Riverview High Class of 2019 graduate and chef Jada Vidal showcased her talent on national television and won big. Vidal was crowned the winner in the “Snack Attack” episode of Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, walking away with $20,000 in prize money.
“A few weeks before I competed on the show, I was working as a line cook and feeling burnt out,” said Vidal. “It’s not every day you win $20,000, and it put things in perspective for me that anything is possible.”
Hosted by chef Guy Fieri, Guy’s Grocery Games pits four talented, up-and-coming chefs against each other as they create dishes in 30 minutes made with ingredients shopped for at the Flavortown Market. A panel of judges evaluates and votes on the winning dish. In this episode, chefs had to incorporate different snack foods (cheese crackers, tangerines, fruit gummies, potato chips and cookies) into their dishes. Her winning dishes were Korean fried chicken and filet mignon with polenta and mushrooms.
“It was really challenging taking snack foods and using them to create dishes that were high end and elevated,” she said.
Instead of watching cartoons when she was a kid, Vidal was watching shows on Food Network. Her superheroes were Guy Fieri, Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey. While in high school, she worked at Élevage at Tampa’s Epicurean Hotel. While attending culinary school at Keiser University (she graduated this year), she worked at Haven, formerly known as SideBern’s.
“Working in those restaurants taught me so much about life and food,” she said. “Connecting with people from different backgrounds showed me that everyone has their own story to tell through food.”
Vidal said she tells her story through dishes inspired by her Cuban and African American heritage.
In September, she opened a pop-up restaurant for one night at Armature Works, paying homage to her heritage with a $75-per-plate, four-course fusion dinner that included Cuban-inspired French terrine and oxtail gnocchi with pickled okra. The meal included wine pairings for each course and bread service.
It was so successful a second pop-up restaurant is currently in the works for Sunday, October 3 at Hyde House’s Test Kitchen in Hyde Park Village, located at 1646 W. Snow Ave. in Tampa, with a menu focusing on elevated African American cuisine.
“This is only the beginning,” said Vidal. “Right now, I have the opportunity to cook my own food and live my dream.”
For more information about Vidal or the locations of Vidal’s pop-up restaurants, visit her Instagram page @thejadavidal. To learn more about Vidal’s second pop-up restaurant event and get tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jada-vidals-pop-up-dinner-tickets-178358594357.