The Ryan Wells Foundation Turns Culinary Students into Celebrity Chefs for the Evening 


Lauded as the top culinary tasting event, The Ryan Wells Foundation is proud to announce its 13th Annual “Evening with the Chefs” on Friday May 11 from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the Sheraton Sand Key.

At this event, culinary students and chefs pair up to prepare and serve the most delectable small plates you’ve tasted in one sitting. You will find culinary students from Dixie Hollins High School, Lealman Innovation Academy, Northeast High School, Osceola High School, Tarpon Springs High School, and Pinellas Technical College all put in the spotlight, creating culinary masterpieces, and showing their skills.  Supporting the event this year are top Chefs all within the Destination Tampa Bay area.  Celebrity Chefs include: John Harris of the Sheraton Sand Key, Chef Chris Ponte of Café Ponte, Chef Doug Bebell of Mystic Fish, Chef Scott Bebell of Guppy’s, Chef Mark Heimann of Vinoy Renaissance Resort, Island Way Grill, Chef Tyson Grant of Parkshore Grill, Chef Lee Aquino of Birch and Vine at The Birchwood, Chef Justin Harry of RumFish Grill at TradeWinds Resorts, Chef Jeffrey Jew of Stillwaters Tavern, and Chief Chocolate Officer Bill Brown of William Dean Chocolates.

The evening will also feature libations, live music, and a live and silent auction. Event proceeds help provide student scholarships for post-secondary education in hospitality and the culinary arts and donations to the school programs aforementioned. The Ryan Wells Foundation is proud to promote scholarship alumnae that can be found in local establishments like The Birchwood, Sandpearl Resort, Elevage at the Epicurean Hotel, and even nationwide at Buzz Pop Cocktails in Las Vegas, the Hyatt Regency in Savannah, The Aviary in New York City, The Breakers in Palm Beach, and more.

Individual tickets for the event are $125 and sponsorship packages are also available.  Visit the for more information and tickets.


The Ryan Wells Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that supports Pinellas County school culinary programs and students through monetary donations to the programs and student scholarships for post-secondary education in culinary arts and hospitality.  Since 2005, the Ryan Wells Foundation has awarded scholarships to 120 high school students in the amount of $783,000.  Financial gifts have amounted to over $350,000 including the funding of a 2,500 square foot teaching kitchen, named Ryan’s Kitchen, at the Jacobson Culinary Arts Academy at Tarpon Springs High School.  All is in support of fulfilling the dreams of deserving students and honoring the life of Ryan Wells, a young man whose dreams of being a chef were cut short when his life was taken in a car accident in June 2005.

 More on Helping the Culinary Arts Educational Foundation:

Our 5 partner high school partners are part of a nation-wide program called ProStart founded by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Pinellas County boasts some of the premier ProStart programs in the state of Florida. Just this past weekend, Tarpon Springs High School placed 2nd in the state overall and Northeast High School placed 4th in the state overall! 

Here is a short excerpt from the FRLA web site: “The Florida ProStart program began as a pilot program in the 1994-1995 school year with six programs.  Today, it is 238 schools strong.  This directly correlates to the explosive growth of the foodservice industry, which was the original intention of the ProStart program founders, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF).  As the foodservice industry was growing, the NRAEF forecasted an alarming shortage of restaurant managers.   ProStart was created to interest high school students in this diverse industry to head off these shortages.” 

The Ryan Wells Foundation wishes to amplify the opportunity for students in these programs, whether that’s funding the program to purchase state-of-the-art equipment, experiment with new food, attend various competitions, build gardens to help sustain their operations, securing matching scholarships with colleges, or establishing relationships with local organizations that can provide support (mentorship, financial support, in-kind support, volunteer opportunities, job opportunities)…we do it all. This event in particular gives students to work with the most celebrated chefs in our county, sometimes helping them prep in their kitchens the day before the event, and then working side by side with them at the event. This event gives a student a small taste of what life in the industry is truly like. The more we can prepare these students for post-secondary or careers in the industry, the better. We want to see them all succeed, just like we know Ryan would have!

Check out other great organizations that help Destination Tampa bay’s area children.

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