ExTravelganza

Be part of the 29th Annual ExTravelganza.

For those patrons attending in person, experience the “Tours of Taste” by sampling delectable delights and libations from some of the top Bay Area Chef’s, Restaurants and renowned wine/spirits from top area producers. Enjoy!

Thank you to our 2021 Participating Chefs. Congratulations to Executive Chef Todd Holender, Opal Sands Resort for being voted as the 2021 winner of the People’s Choice Award, for best menu offerings at the Tours of Taste.


 

Chef Andrew BaschChef Andrew Basch
Sheraton Sand Key Resort

Chef Andrew, a Clearwater native, has spent his entire life around food. With an Italian mother and a German father, Andrew grew up canning, farming, gardening, hunting, and doing everything related to food with his grandparents. With a vegetarian mother, if Andrew wanted to eat meat, he was going to have to learn to prepare it himself. Chef Andrew’s most treasured family memories involve food, which led him to his first job in a kitchen. What started out as a job washing dishes grew into a culinary career built from a hands on education that has spanned 19 years. Andrew has always sought to better his knowledge and experience by learning all areas of the food and beverage industry be it in the kitchen or front of the house operations, making him a well-rounded culinary professional that is very in tune with customer needs and expectations. Most recently, Chef Andrew has joined the team at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort as Executive Chef overseeing the resort’s culinary operations.

In his spare time, Andrew can be found out on the gulf waters. He continues his family memories as well as he lives in a home with four generations – all of whom love to cook. Andrew also finds time to give back to the community through his involvement with Hands On Education. Hands On Education is a non-profit organization that works with learning disabled students to train them in hotel services including the culinary arts. Andrew — who was himself a student there at one time — has trained legally blind students on knife skills and received an award for outstanding achievements.


 

Chef Lahna LaFonChef Lahma LaFon
Sandpearl's Caretta on the Gulf

Chef Lahma LaFon was born and raised in the Tampa Bay area. Lahma attended Le Cordon Bleu Orlando and graduated with top honors. After spending two years working with the Tampa Marriott Waterside he then spent a year in California honing his culinary skills. Returning to Florida he started working at the Sandpearl Resort. Starting as a cook with the four diamond Caretta on the Gulf he worked his way to be the lead cook, Sous Chef, Banquet Chef, Chef de Cuisine, and is currently the Executive Chef running the Sandpearl's Caretta on the Gulf.


 

Chef Isaias BurgosChef Isaias Burgos
The Original Crabby Bill’s

Originally from Mexico, Isaias started working in restaurant kitchens at the young age of sixteen. He had an instant passion for creating a wide variety of cuisine.. Isaias had a desire to learn everything about the restaurant industry and every aspect of how to run the kitchen. Working in every station, he quickly moved up into a head chef and kitchen manager role. He has over thirty years of fine dining experience including American, Italian, Greek, Serbian, Mexican, and Seafood, to name a few. He is also a banquet and catering master serving parties of 500 plus guests, including menu creeations. He spent 13 years as the Head Chef at The Wine Cellar in North Redington Beach and has assisted in opening new restaurants and clubs throughout Pinellas County. He is now the Head Chef for The Original Crabby Bill’s on Indian Rocks Beach.

 


 

Ross ClingmanChef Ross Clingman
Renaissance Vinoy

Childhood summers spent in vegetable gardens and kitchens of hard working Italian immigrants lead to a love of everything culinary.

Working in a deli as a teenager were the first paid lessons of the trade. I would cut steaks, prepare salads and cook dinners for the supper club.

Starting as a prep cook, long hours lead to opportunities for growth which I took full advantage of. In 2013 I was promoted to kitchen supervisor. Where I was responsible for menu design and execution.

In 2015 I took an opportunity to become the Beach Club Chef at the Ritz Carlton Sarasota.

Fast-forward to 2017 where I took the position of Specialty Chef at the Vinoy.

Traveling is where I find inspiration. I love seeing how different cultures use their local ingredients.

