
As for his challenger, Executive Chef Jarod Higgins, he most loves the chance to be creative when it comes to battle. He explained his favorite thing about cooking competitions as follows: “The rush of creativity and competition with a fellow Chef. Doing what I love in front of a crowd of people who get to see firsthand, the creation of taking an ingredient and bringing a dish to life.”
Here’s what these Miami chefs have to say about their cooking style and food philosophy:
“I’m going to take a page out of my Executive Chef and Mentor’s book on this one: Food is life; we have to have food, so why not have a little fun with food while we are doing it?” –Chef David Salinas
“Keep it simple and don’t confuse the ingredients. A perfect dish shouldn’t be composed of so many ingredients that it reads like a short novel. The best chef can take the simplest ingredient, whether it be a carrot, black mission fig or a fresh caught fish, and turn it into the most delicious dish by technique and respect for the food.” –Chef Jarod Higgins
Main Event – Battle Taco
Chef: Bernie Matz
Restaurant: Bodega South Beach
Chef: Ralph Pagano
Restaurant: Naked Taco
Chef Ralph Pagano vs. Chef Bernie Matz
Battle Taco? Yes, please! We love tacos and seafood and when combined together, our mouth’s water just thinking about it! Seriously, you can’t hold any South Beach events without tacos, and we wouldn’t want to try. And this final competition is fierce.
Chef Bernie Matz might be the reigning champion, but he’s up against #Fireproof Veteran Chef Ralph Pagano. Making the night’s main event a battle for the record books. These two Miami chefs are hot, hot, hot!
As for why they love to compete? Chef Bernie, of Bodega South Beach, loves competition for the victory, of course. “To be able to get creative, think outside of the box and come up with new, different, and fun dishes every year is the best part. But, I have to say, this year is extra special for me. Being able to join together and celebrate our friend back from his injuries last year and celebrate with South Florida together and share the spotlight with Ralph will be really special.”
Chef Ralph, on the other hand, loves the attendees the most. “The guests are the best part. A couple of years ago, I was leaving my restaurant to come to the event and saw a couple having some lunch at the Naked Taco. I gave them (2) tickets because they were visiting. I now see them every year at the event. They book their vacations for this weekend and it gives me great joy to be able to inspire and celebrate the culinary talent in South Florida together and see the fun and satisfaction on our customers’ faces throughout the night.”
Check out what these Miami chefs have to say about their cooking style and food philosophy:
“I was born in Miami, and my background is Cuban. My style of cooking is to serve food RAW and as low carb as possible with good veggies and fruit. Almost naked.” –Chef Bernie Matz
“#GetNaked, right Bernie? When I came to Miami 15 years ago, I was an Italian transplant, and the flow and energy of all things tropical got me. The Latin inspiration with all the flavors gave me my calling and inspired my taste.” –Chef Ralph Pagano
Unlike your typical top chef tournament, Chef Showdown is a unique foodie competition that has no equal. The top chefs in Miami bring their A-game to the stage on South Beach for a chance at being crowned a culinary champion.
You’ll be in awe of every single dish being created during each of these battles:
- Battle Oyster
- Battle Tuna
- Battle Fish
- Battle Sushi
- Battle Surf n’ Turf
- Battle Lobster
- Battle Taco
Everything for the event (meaning, food AND drinks!) is included in the price of the ticket. This South Beach Seafood Week event sells out every single year, so if you want to see the top chefs in Miami create some of the most mouth-watering food you’ve ever tasted, you’ve got to get your tickets fast!
Which Miami chefs or seafood dishes are you most looking forward to seeing and tasting from in the competition?
Share with us in the comments below!