Center Stage

A highlighted feature of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show - Center Stage is an educational, interactive and entertaining area for restaurant and foodservice professionals who want to stay abreast of what's hot in the food world. Come see our featured chefs, watch their cooking demonstrations and taste their samples!

Water Sponsored by:

2017 featured presentations:

  • Beacon Award presentation to Carol Dover, President and CEO, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association
  • Rapid Fire Challenge: Key Lime Edition face-off



Check out our entire 2017 Line-up:

   Wednesday, October 11


1:00 PM - 1:45 PM
Art Smith, Celebrity Chef and Humanitarian

Culinary Demonstration: HummingBird Cake & Dessert Conversations with Art

Chef Art Smith loves the idea of bringing people together through food. It's partly what made him the success he is today. He is the executive chef and co-owner of Blue Door Kitchen and Garden, Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, 1500 South at the Naples Bay Resort, Homecomin' Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Coming late this year will be his latest restaurant, Art Bird & Whiskey Bar at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

Art Smith has received the culinary profession's highest awards and has cooked for some of the world's most famous celebrities. In 1997, Smith became the person, day-to-day chef to Oprah Winfrey, a position that lasted ten years. Smith now coordinates and cooks for special events all around the world.

Smith has made several television appearances including ABC's Lady Gaga Thanksgiving Special, Top Chef, Top Chef Duets, and returned to Top Chef Masters (for the second time), where he quickly became an audience favorite. Smith was also featured in an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition where he lent a hand to a deserving family that has devoted their lives to providing meals for the less fortunate members of their community.


2:15 PM - 2:30 PM
Beacon Award Presentation to Carol B. Dover, President and CEO, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association

Carol B. Dover has served as President/CEO of the more than 10,000 member Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) since July of 1995. Dover is a professional association manager, a lobbyist, a former government insider, and a Florida State University Dedman School of Hospitality graduate with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.


2:30 PM - 3:15 PM
Foodservice Council for Women

Now in its 6th year, the Foodservice Council for Women is a networking organization that connects and promotes women leaders in the foodservice industry. This high energy - action packed - line up of women will address challenges they faced, lessons learned, and what they wish that had known starting out. Advice and secrets will be shared on what it takes to make it in today's competitive marketplace. Questions will be addressed in an interactive panel session. Don't miss this engaging and highly formative session! 



      Betsy Craig,        CEO & Founder 



Carol B. Dover, President & CEO

Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association 


    Michelle Noble,       Chef & Director      of Education 

Career Education Corporation 


Amber Phillips,  Chef & Owner 

Sage Events, LLC, Sage Kitchen, LLC, Wedding Planner/Officiant/Owner of Sand Dollar Weddings



3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Rapid Fire Challenge: Key Lime Edition

Help crown the Rapid Fire Key Lime Edition Champion!  Two chefs will dual and put their recipe to the test!  Members of the audience will be asked to sample and based on audience cheer one of the chefs will be named the Champ!  Check out the 2 finalists who will showcase their recipe featuring Key Lime. 


Darren Denington, Founder, Service with Style  


E.J. Morris, APPCA

Personal Chef


Salvador, Soberanis

Executive Chef, Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort 



   Thursday, October 12


12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Michelle Bernstein, Chef and Owner, Crumb on Parchment and Michelle Bernstein Catering 

2017 Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show Torch Award Honoree 

Culinary Demonstration: Mexican Style Shrimp Ceviche Churrasco "Kalbi" with Jicama Slaw

Chef Michelle Bernstein, a Miami native of Jewish and Latin descent, has dazzled diners and critics alike with her sublime cuisine and a personality as bright and vibrant as the Florida sun.  “My food isn’t heavy handed or unnecessarily complicated,” says Bernstein, a James Beard Award winner (Best Chef South 2008) and author of Cuisine a Latina (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2008).  “You don’t need heavy handed technique and over the top presentations to make a dish work. It’s about amazing ingredients, layered flavors and simplicity.  My style of cooking is inspired by my own food memories and it’s the simple, soulful cooking that I remember from my travels.  I cook the food I love and I think that love translates to the diners.”  

