Collaboration in the Kitchen

By Lauren Titus / Photography By Amy Robb | July 22, 2016
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Chefs at Fish to Fork Culinary Weekend
Chefs enjoying the sunset at Fish to Fork Culinary Weekend on Amelia Island.

The word Chef in French means leader, and a Chef de Cuisine or Executive Chef is accustomed to being in charge in the kitchen, providing the vision and direction for the menu. So what happens when you invite six renowned chefs to an island for a culinary challenge? Would the outcome be “too many cooks spoil the broth?"

In fact, when creative cooks assemble during events such as the Fish to Fork Weekend at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation, the resulting broth reflects both the competitive as well as collaborative spirit found so often in the culinary world. Away from their daily routine, the chefs connect, share ideas and learn from each other. It’s an opportunity to showcase a particular expertise or flavor profile and gain new perspectives from others in the same profession.

Jeremy Sewell, Craig Deihl and Kathleen Blake
Peaches at Omni Amelia Island Fish to Fork Low Country Boil
Chef with Beer
Omni Amelia Island Resort

Oh, and one other appealing aspect of assembling a group of top-notch chefs at a culinary getaway – there's plenty of great food. Though even dining with a group of chefs can be a form of competition, as they compare preparation techniques and dishes, with taste buds ready to hone in on the slightest hint of a seasoning or ingredient. A meal with multiple courses, such as the Taste of the South dinner prepared by the Omni's Chef Daven Wardynski and team, gets critiqued, and each chef will readily assess each dish to determine a favorite flavor combination.

Chef Kathleen Blake fishes
Woman catching snapper at Fish to Fork
catching fish on amelia island
Chef Kathleen Blake catches a shark at fish to fork

Sometimes, though, before they eat or even cook their food, the chefs need to gather the ingredients. At the Fish to Fork weekend, for instance, the chefs, paired with fishing charter captains from Fernandina Beach to go offshore or the jetties, need to catch what they will cook at the Showdown - a true test of their dedication to sourcing locally. While the chefs may have superior filleting skills, landing the fish is a reminder of the work involved with provisioning food. But what better way to know where your food comes from than by reeling it in yourself.

Chef Craig Deihl
Dish at Fish to Fork
Serving food at Fish to Fork

During an individual dish competition, chefs are intent on showcasing their particular handiwork to woo the most votes from event guests. While the culinary battle is good-natured, it is clear that each chef is driven to create the most innovative and delectable dish among the assembled peers, striving to display his or her personal best.

Fish to Fork Omni Amelia Island Plantation
Chef Daven Wardynski
Chefs Cesar Zapata and Kenny Gilbert
Chef Craig Deihl
Chef Jeremy Sewell
Chef Kathleen Blake at Fish to Fork

Once the chefs divide into two teams, however, cooperation becomes critical. With only an hour on the clock, each team quickly determines the dish to create, the fish to fillet and the task list at hand. Though they have not worked together before, the chefs move around the outdoor kitchen instinctively, like dancers familiar with the choreography of a ballet, shifting without prompts from cutting board to stove top to grill, always with an eye on the next step.

Chef Jeremy Sewell
Chef Joey Ward
Chefs Kathleen Blake and Jeremy Sewell
Plating food at Fish to Fork
Fish to Fork Culinary Weekend
Band on the stage at Fish to Fork Weekend

When it’s time to plate the final product for eagerly awaiting guests, again cooperation is essential; the chefs move with precision, expediting the delivery as if they had been working together for years, rather than sixty minutes. Winners are selected, by peers and guests, but that is secondary to the satisfaction of working as a unit to create a delicious meal enjoyed by all. What better measure of a leader than to know how to collaborate with team members.

For more information on Fish to Fork and other culinary adventures at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation, visit their event website.

Article from Edible Northeast Florida at
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