Wine, food and music fest chef throwdown competitors announced

September 1, 2023

The 8th Annual Southern Delaware Wine, Food & Music Festival is set for 12 to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16, at Nassau Valley Vineyards near Lewes.

Attendees will watch Delaware chefs face off in the highly anticipated chef throwdown, with this year’s event a North vs. South competition.

“Included with admission, guests can watch talented chefs go knife to knife in a high-energy, interactive, ‘Iron Chef’-style cooking competition,” said Stacy LaMotta, founder and festival organizer. “Contestants will be presented with a mystery basket of ingredients they must use, and then competitors will showcase their skills, craftsmanship and creativity as they prepare a complete dish for the judges in only 30 minutes.”

Competitors are Chef Melissa Ferraro representing Northern Delaware, and Chef Tisha Dismuke representing Southern Delaware.

Ferraro, owner of Sonora Restaurant and Outlandish Food Truck, is creative and bold, and knows how to push the boundaries of what's expected, transforming the ordinary into something extraordinary.

She’s a graduate of the Art Institute of Philadelphia Culinary Program, and her personality and culinary style, combined with years of experience as an executive chef at various restaurants, gave her all the right ingredients to build her unique recipe for success. From launching a thriving catering business to expanding on that with a wildly popular food truck, then most recently opening the doors to Sonora Restaurant as owner and head chef, Ferraro continues to show no fear when tasked with building things from scratch. Best known for her gourmet comfort food based on seasonal ingredients, it is no small achievement that her guests describe her as a culinary genius and a creative mastermind in the kitchen.

Dismuke is the founder of A Taste of Jazz. Entrepreneur, private chef, caterer, culinary arts teacher and entertainer are the hats she wears with style these days. As a young girl, she embraced every opportunity to learn new recipes with her grandmother and anyone else who allowed her to join them in the kitchen, developing a true delight and finding inspiration in entertaining others with her blossoming skills. With A Taste of Jazz, she developed her own unique way to blend her talents and passions into success. Cooking for Vivian Green, R&B singer-songwriter, and assisting Oprah Winfrey's personal chef are just a few of the feathers in her cap. Known for igniting appetites, she continues to wow her growing following with innovative presentations and special renditions of soulful dishes infused with international flavors.

Hosts are Hari Cameron and Lewis Drexel Davison. 

Mystery basket creator and presenter, Cameron is a multi-time James Beard finalist for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, and a Netflix star. He is a highly acclaimed restaurateur, one of Sussex County's most inventive chefs and a columnist for The Current.

Master of ceremony and emcee, and owner of Rehoboth’s renowned salon/spa and hot spot Bad Hair Day, Davison is a veritable ball of energy whose roots in the restaurant and catering industry are part of his special recipe for success.

Judges are Matt Kern, Leah Rizzo and Pam George.

Kern is recognized as one of the best chefs in the Mid-Atlantic region. He is a two-time James Beard nominee, respected for the creative genius he brought to his prior roles at Heirloom and Salt Air. Kern is head chef and co-owner, with his wife Karen, of the beloved farm-to-table restaurant One Coastal.

Born and raised in Delaware, Rizzo will be the first to tell anyone that an abundance of great food has always made the coastal Delaware area easy to love. Now host of the “WRDE - Coast Life” entertainment and lifestyle program, she takes great pride in highlighting the people, places and events that make Delmarva so special.

George has written about the Delmarva area's dining scene for nearly 20 years. She is the author of “First State Plates: Iconic Delaware Restaurants & Recipes,” and five more books on Delaware topics. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Fortune, and numerous travel and dining publications, including Delaware Today.

Previous winners in the throwdown hall of fame are: Ian Frank and Ryan Robinson, tied for first place 2022; Kathleen Hy, Frederick Lee and John Speziale, Surfside vs. Turfside 2021; Bill Clifton, Raul Rodriguez and Frank Dubinski, Battle of the Sexes 2019; Jason Diettrick, Lion Gardner and Nate Leonard,  Lewes vs. Rehoboth, 2018; and Doug Ruley, North vs. South, 2017.

Guests will feast on delights from local restaurants along with beverages that include more than 100 varieties of wines, craft beers and cocktails. There will also be musical entertainment, a silent auction with special packages up for bid, a wine wall and a new blind wine tasting.

“The Southern Delaware Food & Wine Festival is about creating extraordinary experiences and giving back to our community,” LaMotta said. “In the past seven years, we've raised more than $220,000 for local charities. This year, we are thrilled to donate the proceeds to Head Start/Early Head Start Delaware.”

For more information and to secure seats, go to


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