These days, Bernstein is busier than ever. Bernstein and her husband/business partner David Martinez) own/operate MBC Michelle Bernstein Catering Company, a full-service catering company as well as her wildly popular café concept, Crumb on Parchment. 

Bernstein dedicates time to Common Threads, an after-school program for underprivileged kids, and regularly appears on an array of national TV shows, from Top Chef to Good Morning America. Bernstein also hosts the Emmy award-winning PBS weekly television series, Check, Please! South Florida.  Now in its third year, Bernstein also hosts for the weekly TV series on Channel 10, SoFlo Taste, that celebrates the food of South Florida. 


1:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Jeff Philbin, Chef, Philanthropist, MasterChef Season 8 Contestant 

Culinary Demonstration: Deep-Fried Shrimp Ricotta Balls with a Fiery Chorizo Tomato Sauce

A love for food, people, and providing a great culinary experience fuels this young professional.

Growing up self-taught chef & TV star Jeff Philbin was lured by watching Julia Child, Lidia Bastianich, & Jacques Pépin with his mother on Saturday afternoons on PBS. A seed was planted and by learning from these culinary titans it instilled an appreciation for their craft that has spanned nearly 15 years in the culinary industry.

Jeff has held many positions working his way up from a waiter, to bartender, to trainer, to events coordinator, to area sales manager, and to director of marketing and now restaurant consultant. Along those stops from independent and corporate backing he has led the brand strategy and implementation for all projects and marketing by developing research plans and providing teams at the store level the tools necessary to drive sales, customer engagement, and a desirable work culture. His love for guest interaction and engagement was paramount to achieving double the sales growth of the industry average from relevant content, systematic processes, consistent branding & messaging, coupled with a servant leadership style to coach and mentor his team to deliver the best customer experience!

At a family dinner, his brother in law said to him, "Jeff, all you need to do is show up in Orlando. I did all of your paperwork because I believe in you. I signed you up for MasterChef." It was in that moment that life changed for him. After many months of paperwork and processes, he embarked on becoming a contestant on season 8 of MasterChef on FOX humbly representing the city of Tampa, which was the most name-dropped city along his pursuit to become America’s next MasterChef placing 5th overall after being a major personality for the duration of the show. It was an incredible journey that humbly changed him forever and from such a wonderful opportunity that allowed him every week to host a local watch party raising thousands of dollars collectively for local charities in the Tampa Bay area.

He believes in "paying it forward" and giving back to his community by being the Vice-Chairman of the Board for Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough County, former "Big" in Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, Eagle Scout & supporter in Boy Scouts of America, while also engaging in several leadership and networking organizations in the Tampa Bay area. He was a recipient for Up and Comer in the category of "Top 30 Under 30" by the Tampa Bay Business Journal in 2013 and is member of the Leadership Tampa Bay Class of 2018.
In my spare time, he enjoys having fun with my passion for food and cooking, exploring the Tampa Bay area, enjoying sports and entertainment, and most of all spending quality family time with his beautiful fiancé Beth, son Holden & dog Ruby!


3:00 PM - 3:45 PM
Elliott Farmer, Celebrity Chef

Culinary Demonstration: Shrimp & Hominy Grits

Having grown up in a home over-filled with love and family, in the inner city of Atlanta, GA, Chef Elliott Farmer has always felt most at home in the kitchen. For him, it has always been a place that represented passion, creative freedom and family. It was a must if he wanted to eat, and eat good. That is when his love affair with food started and has since developed into a lifestyle. 

He has grown a beloved fan base of chefs, cooks and foodies, through sharing his food creations via his cook books, Entertaining Solutions and Soulstice Recipes, his online radio show, Chef Elliott's Entertaining Solutions and as a Food Network contestant on Cutthroat Kitchen for two seasons. He was recently selected as a High-profile Chef for an Atlanta-based, television series on Food Network, the pilot production launches this fall. 