2015 + 2017 Local Top Chef winner (Local Shops 1)


 

Chef Justin WeavernChef Justin Weaver
Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites

Chef Justin graduated culinary school in 2008 with a degree in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management. As a Pennsylvania native, he began his career working throughout the state in all-scratch kitchens, country clubs, and resorts including Nemacolin Woodlands and the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel. He relocated to the Clearwater area in 2014 as the Sous Chef at the Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites on Sand Key and has since become the Executive Chef of the property. His most notable accomplishments include being voted “Best Restaurant” during Pittsburgh Restaurant Week in 2013 and earning himself the title, Runner Up, as the “Most Enthusiastic Chef” during 2016 Clearwater Beach Restaurant Week.

Justin’s passion lies in hotels where he has been working for the last 11 years. He loves that his team’s creativity in the culinary department can impact the entire operation, and believes that having fun while also being disciplined and consistent is the key to putting out the best product possible. His greatest asset is his team and takes great pride in developing each person individually to elevate the standard in his kitchen. Justin also likes to spend his free time outdoors, at the beach, or at Disney World with his wife and 2-year-old son.


 

Chef Bobby ShirleyChef Bobby Shirley
Clear Sky on Cleveland

Born and raised in Pinellas County, I attended Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School, and continued my education at Pinellas Park high, graduating in 1998. I attended The Academy of Culinary Art and graduated in 2000. For the past 26 years I have enjoyed working in many different restaurants and trained under talented chefs such as Chef Chris Ponte, former owner and chef of Cafe Ponte. I have been the resident Chef at Clear Sky Restaurants for almost 14 years. I enjoy working hard and creating amazing dishes from around the world. My passion for food is what drives me to constantly be better and make great food for people to enjoy.


 

Chef Lee AquinoChef Lee Aquino
The Birch & Vine

Amelia Island native, Chef Lee Aquino, got a head start on his culinary career by bartering the dishes he created in a culinary class for “extra credit” with his high school teachers.

Trained under an apprenticeship with the American Culinary Federation in St. Augustine, Chef Lee has spent his career finding his culinary voice, one that pairs seasonal flavors with bold presentations to excite the senses. Lee’s favorite dish is the one he has yet to create. With that in mind, he prefers to cook hungry, noting that hunger allows him to really taste the nuance in a dish and keeps his palate open.

With a pencil tucked behind his ear, and a passion for creating interesting meals, this hands-on chef welcomes the challenge of working with people in both the front and back of the house. Creating plates that are not only delicious, but memorable, is what drives Chef Lee’s creativity in the kitchen.

After six successful years, as executive sous chef of the Tampa Yacht and Country Club, Chef Lee has set his sights on the more exciting side of the Bay! He joins the Birchwood as the new Executive Chef, cooking up amazing new dishes for you and your palate!


 

Executive Chef Todd HolenderExecutive Chef Todd Holender
Opal Sands

Since 2008 Chef Todd has served with Ocean Properties and Affiliates, as an Executive Chef operating some of their most prestigious properties. He has traveled with them opening and operating resorts from Maine to Key West. Chef Todd was important to the success of many Ocean Properties culinary programs and developed some of their most successful programs and serves as the Executive Chef at the Opal Sands Resort.

Chef Todd gained his formal education at Le Cordon Bleu at Orlando Culinary Academy in 2004 and gained knowledge by working in Orlando at the JW Marriott assisting with the opening of Primo. Prior to joining Ocean Properties Chef Todd had a great opportunity to own and operate his own restaurant in Winter Park, Fl achieving Best Restaurant in Winter Park 2005 and Best Restaurant to Eat at Late Night 2006 in Orlando and working at classical Italian restaurants in the Central Florida region. Since then, Chef Todd has traveled the US and abroad working in such places as Alaska, Utah, North Carolina, New York, New Hampshire, Florida, Maine and Montreal Canada.

Chef Todd received his Certified Executive Chef certificate through the American Culinary Federation at the age of 30 and has worked diligently to work in a professional program.

Chef Todd grew up in a kitchen working with his family restaurant and started his first professional culinary job at the age of 15 with the Inverrary Country Club while working there he was encouraged by all the Chef’s to pursue his culinary career.

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