Foodies Rejoice – 2019 Ocala Culinary Festival

The 3rd annual Ocala Culinary Festival begins April 4. Some events are already sold out, so reserve your seat now at

The Ocala Culinary Festival is dedicated to providing a platform for extraordinary talent to convene for the purpose of creating unforgettable culinary experiences and generating insightful dialogue about food, wine and spirits.


Food For The Soul By Chef Rosh

Location TBA | Thursday, April 4 | 6pm

This year’s festival kicks off with an evening of fresh, fragrant, Indian fusion comfort food presented by award-winning chef Roshni Gurani.

In Indian cuisine, tandoori is the traditional family comfort food, featuring meats marinated in yogurt with aromatic spices like ginger, coriander and cayenne pepper, cooked over a charcoal fire. Much like American barbecue, the South’s favorite comfort food, tandoori-style cooking produces lean but moist, flavorful, smoky meats that are easily complemented by fresh vegetables.

Chef Rosh is known for her fusion of Indian cuisine and American Tex-Mex, resulting in specialties like Bombay chicken and tandoori-spiced brisket with cilantro bacon chutney.

To accompany these flavors, festival mixologists Shelby Goelz and Brenda Terry will be custom mixing libations.

Attire: Comfortable Casual

Chef Rosh
Visiting Chef Rosh is from Houston, where she is the corporate chef at Cookery Cuisine, a farm-to-table, 100 percent local food company, and is also a culinary instructor at the Art Institute of Houston. Perhaps best known as a Chopped champion, she took top honors on the popular TV show in 2009. Chef Rosh was also a 2012 contestant on Hell’s Kitchen earning accolades from the famous Gordon Ramsay as a “passionate, well-rounded chef that blended flavors magically.” You may also have seen her in 2017 on Cut Throat Kitchen and in 2018 on Beat Bobby Flay. Chef Rosh believes “food is a journey, not a destination,” and takes inspiration from her traditional Indian family heritage. Follow @chef_rosh on Instagram.

Spirits & Smoke

Bridlewood Farm, 8318 NW 90th Terrace | Friday, April 5 | 5 pm

Back for a second year by popular demand, The Local Palate brings together the South’s top pitmasters: Sam Jones of Sam Jones BBQ, Griffin Bufkin of Southern Soul BBQ, Kenny Gilbert of Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen, and locals Rashad Jones of Big Lee’s Serious About Barbecue and Jackson Rust of Brick City Southern Kitchen.

Gather around the fire and enjoy meats smoked on site with all the fixins paired with the firewaters of bourbon, scotch and whiskey that are sure to ignite your night. Relax with a cigar and enjoy live music—this will be one hot party, presented among the pastoral live oaks of the world-class equestrian estate Bridlewood Farm. 

Attire: Casual Country. Please note the venue is a working farm so we encourage you to use care in selecting footwear that allows you to walk on grass and uneven pavement.

Chef Kenny Gilbert
Visiting Chef Kenny Gilbert is the owner of Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen in Fernandina Beach, known for bringing his passion for herbs and spices to his barbecue, producing delicious seasonal comfort food dishes. The St. Augustine native has created his own spice line, Chef Kenny’s Spice Blends. You may recognize Chef Kenny from his 2010 appearance on Top Chef or his appearances on The Today Show. He’s cooked for the Sports Illustrated Super Bowl party and for celebrities including Oprah Winfrey and Samuel L. Jackson. Chef Kenny credits his barbecue prowess to the teachings of his father, who presented him with his first grill at age 7. He’s the published author of A Chef’s Journal. Follow @chefkennyg on Instagram.

High Design: Food, Fashion & Art

Appleton Museum of Art, 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd. | Saturday, April 6 | 10am

New this year, this event is a collaboration with the Appleton Museum of Art for a truly unique brunch experience.

Seven fashion designers each created a couture look inspired by art from the Appleton collection. Local chefs Tony Deras and Dimitri Pomakis were challenged with creating a scrumptious brunch menu to complement both high fashion and the sparkling wines of the Sonoma Valley Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards.

“It’s a complete art event,” says Chef Tony. “They create art and we create art. Whenever you cook something it should be art.”

Fashion designers Breanna Hare and Mayra Pereira-Pulkowski both found inspiration in powerful women. “I chose a painting called ‘Mandolinata,’” Hare says. “Something about the woman spoke to me. She’s exactly the kind of woman I dream to be and to sew for.”

