March 08, 2017
Journalists – whether the medium is print, television, radio or online – don’t typically profess to be the best at baking – or cooking – or in the kitchen, at large. That is – save to say, we’re pouring ourselves a cocktail with which to sit down and write. We’re generally better with words.
This made Monday night even funnier when 24 of us were asked to participate in The Florida Keys and Key West "Philadephia Food Influencer Cook-Off" at Walnut Hill College, where we ran around like chickens with our heads cut off in feeble attempts to cook a key lime pie and then a seafood dish for a distinguished panel of judges.
Ideally, we “local food and travel influencers and writers” as we were generously dubbed by Kory Aversa, were tasked with sidling up to the "other side of the stove" to cook up two Florida Keys dishes with direction from acclaimed Chef Bobby Stoky. A native of the Keys, Stoky is the owner of several Upper Keys restaurants, an author, and served as a guest judge for the cook-off. He said he traveled up the east coast to partner with the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College because it was a good opportunity to highlight the culinary scene in the Keys in a beautiful setting. (Haven't been to Walnut Hill College? Go.) In conjunction with the cook-off, four Philly bartenders competed to shake and stir Keys-inspired cocktails. The best chef won a week-long trip to the Florida Keys and Key West. The best mixologist won a two-night stay.
Stoky, a self-described “freshwater conch,” meaning he has spent most of his life in the Keys, said he gave away the free trips to “build up awareness and tourism about the Florida Keys.”
“As a whole for our area, there are only a few chefs that do what I do,” he said.
“We’re trying to make sure we are serving up dishes that are representative of the area. Key lime pie is the quintessential Florida Keys dish.”
“Everyone here in Philadelphia knows I love the Keys. I love scuba diving and the third largest reef in the world,” he said.
“You have blue water. We don’t necessarily have blue water here when you go to the Jersey shore. We love the Jersey shore, but in the Keys, you can go there all year long. So, Philadelphia can come and enjoy the Jersey shore at a different level in the Florida Keys. That, to me, is special.”