Chef Elliott has the pleasure of being an Ambassador for a luxury spirit brand, Martell Cognac Brand and his charitable partner, Feeding America's Hungry Children. In the midst of his rising fame, he continues to provide culinary consultancy for various brands and restaurants, nationwide. Through Chef Elliott tours and travels all around the world, he never ceases to engage in opportunities to help others. He is also a retired registered nurse, practicing ordained minister, recognized gospel vocalist and is in the process of completing his PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. He resides in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Book Signing and Sales to follow demonstration: 

Chef Elliott's Soulstice Recipes - $25

Chef Elliott's Soul Shaking Seasoning - $10


4:00 PM - 4:45 PM
Emanuel Washington Jr., Chef Manny FD 

Culinary Demonstration: Bread Pudding with a Marshmallow Sauce and Vanilla Cream Sauce and a Fruit Flambe

Whether Chef Manny is making dinner with his grandma Georgia Bell or baking desserts with his mom Sandra, those experiences shaped the kind of chef he would become today. He is grateful he had the chance to grow up creating memories so rich (so rich he can still smell both of their kitchens!) with the two most important women in his life. As a retired firefighter of the City of Miami, his dad Emanuel Sr. (or, "Pop") also played a defining role in his career by showing him the ways of the firehouse chef. Chef Manny started off as a rookie making grilled chicken breasts, and now he has been on Cutthroat Kitchen making Flambés.

Friday, October 13

12:00 PM - 12:45 PM
Letty Alvarez, Founder & Pastry Chef, LA Sweetz

Culinary Demonstration: Banana Split "Cupcake Sticks" 

Letty Alvarez is the founder and head pastry chef of LA Sweetz, LA Sweetz is a top rated cupcake bakery and celebration venue. Letty’s cupcakes and venturesome attitude have been featured on various culinary cable networks such as TLC, Food Network, & The Cooking Channel.


1:00 PM - 1:45 PM
DeJuan Roy, Executive Chef, The Alhambra Dinner Theater

Culinary Demonstration: Healthy Turkey Soup 

Chef DeJuan Roy is an experienced executive chef with over two decades as a leader in creative cooking and culinary concepts for various audiences.  He has created dining experiences for private clubs, five-star and five-diamond restaurants, hotels and a historic dinner theater.  Chef DeJuan has previously served as an executive chef with the Kessler hotel group leading the culinary teams at the Celebration and Casa Monica Hotel and executing on company containment measures while leading the organizations food and beverage revenue. He has also been a member of the Ritz Carlton management team as the banquet chef at the River Club.

As a graduate of the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, he received specialized training at Central Texas College in Europe.  Chef DeJuan honed his international hospitality expertise in kitchens everywhere from Europe to Chicago creating innovative banquet menus and dining concepts. As the visiting chef for the American Culinary Association and Pennsylvania College of Technology he has instructed young culinarians on process, production and presentation.

Chef DeJuan has also served as the guest chef on First Coast News, WJCT, and Fox News, the Carolina Cooking Show and the Lincoln Share the Dream Tour. He has presided over catering for special events including the Kentucky Derby, the National Football League, National Basketball Association and presidential candidates. He led the food and beverage operations for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp for three years.

Recognized by Florida Trend Magazine, AAA and the American Culinary Association, Chef DeJuan is a true visionary in his field.


2:00 PM - 2:45 PM
Kim Livengood, The Eclipse Agency 

Shake it Up! Reach Your Clientele through Mixology 

Feeling thirsty? Come have a complimentary sample craft cocktail made by Alexander Barranco with American Harvest Organic Vodka! While the liquor chills you, public relations professional and craft cocktail blogger Kim Livengood will inspire you with best practices on leveraging your mixology skills to reach new customers. Kim will share tips and tricks for promoting your bar to fill all your seats! Cheers!