Food News

Ralph Pagano Wins South Beach Seafood Festival Competition in "Fireproof" T-Shirt

The winners of the 2018 Chef Showdown at South Beach Seafood Festival.
The winners of the 2018 Chef Showdown at South Beach Seafood Festival. Courtesy South Beach Seafood Festival
Thousands of people enjoyed stone crabs and grilled oysters on the sand at this weekend's South Beach Seafood Festival.

The event, which returned for its sixth year, raised money for CI Foundation's Eat Smart program, an effort that promotes healthy eating among Florida's youth. More than 10,000 attendees enjoyed the weekend's festivities.

The highlight of the weekend occurred during Friday evening's Chef Showdown, where South Florida's top toques cooked head-to-head in a variety of culinary categories.

Naked Taco's Ralph Pagano returned to the showdown to win the Battle Taco competition, ousting Bodega's Bernie Matz. Last year, Pagano made a comeback on Miami's culinary stage as host of the event after a kitchen accident in Bimini resulted in burns over most of his body. This year, chef returned to competing in culinary competitions at the festival, sporting a shirt with the hashtag #fireproof — a testimony to his unbroken spirit.

Other winners of the chef showdown were Lure Fish Bar's Reinier Mendez (Battle Oyster), Lightkeepers at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne's Raul A Del Pozo (Battle Tuna), Seawell Fish N Oyster's Julian Garriga (Battle Fish), and Joe's Stone Crab's Davis Salinas (Battle Lobster).

Chef Masa Hamaya of Dragonfly won the Battle Sushi competition for the second time in a row, and Meat Market's Sean Brasel defended the Battle Surf n Turf title for the third year.

This past Saturday, revelers took to the beach for an all-day feast. More than 20 local restaurants set up pop-up cafés offering seafood-centric dishes. Diners enjoyed alfresco meals while being serenaded by performances on three music stages. 
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss