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

Published by Karen Schaeffer on

SANIBEL ISLAND— Melissa Donahue, 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

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 Donahue. “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

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