The Florida Keys Children’s Shelter, serving more than 500 youths and families annually throughout the Keys, is launching a “Best Keys Eats 2020” virtual chefs challenge to benefit the nonprofit organization.

The inaugural cooking competition is to involve chefs affiliated with restaurants that are members of the Keys’ six chambers of commerce. Chefs are to submit a three-minute video of themselves preparing their signature Keys dish.

Chefs and restaurants are to promote the fundraiser on their social media platforms, encouraging fans and followers to donate to the shelter.

Serving the Florida Keys for 35 years, FKCS is the Keys’ only licensed emergency shelter for children up to 18 years old and the region’s only federally funded drop-in center for runaway youth up to age 21.

“With the cancelation of crucial fundraising events, we have been inspired to create a virtual experience that not only benefits our organization but helps highlight our amazing Florida Keys restaurants,” said Ben Kemmer, chief executive officer of the shelter. “One of the best things about living in the Florida Keys is eating the delicious foods prepared by our talented chefs. We’re excited to team up with them for a great cause.”

FKCS, with facilities in Tavernier and Key West, provides an emergency shelter, group homes, community-based counseling, respite services and meals, and a drop-in center for homeless and runaway youth.

 Three chef finalists are to compete virtually Tuesday, May 5, at noon to coincide with #GivingTuesdayNow, a global initiative that encourages donations to community groups, charities and nonprofit organizations. Visit for details.

Judges are to include Key West Mayor Teri Johnston, Islamorada Mayor Mike Forster, Marathon Mayor Steve Cook, Ocean Reef Chamber of Commerce President Margie Smith and Leonel Dieujuste, the shelter’s executive chef. The winner is to be judged on criteria including entertainment value of the video, execution of dish preparation and amount of donations raised.

Deadline for Keys chefs to apply is Thursday, April 30. A winner is to be announced Friday, May 8.

For information about “Best Keys Eats 2020,” visit or call 305-852-4246.

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