Pereira-Pulkowski chose the Chinese sculpture “Lokapala.” “I envisioned strength, power and a warrior,” she says. “My vision through all my designs seeks to inspire and bring out the strength, power and beauty of woman from all walks of life and cultures.”

Attire: Daywear. Please note the fashion show will be outside in the museum’s courtyard, followed by brunch inside.

Executive Chef Tony Deras
Executive Chef Tony Deras started working in the culinary arts as a young adult and quickly fell in love with creating food experiences. He is the executive chef at Katya Vineyards and has been nominated for many local awards. His favorite thing about the festival is “putting local talent together” to “build something very beautiful.” Follow @cheftonyderas on Instagram.
Chef Dimitri
As owner and chef of Feta Mediterranean cuisine, Chef Dimitri’s cuisine is defined by the freshest local meats and produce available. In fact, he often drives to Crystal River to procure fresh-off-the-boat crab. “The food should do the talking” is his philosophy. Chef Dimitri is excited about creating an elaborate brunch complete with special mimosas. “I’ve never done anything like this but I’m up for a challenge!”

Feast at the Farm   

Eddie Woods Training Center, 14870 W. Hwy 40, Ocala FL 34481

Saturday, April 6 | 5:30pm

This dinner event sponsored by Showcase Properties has enjoyed a loyal following for three years and is always the first to sell out.

This year, acclaimed local chef and fifth-generation Floridian Randal White collaborates with Chef Digby Stridiron, visiting from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. Both chefs take inspiration from seasonal ingredients and regional recipes and are looking forward to blending their respective heritages to create a spectacular dining experience. Locals will recognize Chef Randal as the host of The Chef’s Table on PBS-TV, executive chef at Mark’s Prime Steakhouse and author of the Southern Family Recipes cookbook.

This beautifully-presented meal will be made even lovelier by the tranquil setting of Eddie Woods’ thoroughbred training facility, the 240-acre equine operation built by the Ireland native and former steeplechase jockey which features expansive pastures flanked by rose bushes and venerable live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss.

Attire: Country chic. The venue is a working farm so we encourage you to use care in selecting footwear that allows you to walk on grass and uneven pavement.

Chef Digby Stridiron
Visiting Chef Digby Stridiron is a native of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Chef Digby is the chef and co-owner of the award-winning restaurant Balter and was recently named Caribbean Chef of the Year for 2018 by Caribbean Journal. His simple elegance of fresh, locally sourced ingredients and sustainably sourced seafood is highly acclaimed across North America. Chef Digby says he grew up with what we now call the “slow food” movement that included proteins gathered from the nearby sea combined with fresh, locally harvested produce. A strong West Indian influence along with African diaspora culture make for his diverse gastronomic identity. Follow @chefdigby on Instagram to see his beautifully-presented dishes and tropical Carribean paradise.

Grand Tasting

Citizens’ Circle, 151 SE Osceola Ave., Ocala FL 34471

Sunday, April 7 | Early Access 11am | General Admission 12–3 pm

Ocala’s Tribute to Anthony Bourdain

This year’s festival finale pays homage to the legendary Anthony Bourdain and his influence on the food industry. Festival chefs have been invited to serve food inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s travels, unique attitude and passion for trying new flavors.

Downtown Ocala’s Citizens’ Circle will be transformed into the Grand Tasting, the culmination of the four-day festival. Attendees are invited to spend the afternoon leisurely strolling the open-air festivities, mingling with like-minded foodies, chefs, winemakers, mixologists and culinary vendors while enjoying live music. One price includes a diverse array of delicious food choices, wine, beer and spirits.

All proceeds benefit Ocala Culinary Festival Charities, a nonprofit focused on improving culinary education and fighting hunger in Marion County.

Attire: Casual

Festival FAQ

How do I attend the festival?

All events require tickets, which can be purchased at Tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable. Events go on rain or shine.

Can my diet restrictions be accommodated?

No. Unfortunately, the logistics do not give chefs the room to be flexible with their menus. Participating chefs are given creative license to serve whatever inspires them without the need to anticipate diet restrictions.

Can I bring my children or pets to the festival?

Unfortunately, we cannot allow anyone under 21 to attend the festival. No animals are allowed at any of the festival events.


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