Food & Drink: Delaware’s celebrity chefs

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(Photo of chef Robbie Jester)

Former News Journal food critics Eric Ruth, who now works at the Delaware Tourism Office, did a good job of listing the state’s growing roster of celebrity thefts. Below is his post:

Delaware’s vibrant dining scene is attracting attention across the nation and around the world, thanks to talented home-state chefs who are finding fame on competitive television cooking shows. 

At least six chefs have appeared on shows in the past year, and three of those chefs – Dru Tevis of Lewes, Robbie Jester of Newark, and Reuben Dhanawade of Wilmington – have even won titles and cash in these made-for-TV battles. 

But the real prize may be the boost they’re giving to Delaware’s fame as a foodie destination. Away from the video screen, Delawareans and vacationers alike can enjoy the tasty talents of these culinary stars at a range of eateries across the state: 

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  • Donavon “Monty” Alderman competed on the 2022 Food Network program “Bake It ‘Til You Make It.” Alderman is owner of Monty’s Neighborhood Snacks, where he sells specialty cakes and cupcakes.  
  • Hari Cameron, a James Beard-nominated chef who is co-founder of Grandpa Mac in Rehoboth Beach, is featured on the premiere season’s finale of Netflix’s “Snack vs. Chef.”  
  • Reuben Dhanawade was named Episode 8 champion of “Desperately Seeking Sous Chef,” a special edition of the Food Network show “Chopped,” in 2022. Dhanawade has cooked for a variety of Delaware restaurants and produced a local access cooking show, “Reuben’s Indian Kitchen.” 
  • Jesus “Zeus” Valentino Gordiany, the executive chef at Tuscany-inspired Benvenuto restaurant in Milford, appeared on celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey’s “Hell’s Kitchen” on Fox. 
  • Chef/Owner Robbie Jester of Pizzeria Mariana in Newark recently won the $100,000 grand prize on the Netflix show “Pressure Cooker.” Jester also has competed twice on the Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” (winning on his second appearance) and his shrimp scampi topped the hosts on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay.” 
  • Pastry chef Dru Tevis won the Food Network’s most recent “Holiday Baking Championship,” bringing $25,000 home to Lewes. Tevis is a corporate pastry chef for SoDel Concepts Hospitality Group, the Delaware operators behind Matt’s Fish Camp, Bluecoast, Papa Grande’s, and other beach favorites. 

Chef Tevis said he was amazed at the support he received from across the state. 

“Being on Holiday Baking Championship was one of the most challenging yet most rewarding experiences of my life,” Tevis said. “I wanted to make not only myself proud but all of my coworkers back home and really the entire state of Delaware. I have always said there is so much talent down at the beach, it really is a culinary destination, and we are so thankful for the vacationers who travel to enjoy and support our industry.”  

The entire state has been experiencing a renaissance in fine dining, highlighted by the media attention being showered on Wilmington’s energetic restaurant scene and in the many exceptional restaurants with world-class chefs that make up Southern Delaware’s Culinary Coast.  

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