Call 911 for some great apps

Chef Jon Ashton cooked up some fun at the second annual Celebrity Chef Dinner for United Food Bank of Plant City. The event took place at the HCC Trinkle Center Feb. 20. I was there, and this guy really knows how to cook AND entertain at the same time. What a great time!

You might recognize the "The Mad Chef" from Liverpool, England. He is currently the food correspondent of the nationally syndicated morning show, "The Daily Buzz," and also the in-house chef for "Relish" magazine.

The event began with some killer appetizers. These chocolate-covered strawberries were yummy.

A cooking duel between Plant City's finest and Hillsborough County's finest highlighted the first course.

Served with a delightful trio of dipping sauces -- mango puree, orange marmalade with dark rum, and pineapple chutney, these crispy coconut shrimp were prepared by the Plant City Fire Rescue Department. Understandably, they were a huge hit!

The Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Department made a panko-encrusted, prosciutto-wrapped red snapper with a roasted mango and chipotle pepper sauce. The blend of ingredients produced a wonderful contrast of flavors. Another hit!

The scene stealer and people's choice was the beurre blanc scallops, with a tropical slaw that was drizzled with a balsamic reduction. The slaw hinted of jalapeno with toasted coconut and jicama slivers. Congrats to the Plant City Police Department!

But the real action was on stage, where Chef Jon entertained, cooked and poured shots of vodka... and entertained, cooked and poured more vodka. He even poured vodka into audience members' open mouths for donations. Who could refuse Van Goh Double Espresso Vodka?

Now that's fun!

His dinner included family-friendly fare -- a simple midweek pasta, chicken with sweet-shallot mashed potatoes and lovely scones with black pepper strawberry jam.

Chef Jon Ashton, me, and the emcee of the evening, my colleague and friend, Tampa Tribune food editor Jeff Houck. Yoohoo, Jeff. We're in this picture!


Jeff said...

From a professional standpoint, that fish centerpiece scared the hell out of me.

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