SOURCE: Marriott International

Marriott International

April 16, 2014 17:36 ET

Dining in St. Petersburg Takes a Celebrity Turn During Top Chef Competition

St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater's Chef Karen Gebhardt Takes Home Award for Top Table Decor

ST. PETERSBURG, FL--(Marketwired - Apr 16, 2014) - From Gordon Ramsay to Jamie Oliver, celebrity chefs have long captured the public's attention and imagination. But as the Top Chef of Tampa Bay competition proved on March 31, 2014, there's plenty of culinary talent this side of the pond, too. Case in point is Craft St. Petersburg's Chef Karen Gebhardt who took home the award for Top Table Décor. And while guests of the event only got a taste of Gebhardt's prowess that night, visitors to Craft's hotel, the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater, can immerse themselves in the experience all day long.

Top Chef of Tampa Bay benefitted Champions for Children, a nonprofit organization that works to build stronger families in the Tampa Bay region. The event attracted 13 chefs to the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa where they each prepared a dinner for 12. Instead of sampling bites from every chef, guests indulged in a five-course meal prepared by their designated chef, replete with wine pairings and table settings that rounded out the chef's vision.

The same principles that have put Craft St. Petersburg on the St. Petersburg dining map prevailed at Chef Gebhardt's table that night. Her passion for farm-to-table dining lent her décor a decidedly earthy appeal with tree-trunk placemats, garden-fresh floral arrangements and candles that flickered from within mason jars.

Yet Gebhardt's style embraced a decidedly romantic aesthetic as well. Gold flatware, crystal goblets, rose-colored wineglasses and delicately patterned china lent an airiness to the otherwise grounded décor. And that fine balance was what Gebhardt needed to showcase the food.

Craft St. Petersburg may be just one reason why the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater stands out among hotels near Clearwater, FL, but it's a good one. House-made pastas share menu space with steak, veal and seafood in incarnations that are at once hearty and modern. The pan-seared NY sirloin, for instance, is served with butter-braised Brussels sprouts, roasted potatoes and a veal glaze, while the Florida grilled grouper finds itself paired with charred farm tomatoes, whipped potatoes and farm-fresh seasonal veggies. And that's just dinner.

This culinary mindset is what Gebhardt translated into award-winning décor at the competition. It's also what earned her an honorable mention for Food Taste and Preparation. Such notable accomplishments -- made even more remarkable by the fact this was Gebhardt's first time participating in the event -- bode well for both Gebhardt and this Clearwater Airport hotel. Celebrity, after all, can open many doors, especially when it's backed up by talent like Gebhardt's.

About the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater
Encompassing all that is desirable about Florida, the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater welcomes guests with award-winning service, an enviable location and a host of amenities. Nine meeting rooms afford 30,000 square feet of high-tech function space, while business guests can save time and money with complimentary self-parking and close proximity to St. Petersburg's airport. Those traveling for vacation, meanwhile, can luxuriate in spacious suites or guest rooms equipped with 37-inch HD televisions and sumptuous bedding. A 1,600-square-foot fitness center complements the outdoor pool, although guests will also find plenty of entertainment nearby. The Salvador Dali Museum, the Morean Arts Center and Clearwater Beach are all easily accessible from this gracious hotel.

About Marriott Hotels
With 500 hotels and resorts in nearly 60 countries around the world, Marriott Hotels is evolving travel through every aspect of the guest's stay, enabling the next generation to Travel Brilliantly. Boldly transforming itself for mobile and global travelers who blend work and play, Marriott leads the industry with innovations, including the Greatroom, Future of Meetings and Mobile Guest Services that elevates style & design and technology. All Marriott hotels participate in the award winning Marriott Rewards frequent travel program that allows members to earn hotel points or airline miles for every dollar spent during each stay. For more information, visit www.MarriottHotels.com.

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