It wasn't quite an Oscars' after-party but had the makings of one, with an opulent menu from foie gras sliders to duck ballottine to buffalo short ribs slow-cooked for five hours.
Just as the three-hour awards show telecast was gearing up Sunday night, 81 self-proclaimed foodies and others gathered at SideBern's in South Tampa not to root on their favorite movies or ogle stars, but to chow down on succulent meals and support a local charity.
The $200-a-plate fundraiser featured a six-course meal from eight chefs considered among the elite in Tampa Bay: Zack Gross of Z Grille, Tyson Grant of Parkshore Grill, BT Nguyen of Restaurant BT, Greg Baker of the Refinery, Habteab Hamde and Kim Yelvington of Bern's Steakhouse, Marty Blitz of Mise en Place and Chad Johnson of SideBern's.
Laura Shaw of St. Petersburg hardly believed her luck.
"When I saw that it was all of my favorite restaurants under one roof I just had to be here," the 34-year-old psychotherapist said, polishing off an elaborate tuna tai chanh, or tuna tartare in lime and passion fruit champagne vinaigrette prepared by Nguyen.
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The collection of culinary masters was the brainchild of SideBern's executive chef Johnson and Bern's Steakhouse spokeswoman Brooke Palmer.
"Me and Chad were just talking one day and I said I loved the idea of the Sunday Supper in Atlanta, where these great chefs come together, and thought, why don't we do that?" she said.
The two paired with the Friends of the James Beard Foundation to create the event. They hope that it becomes an annual affair. Proceeds estimated at $8,000 will benefit two culinary students to be named in May.
"They have to attend a school in Florida," Palmer said.
Other than that, the students, one man and one woman, can use the funds for tuition, kitchen equipment or both.
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The occasion gave the chefs a chance to mingle with their competitors.
"These are all guys I love and respect," Johnson, 33, said. "I've known them for years. That ego stuff between chefs is over-played. We really want all the chefs here to enjoy themselves."
Gross, who created the foie gras sliders and deviled egg with lobster and smoked caviar, marveled at SideBern's kitchen.
"It was like Disneyland," he said.
Baker likewise luxuriated in the surroundings. He created sturgeon confit with roasted beets and a broth concocted from clams and smoked ham.
"It's always fun to get into somebody else's sandbox and play," he said.
Jim Ellis, 78, of Largo attended with his son, Greg Ellis, a self-professed foodie.
"I didn't recognize a lot of it, but it was awesome," the elder Ellis said.
Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2454.