Clearwater, FL

Up-and-coming chef ties title defender at Savor St. Pete Festival

Rose Burke
Executive Chef Lee Aquino and Chef Kevin Bell |Facebook

Chef Kevin Bell of Tryst Gastro Lounge may not have many years of experience in the kitchen, but his talent spoke for itself yesterday at the Savor St. Pete festival. Bell tied defending champion Executive Chef Lee Aquino of The Birchwood’s Birch & Vine, each earning the 2021 Chef Culinary Competition Champ title.

Bell carried his award-winning dish over to the competition from Tryst, assuring the judges the plates were hot when he left the restaurant. Each plate held filet minion with a Gorgonzola crema over a bed of arugula. Drooling yet?
Chef Kevin Bell's competition entry |Instagram

His opponent, Lee, presented the judges with an octopus carpaccio as he joked about offering them octopus for breakfast. After the scores were tallied up it was announced a tie, the first in Savor St. Pete's short history.
Executive Chef Lee Aquino's competition entry |Rose Burke

A Bit About The Chefs

After growing up in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, Bell moved to Clearwater Beach ten years ago with $20 in his pocket, a suitcase, and two weeks in rent. He worked his way up from fast-food joints and corporate chains to his position at Tryst Gastro Lounge. Despite how difficult working in the restaurant industry has been since COVID hit and yesterday's chilly weather, Bell made sure he participated in this foodie event.
Chef Kevin Bell at Savor St. Pete 2021 |Rose Burke

Aquino was trained under an apprenticeship with the American Culinary Federation in St. Augustine. The Amelia Island native quickly worked his way up the ladder, earning his position as Executive Chef. Known for pairing seasonal flavors with bold presentations, Aquino strives to make The Birchwood’s Birch & Vine restaurant the top waterfront restaurant in Downtown St. Pete.

Savor St. Pete continues today until 4:00 PM at North Straub Park in downtown St. Petersburg.

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