Award-Winning Sanibel Island Chef Earns Placement in Nationally-Acclaimed Food Competition; Also Receives Wine Spectator Award of Excellence

SANIBEL ISLAND— Melissa Talmage, executive chef of Sanibel-based Sweet Melissa’s Café will compete alongside nine of America’s best farm to table chefs from across the South at the  fourth annual Chefs Taste Challenge in New Orleans, Louisiana on September 7, 2018.

The Chefs Taste Challenge is a fun, fresh take on a food competition aimed at broadening awareness for the use of healthy, sustainable ingredients in preparing food.

The 2018 event will feature a face-off between the best farm to table chefs in New Orleans versus the best farm to table chefs in the Gulf Coast region. All culinary teams will compete to create the best dish that utilizes farm-fresh items from a pantry of pre-selected ingredients that are in-season throughout the country at the time of the competition.

Melissa, along with the other participating chefs will select their protein and “farm fresh” featured product in advance via a scheduled live lottery. These items must be incorporated into each chef’s dish. The “draft” order in which competitors will choose recipe ingredients will be randomly selected. There will be two rounds of product selection — the first to choose protein and the second to choose a farm fresh ingredient donated by State Departments of Agriculture. A pantry list of ingredients will be shared with chef contestants before the event, and once onsite there will be a designated time for each head chef to explore the pantry and select the
ancillary ingredients for their dish.

The dinner will be judged by a panel of industry-renowned experts who, along with event attendees, will be asked to vote for their favorite dishes. Awards will be presented to the People’s Choice winner, the Judges’ selection for Best Dish, and Best Team with an overall score. All chefs will receive participation in the Chefs Taste Challenge dinner and national recognition.

Learn more about the Chefs Taste Challenge at www.chefstastechallenge.com

In addition to joining the Chef’s Taste Challenge, Sweet Melissa’s Café has been honored for its outstanding wine program in Wine Spectator’s 2018 Restaurant Awards. The restaurant is recognized among 3,758 winners from all over the globe as a top destination for wine lovers.

Sweet Melissa’s Café has won the Award of Excellence for the second year in a row. The Award of Excellence recognizes restaurants whose wine lists feature a well-chosen assortment of quality producers along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style.

“We are delighted to win the Wine Spectator Restaurant Award for a second time,” said Melissa Talmage. “This recognition inspires us to continue to provide our guests with a phenomenal wine selection and dining experience all year long.”

Wine Spectator began its program to recognize the world’s best wine lists in 1981. There are three levels: the Award of Excellence, the Best of Award of Excellence and the Grand Award—with 2,453; 1,215; and 91 winners this year in each respective category. Seven of the Grand Award winners are first timers.

The complete list of award winners is available in print in Wine Spectator’s August issue and online at www.Restaurants.WineSpectator.com.


Top 10 in South Florida – USA TODAY

Sweet Melissa’s Café has been named as one of the top 10 restaurants in South Florida, according to USA Today.

Landing at number five on the list of the Best Restaurants in South Florida, USA Today touts the Sweet Melissa’s creative menu that is jam packed with fresh, local produce, seafood, beef and everything in-between.

Under the command of Executive Chef Melissa Donahue – Talmage, diners will experience delicious seasonally-inspired eats where fresh ingredients and small plates reign supreme. Diner’s taste buds will be challenged by trend-setting fare with a wide array of different tastes, textures and eclectic ingredients that truly make Sweet Melissa’s Sanibel Island’s ultimate foodie destination.

Listed #5 out of the top 10 restaurants in South Florida – USA TODAY

Proclaimed The Best Food in Lee County, Sweet Melissa’s Cafe and Chef Melissa Talmage have been recognized and repeatedly celebrated by every major publication in Southwest Florida. Talmage continues to break the mold with her inventive cuisine. Her recipes, which are in great demand, have been featured in numerous travel and restaurant guides. In addition to being a 2010 Sanibel Island “Taste of the Islands” award winner, Chef  Talmage works with the acclaimed Sanibel Sea School to promote the use of sustainable seafood. Click on the articles below to read more about Sweet Melissa’s Cafe and Chef Melissa Talmage.


Sweet Melissa’s Café Earns Second Wine Spectator Restaurant Award

Sweet Melissa’s Café has been honored for its outstanding wine program in Wine Spectator’s 2018 Restaurant Awards. The restaurant is recognized among 3,758 winners from all over the globe as a top destination for wine lovers.

Sweet Melissa’s Café has won the Award of Excellence for the second year in a row. The Award of Excellence recognizes restaurants whose wine lists feature a well-chosen assortment of quality producers along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style.

“We are delighted to win the Wine Spectator Restaurant Award for a second time,” said Melissa Donahue, Executive Chef and owner of Sweet Melissa’s Café. “This recognition inspires us to continue to provide our guests with a phenomenal wine selection and dining experience all year long.”

Wine Spectator began its program to recognize the world’s best wine lists in 1981. There are three levels: the Award of Excellence, the Best of Award of Excellence and the Grand Award—with 2,453; 1,215; and 91 winners this year in each respective category. Seven of the Grand Award winners are first timers.

“This year’s class of restaurants is one of the most impressive and innovative ever,” said Marvin R. Shanken, Editor and Publisher, Wine Spectator. “Their wine lists keep improving, because wine lovers are eager to explore and learn. The goal of our Restaurant Awards is to support restaurant wine programs and bring them to diners’ attention through our outreach through print, digital and social media. Wine Spectator salutes every restaurant honored in the 2018 Restaurant Awards.”

The complete list of award winners is available in print in Wine Spectator’s August issue, on newsstands July 17, and online at Restaurants.WineSpectator.com, where visitors can search and access exclusive content on the more than 3,700 restaurants. The full list is also available for free on iOS via the Restaurant Awards app, which allows users to look for dining spots in any location with maps, choosing by wine strengths, cuisine type, pricing and more.

Follow the Restaurant Awards on Twitter and Instagram, with hashtag #WSRestaurantAward.

About Wine Spectator

Wine Spectator is the world’s leading authority on wine. Anchored by Wine Spectator magazine, a print publication that reaches around 3 million readers worldwide, the brand also encompasses the Web’s most comprehensive wine site (WineSpectator.com), mobile platforms and a series of signature events. Wine Spectator examines the world of wine from the vineyard to the table, exploring wine’s role in contemporary culture and delivering expert reviews of more than 16,000 wines each year. Parent company M. Shanken Communications, Inc., also publishes Cigar Aficionado, Whisky Advocate, Market Watch, Shanken News Daily and Shanken’s Impact Newsletter.


Chef Melissa Represents Gulf Coast Cuisine in NOLA Cook-off!

Sweet Melissa’s Café is proud to announce that our Executive Chef, Melissa Talmage, will be competing LIVE in New Orleans. The 2018 Chefs Taste Challenge: Battle of The Gulf is happening September 7th, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s a battle that pits New Orleans chefs against culinary geniuses from all over the Gulf Coast. You can find out more about the event by visiting: http://chefstastechallenge.com/  

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