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Omni Amelia Island’s Fish to Fork is the culinary event of the year

The perfect trip for the foodie in your life

Omni Amelia Island Resort
Omni Amelia Island Resort

If you know Omni hotels, you know the individual character each one possesses. Unlike so many cookie-cutter hotel chains, each Omni location has its own personality, complete with local charm and flavor. Whether you’re after a warm and cozy (albeit intense) gingerbread competition in Asheville, North Carolina, or a lavish culinary getaway with a group of incredibly talented chefs in beautiful Florida, Omni has you covered.

From May 9-12, Omni Amelia Island hosted its eighth annual Fish to Fork event – a weekend-long affair where guests enjoyed their stay alongside award-winning chefs, dined on beautiful, locally grown, locally caught lavish meals, enjoyed a deep-sea fishing excursion, partook in all of the wonderful amenities Omni Amelia Island has to offer, and were pulled into a heart-racing chef showdown at the end of the wonderful weekend.

This is truly the foodie event of the year and one of the most fun culinary trips this writer has ever been a part of. So, make sure to reserve a spot in your calendar for next year’s event.

Omni Amelia Island Resort

Omni Amelia Island Resort
Omni Amelia Island Resort

While the lineup of impressive chefs and their unforgettable dishes were no doubt the stars of the show, the breathtakingly beautiful Omni Amelia Island Resort couldn’t help but shine in its own spotlight.

Set on the tip of a barrier island in northeastern Florida, this award-winning resort takes your breath away from the second you step foot onto the property. Each of the hotel’s 402 guest rooms boasts unparalleled, stunning views of Fernandina Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to the luxurious rooms, the property is complete with an incredible pool, a gorgeous 36-hole golf course, a plethora of wonderful restaurants, expertly-led local activities like kayaking and paddle-boarding through the marshlands, and a peacefully serene and luxurious spa.

It is truly a remarkable place to visit, whether you’re looking for all of the adventures the Atlantic coast has to offer or simply relaxing poolside with a delicious cocktail as you watch the waves crash on the beach. Omni Amelia Island Resort has it all.

Welcome cocktail reception and dinner

Fish to Fork 2024
Omni Amelia Island Resort Marketing

The weekend was launched on Thursday night with a welcome cocktail party and dinner held at Walker’s Landing, a beautifully warm and inviting nautical-themed venue located on Omni’s extensive grounds. Overlooking the lush salt marsh and winding Amelia River, the venue sits on the water, allowing diners to enjoy both the natural landscape and exquisite cuisine.

This dinner was a traditional Southern crab boil, cleverly delivered to each table in large wheelbarrows full of steaming shellfish. Delighted diners had a blast getting messy and getting to know the competing chefs, who were introduced during dinner.

Competing chefs

Omni Fish to Fork Chefs 2024
Omni Amelia Marketing

Back row, left to right:

Omar Collazo – Omni Amelia Island Resort – Amelia Island, FL

Steven Goff – Tastee Diner – Asheville, NC

Front row, left to right:

Sam Fore – Tuk Tuk Snack Shop – Lexington, KY

Jasmine Norton – The Urban Oyster – Baltimore, MD

Jonathan Zaragoza – Birrieria Zaragoza – Chicago, IL

Saji George – Mesa – Jacksonville, FL

Fishing excursion

Fish to Fork caught fish
Lindsay Parrill/The Manual

VIP guests of the event were invited to join the chefs out on the ocean to catch what would become the following night’s dinner. Guests were divided into groups, each group joining a chef in his or her boat out on the open water. We all awoke at 5 am on Friday, ready to catch our fill and toting our gorgeous boxed lunches prepared by Chef Omar and his team. But while we were excited and ready to tackle the day, the weather had other plans, bringing in an intense thunderstorm to cut the trip short. Nevertheless, the excursion was a blast, each guest and chef soaking but smiling as we brought our fresh catches to shore – however meager they may have been.

