Heads up, foodies

24th Master Chefs Classic coming right up


Forget “Top Chef.” This is better.

The 24th Annual Master Chefs Classic, held at the Margaritaville Resort & Marina Pier, 245 Front St, is on Sunday, Jan. 28, and for any foodies, should not be missed. While famed local chefs gather to battle for culinary titles, the bonus is that the competition benefits the Monroe Association for ReMARCable Citizens (MARC provides life services for developmentally and intellectually disabled adults in the Florida Keys). Tickets sell out fast, so get your seat at the table.

Local chefs compete in categories from appetizer to entrée to dessert. The audience as well as judges pick their favorites and then crown the Master Chef.

Chef Carl Stanton, an instructor from MHS Dolphin Bistro, is returning to defend his 2017 title for “Best Appetizer.” He also won first place for Best Dessert in 2016; second place for Best Dessert in 2014 and 2015; and people’s choice Best Entrée in 2009. Some of Stanton’s winning dishes were Red Velvet Cheesecake with Oreo Crust, S’mores Tartlette, Pomegranate Lamb Lollipops, Bacon Lobster Rolls and a Mango Key Lime Parfait.

“I’m a competitive person. I love this type of thing. Plus, being the only high school from here going against restaurants and hotels is good for the kids to see other things going on in the biz. You put your best foot forward and at the end of the day we’re still comrades in this game.”

Chef Scott Mauer’s top-notch kitchen at Hot Tin Roof at Ocean Key Resort and Spa won second place from judges and first place people’s choice for Best Entrée in 2016; and second place entrée from judges again in 2017. Among the chef’s previous dishes are Butter Poached Lobster, Star Anise Gastrique, Grill Pineapple and Chervil Salad and Braised Veal Cheek, Lobster Potato Gnocchi, Corn Sauce.

“We don’t think of this as a competition,” Mauer said. “We are there to help the MARC house raise money for its operations and have fun!”

Another seasoned Master Chef competitor is Maria Manso from the Pier House Resort. Specializing in Caribbean flavors and local seafood, Manso has won first place for appetizers in 2013, 2015 and 2016, and people’s choice in 2016. In 2017, she took home third place in dessert and entrée. Manso’s winning dishes included Tuna taco in a crispy wonton shell, Lobster BLT salad, Lobster Bisque with grilled cheese sandwich, and guava pie with toasted meringue.

“It’s a friendly competition,” she said. “We get to taste each other’s food and catch up. Yes, we are all in it to win it, but at the end of the day we do it for the MARC House.” Manso’s inspiration this year? “ I will be cooking a typical northern dish with a Key West twist that will warm you up; I’m hoping for cold weather.”

24th Master Chefs Classic

Sunday, Jan. 28, from 4 to 7 p.m.

Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina, 245 Front St.

Tickets at www.keystix.com

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