Culinary Fusion Contest 2024

Special June Diversitastic! Dining Experience

Culinary Fusion Contest 2024

Four evenings that promise to take attendees on a culinary adventure like no other.

Innovative chefs, adventurous culinary students, and creative home cooks create unique dishes combining ingredients, techniques, or spices from at least two different continents/cultures for a chance to win cash awards up to $1,000. Thirty (30) special guests get to sample seven (7) of these creations each night along with the ten (10) judges.

Each night a first and second place winner will be announced and you have a chance to vote for the Audience Choice winner for the night.
The Culinary Fusion Contest takes place at the beautiful Creative Village Campus in Valencia’s West Campus, Building 9 – Walt Disney World Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts.

Wednesday, June 5: Home cooks
Thursday, June 6: Culinary students
Monday, June 10: Working/Trained Chefs
Tuesday, June 11: Working/Trained Chefs

Watch the recap of the
2023 Culinary Fusion Contest

meet the judges

Will Adkison:

I’m the Chef and owner of Sweet & Salty Island Grindz, currently home of the viral Tik-Tok sandwich. I’ve been in the Orlando food scene for about 6 years now. Prior to that I served in the Navy for 20 years. I started off my culinary journey here in my Food Truck during the height of COVID, luckily with hard work and consistency in the community I was able to expand into my now physical location inside of Henry’s Depot’ Sanford. I’ve been blessed to collaborate and work with a lot of local favorite Chefs to explore the art cooking. My focus right now is mainly Pacific Islander cuisine, but thanks to my upbringing and military career I am well versed in food from all over the world.

Kassanndra Santiago:

Kassanndra Santiago is a professional photographer, marketing strategist, experiential event consultant, & community advocate residing in West Orlando, FL. She has founded two digital initiatives for her local community in West Orlando (@MyPineHills) & statewide for LGBTQ+ Florida Residents (@LGBTQFLORIDA). Currently, Kassanndra serves on the OCFL Disability Advisory Board & has been trained under progressive organizations like Super Majority “MAJORITY LEADERS” Cohort, Arena Academy for “Campaign Managers” program, and Unspoken Treasure Society’s “Master Peer Specialist” cohort. Kassanndra is currently the Vice President of LOUD Central FL, the VP of Operations for Las Semillas, a Community Board member of Contigo Fund, & a reoccurring contributor for The Midtown Press.

Kymbat Iglikova:

Kymbat Iglikova is an Associate Broker, Licensed Real Estate Instructor Certified Distance Education Instructor  with B.S. in Education and an extensive experience in management and leadership.

Cultural ambassador to Central Asia, and Director (BOD), at FusionFest Orlando, Director at Florida REALTORs, Member of Global Business Diversity Committee with an access to a network of real estate companies and professionals around the world.

She was born and raised in Central Asia and is fluent in several languages. She has owned and managed an interpreting agency for over decade in service to clients locally and globally, government agencies, immigration attorneys, educational organizations, real estate professionals.

Kymbat is a teacher, community volunteer , avid world traveler and a proud Floridian. She is a big believer in Education, and the power it has to transform one`s life. One of many ways she gives back to her community by educating younger generation, supporting women and volunteering with Council of Aging, United Way. She supports organizations that promote diversity and globalization (FusionFest Orlando, Asian- American Chamber of Commerce, AREAA, Florida REALTORS, NAMMBA (National Minority Mortgages Bankers Association).

In her spare time she travels , practices yoga, meditation. She has been fortunate to travel to many countries around the world and has learned that “we have a lot more in common that we may think.”

She will be happy to help you to make a smooth transition and achieve your goals!

Jason Kelly:

Jason Kelly, 35, is a native Orlandoan with deep roots in both Central Florida and the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao. He is the Digital Executive Producer at WFTV Channel 9, where he oversees digital strategy, social media and content creation. He also serves on the city of Orlando’s Historic Preservation Board and the Mills 50 District’s Board of Directors. When he’s not at work or serving the community, he’s either at home cooking Caribbean or Southern cuisine or on the hunt for delicious food, beer and bourbon.

Alicia Chea-Junga:

Alicia is an Orlando native, proud wife, and mom to three wonderful children. With her unique blend of Chinese, Caribbean, and Cuban heritage, Alicia’s family celebrates diversity in all its flavors! Alicia’s love for everything local echoes through her advocacy, fostering a vibrant, inclusive atmosphere within Orlando’s landscape. Her journey encapsulates a harmonious blend of technical acumen, cultural pride, and a dedication to nurturing community connections through the universal language of good food and shared experiences. She highlights these experiences as a blogger on her Instagram account @eatswithalicia

Kadeem Stewart:

Kadeem Stewart, is an Art Professional of over 11 years whose primary medium is photography. Born in New York, to Jamaican parents Joan and Alrick, Kadeem prides himself in his creativity and eclectic food interest.  Those who know him personally know he often jokes that if he wasn’t a photographer he would be a chef. After years of working in the food industry he retain a large interest in the culinary arts with hobbies that range from mixology, dehydrating fruits for tea making and grilling when the weather permits.

Claudia Menezes:

Claudia Menezes, a prominent figure in the travel industry, currently holds the positions of Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at GoPegasus. Hailing from Brazil, she brings with her a rich heritage in the travel sector, instilled from an early age by her family’s involvement in pioneering Brazil’s tourism landscape.