MOCAMA Beer Company dinner

Omni Fish to Fork 2024
Omni Amelia Island Marketing

The only event hosted off-site, Friday night’s dinner was held at MOCAMA Beer Company, though catered by Omni’s Chef Omar Collazo and his team. Selections included dishes such as white asparagus and endive salad with kalamata, manchego, and a limoncello vinegarette and diver scallops with burnt honey, parsnip, guanciale, and black cherry. Though, of the five courses I couldn’t get enough of Chef Omar’s elk with pine and onion ash. Each incredible dish was expertly paired with a different MOCAMA beer, and guests were completely spellbound by the experience.

Lunch at The Sprouting Project

Fish to Fork Sprouting Project Lunch 2024
Omni Amelia Resort Marketing

Whimsically decorated in a way that would shame any Bridgerton-themed garden party, Saturday’s luncheon was hosted at the property’s Sprouting Project – the resort’s farm-to-table conservation program. Complete with property-grown ingredients, deliciously exquisite dishes, a backdrop worthy of a storybook, and even the property’s own expert beekeeper, there was something to impress at every turn.

Fish to Fork Lunch 2024
Omni Amelia Island Marketing

I couldn’t get enough of the divinely simple and perfectly executed heirloom tomato and watermelon salad, though it was hard to select a favorite among other choices like filet mignon with mango salsa, pepper roasted chicken thighs, and housemade push pops made with local honey and citrus.

Main event

Fish to Fork 2024
Omni Amelia Island Marketing

Saturday night’s main event was held in the property’s beautifully lush Magnolia Garden, where each chef had a booth to serve his or her culinary creation made from the previous day’s catches. The delectable seafood samplings included chowders, ceviches, taquitos, curries, and other delicious bites, each complimented with its own unique cocktail—a touch many guests obviously adored.

After sampling each selection, guests were invited to vote for their favorite dish before heading to the main event. The gorgeously green garden was peppered with even more beautiful food to feast upon, including an enormous oyster bar, a deliciously smoky grill with barbecued favorites, and even octopus “hot dogs” were nestled throughout the scene alongside a live band and a series of invitingly open bars.

Fish to Fork Dinner 2024
Omni Amelia Island Resort Marketing

As guests trickled into the main party from the tasting booth reception area, the chefs were given just a few minutes to wrap up their individual tastings before being randomly grouped into two teams. The teams were to compete in a head-to-head, hour-long cookoff featuring a secret ingredient that had yet to be announced.

The suspense was palpable. Many guests wondered aloud what the secret ingredient might be when a familiar face took the stage. A representative from MOCAMA Beer – the brewery we’d dined at only the night before – announced with a grin that MOCAMA Beer would be the secret ingredient. Well played, Omni team. Well played.

The competition

Fish to Fork 2024
Omni Amelia Island Resort Marketing

The two teams frantically scrambled to collect their ingredients and get to chaotically cooking as an excited audience cheered them on.

With guests and press clamoring to get a piece of the action and film a TikTok or two, all six chefs were shockingly, somehow able to embrace the madness and cook with their practiced expertise amidst the pandemonium. After arguably the shortest hour of all time, the competition was over, and 800 plates were ready for judgment.

Winners

Fish to Fork 2024
Omni Amelia Island Resort Marketing

There were three categories of competition: Chef’s Choice, the dish voted best by the chef’s fellow competitors; Individual Challenge, the appetizer dish voted best by guests; and Team Challenge, the winner of the final cooking competition with the secret ingredient, voted by guests.

As someone who personally tasted every dish in the competition, I can truthfully say that each bite was delicious. But alas, the event was a competition and there must be winners, and these incredible chefs were deserving of the high praise they were given.

Chef’s Choice: Jonathan Zaragoza

Dish: Smoked taquito with arbol salsa, jocoque, cobia ceviche, and salsa macha

Individual Challenge: Omar Collazo

Dish: Toasted sesame-encrusted redfish with hot and sour eggplant, puffed wild rice, and carrot coconut puree

Team Challenge: Saji George, Jonathan Zaragoza, Omar Collazo

Dish: Cabana coast-braised traeger fish with Southern grains and cucumber relish

The best part? Omni Amelia Island Resort will do it all again next year — 2025 dates to be determined —but this time, you can experience it all for yourself.

Editors' Recommendations

Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
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