Meet the Judges + the Emcee
The 2018 Top Local Chef is emceed by Noah Pransky, award-winning journalist and jam-packed with the area's most prominent names in the local food world, including head judge Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ, and our panel of food critics and bloggers:
- Laura Reilly, Tampa Bay Times
Laura Reiley is the Tampa Bay Times' restaurant critic and a former critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun. She is the author of four books in the Moon Handbook series: Florida Gulf Coast; Walt Disney World and Orlando; Tampa and St. Petersburg; and the Paradise Coast. She has cooked professionally and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy. In 2017 she was a Pulitzer and James Beard finalist and won the Paul Hansell Award for Distinguished Achievement in Florida Journalism.
- Scott Pooler, Tampa Bay Restaurant Review
Tampa Bay native Scott Pooler is one of the administrator of the Tampa Bay Restaurant Review group, which has grown to almost 13,000 foodies, chefs, and others in the restaurant industry over the past five years. He is a photographer (PirateFoto) and web developer (Gasparilla Media) with clients throughout the country. Scott lives in St. Petersburg and participates in many events throughout the region, including Tampa’s Gasparilla PirateFest, and serves as the official photographer of various charities, including Best Buddies International.
- Jean E Totti, What the Fork Are you Eating?
In addition to moderating What the Fork Are You Eating, Jean Totti is a strong advocate of small and local businesses and a frequent contributor to local food blogs, including Foodies Network 727. He is currently completing his Master’s Certificate in Food Writing & Photography from the School of Journalism at USF and has a degree from Cornell University School of Architecture. Jean lives in St. Petersburg, where he enjoys indoor cycling, EDM music and of course, dining out.
- Syd Willis, Foodies Network 727
Syd Willis, a professional Vlogger, is owner and founder of Foodies Network 727, which has more than 2,000 members in St. Peterburg. Originally from Long Beach, California, where he attended college for marketing and design, Syd developed a passion for traveling around the city in search of new cuisine, with a focus on authentic ethnic dishes. Syd now lives in St. Petersburg, and continues his quest for the ultimate foodie experience. “We find the best food, so you don’t have to” is Foodies Network 727's Motto.
- Lori Brown, St. Petersburg Foodies Restaurant Reviews
Lori Brown and Kevin Godbee started St. Petersburg Foodies two years ago, and their Facebook group quickly grew to more than 8,200 members. Last year they launched a website, stpetersburgfoodies.com, and this year, a podcast. Lori, a realtor who has lived in Tampa Bay most of her life, is the ultimate foodie: She has been to wine vacations in Napa and Sonoma eight times, and she and a friend once owned a food store in St. Pete. Lori lives in the historic Uptown District with her teenage son and their leopard gecko.