Since 2001, Claudia has played a pivotal role at GoPegasus, driving revenue growth and expanding the company’s market share. Her visionary leadership has transformed GoPegasus from a transportation company into a comprehensive tour operator, offering clients a one-stop solution for their travel needs. With over 30 years of experience in the field, Claudia’s expertise extends beyond her role at GoPegasus. She is a featured blogger for Panrotas, Brazil’s leading travel trade publication, where she shares insights and updates through her column “Direto De Orlando” (Direct from Orlando).

In addition to her professional commitments, Claudia is deeply involved in community initiatives, championing causes such as education and entrepreneurship. Her contributions to the industry have been widely recognized, earning her prestigious accolades such as the “Woman Who Means Business”; title by the Orlando Business Journal and inclusion in the list of the “One hundred most influential people in the Brazilian Trade and Travel Market”; by Panrotas. Claudia’s dedication to innovation, community engagement, and philanthropy exemplifies her commitment to making a positive impact in both the travel industry and society as a whole. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Visit Orlando, further solidifying her influence and leadership in the industry.

Chef Alex Erdmann:

Alex Erdmann is an accomplished German-Certified Master Chef with a master’s in International Hospitality Management from Switzerland and more than 30 years of leadership experience in the hospitality and food service industry.

Beginning his career in Germany, Alex worked in numerous positions throughout the world including, Austria, Switzerland, Israel, and the United Kingdom. While stateside, he continued his culinary endeavors with corporations like Royal Caribbean Cruises and the Disney Cruise Line and has served in educational leadership positions at institutions like the Washburne Culinary Institute, Baker College, Lexington College, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

As Dean of the School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality at Valencia College, he build the Walt Disney World Center for Culinary Arts and Hospitality occupying over 50,000-square-feet of educational space on floors 3,4 and 5 at Valencia College`s Downtown Campus (UnionWest) which is also shared with the University of Central Florida.

Gam Marotta:

I’m originally from Thailand and my parents own a Thai restaurant down in west palm beach. I’m a big foodie, love to travel for food, and a Michelin guide enthusiast. I share my food experiences on instagram:  @gamsfoodadventure

Dalila Ramos:

Dalila, best known for her Taco Tuesday’s Talks w/Dalila series, has been in the mortgage industry for over 23 yrs. Ramos specializes in building relationships, helps build brand awareness, and attracts talent through her deep mortgage industry network. A Chicago native who is bilingual, Dalila is passionate about homeownership within women, single mothers, social media/ technology, and the minority community. Along with introducing college students and future generations to the mortgage industry.

Gladys Leipego:

Hi my name is Gladys Leipego also known as T-zo Lee. I am a proud mother and grandma. I chair the board of Batswana in Florida Association and I’m based in Orlando but was born in the beautiful country of Botswana. I’m the founder and owner of T-zo Lee Foods a small food business specializing in imported foods and spices from my home country. On my spare time I love to travel and enjoy planning trips.

Professional and home chefs will combine ingredients, spices, or preparation techniques from different countries to create fusion dishes that are both delicious and unique. Guests can look forward to a special Fusion Cocktail and rum tastings featuring a special rum selection by our exclusive beverage sponsor Barcelo. as well as a cultural performance.

Get your tickets now:

Culinary Fusion Contest - Night 1 - Chefs


Culinary Fusion Contest - Night 2 - Chefs


Culinary Fusion Contest - Night 3 - Chefs


Meet the Chefs

Chefs Night 1 (Pro)

Harris Ansari

Pablo Emilio Ramos-Nieves is a Universal Chefpreneur in addition to being a mixed media artist. Chef Pablo Emilio dedicates countless days and nights to studying, researching, and finding new star-wandering recipes. Chef Pablo Emilio received second place winner award at the 2022 Fusion Fest Competition in Orlando, FL.

Denny Tornatore

I am Italian-American from New York and Florida. I have been cooking Italian food for over 30 years. I have owned Tornatores restaurant for the past 14 years and I love cooking and feeding people.

James Gregg

I have been passionate about cooking since I was 18 years old. I have a creative drive that pushes me to always do better than the day before. I love to play around with new flavors and mix two cultures into one dish.

Abeoler Lewis

Originally from Gasparillo Village, Trinidad & Tobago, I immigrated to Florida in 2014. My son was born with a stomach that hadn’t fully developed and he struggled with digesting several foods. This encouraged me to pursue further education in Nutrition and Dietetics

Pablo Ramos Nieves

Pablo Emilio Ramos-Nieves is a Universal Chefpreneur in addition to being a mixed media artist. Chef Pablo Emilio dedicates countless days and nights to studying, researching, and finding new star-wandering recipes. Chef Pablo Emilio received second place winner award at the 2022 Fusion Fest Competition in Orlando, FL.

Anthony Blakey

I’m ChefTonyTone one of the premier personal chefs in Central Florida. From The Tidewater Area of Virginia. Chef Tony has been whipping up timeless eats since he was 8 years old!

Leonardo Tamashiro

I Graduated from the best Culinary School of Paris, Gregoire Ferrandi, where I worked for the oldest and the most iconic restaurant of Paris, known for their ducks, La Tour d’Argent. I had the chance to work for Guy Savoy at L’Ateliet du Maître Albert, where I discovered a true passion for wines and moved out to London, UK to work as a sommelier. I arrived in the U.S. in 2016.

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