Culinary Experience

Featured Savor South Walton Chefs

Savor South Walton tents are sprinkled within the festival to allow guests to pair exquisite seafood and delectable appetizers with their current glass selection. Tents feature a unique culinary experience, included in ticket price. These tents focus on the food and culture of the Emerald Coast.
Featured chefs include:

Chef Dan Vargo

Chef Dan Vargo joined the Seagar’s Prime Steak and Seafood culinary team in April 2012. Vargo, a native of Maryland, was introduced to the culinary world in Destin where he made the decision to pursue his passion for food. Vargo has been in the culinary industry for the last 13 years, during which time he traveled the world in search of his culinary style, aptly shaped by his journey. Vargo brings Baltimore's traditional and historical influences, Martha's Vineyard's emphasis on organic produce and seasonal seafood, and the Ritz-Carlton's world-class standards for fine dining and excellence in service to the Seagar’s experience.
Prior to Seagar’s, Vargo collectively dedicated eight years to the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla. with titles including Executive Sous Chef and Restaurant Chef. He also spent two years as Executive Sous Chef at The Boathouse Club in Martha’s Vineyard.Graduating with honors from Baltimore International College in 2002, Vargo earned a prestigious internship through The American Studies Institute in Ireland with The Park Hotel. Vargo was also selected as a member of BIC’s Culinary School’s domestic and international recruiting team sent to South Africa and Peru where he cooked for orphanages and shelters.

Chef Dan Vargo will be featured during both Friday and Saturday Grand Tastings.

Chef Gio Filippone

Chef Filippone is currently the Executive Chef for Vue on 30a located in Santa Rosa Beach, Fl. The restaurant is located directly on the Gulf offering inspiration each day. “Our guests have the unique opportunity to dine just steps from the Gulf of Mexico, and our menu captures that experience,” he explains. “Each dish tells a story using what the eyes see in the view and what the palate tastes, creating an integrated dining experience.“ Before joining Vue on 30a, Chef Filippone’s career began at the Sheraton and Wyndam hotels where he served under experienced chefs and was able to fine-tune his skills and gain an understanding of his own abilities leading to his quick promotion to sous-chef. While working as an Executive Chef in Destin, Chef Filippone auditioned for Fox Broadcasting's culinary reality show, Hell's Kitchen, hosted by famed chef Gordan Ramsey. Filippone was asked to be a part of the Season 5 cast, which aired in January 2009. Making it to the top six on the show was hard work. Since his experience with Fox and Hell’s Kitchen and moving to Destin nearly a decade ago, Chef Gio, as many call him, has held the position of Executive Chef in a handful of area restaurants.

Now at the helm of Vue on 30a, Chef has incorporated all of his experiences into a refreshed menu which blends his twist of ‘American northern cuisine-meets American southern cuisine-meets southern Italy,’ with the fresh ingredients available in the area. Dishes like Pistachio Grouper have become a favorite for guests as well as his Fruits de Mer. These menu items plus others have reinvented Vue on 30a as a notable place to dine on 30A and has gained it notoriety by Florida Travel + Life Magazine naming Vue on 30a as "Best Waterfront Dining."

Chef Gio will be featured during Friday's Grand Tasting.

Chef Javier Rosa

Originally from Puerto Rico, Rosa has traveled to more than 20 countries to hone his culinary skills, including excursions to Europe, Asia and the Caribbean to experience an array of global cuisines. Over the years, he has prepared meals for presidents, kings, queens and famous personalities from around the world. Rosa has spent most of his career with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company with stints in the United States, Europe, Middle East and the Caribbean. While working at The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C., he had the opportunity to thrill the palates of Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and opera superstar Luciana Pavarotti. At Grand Cayman Island, he hosted many celebrities including Iron Chef Morimoto, Jean Banchet, Michael Richard and Fabio Trabocchi.

Rosa is recognized as a culinary innovator and his art of plating and food styling have earned him numerous accolades in multiple newspapers and magazines. While serving with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, he was selected as a part of a training team charged with opening six new hotels with fine dining restaurants domestically and internationally. Rosa is also a former member of the Puerto Rico National Culinary Team and active member of the American Culinary Federation.

Most recently, Rosa was the Executive Chef for Levy Restaurants at Amway Arena in Orlando and Executive Chef at American Airlines Arena in Miami. While working for that organization, he served NBA franchises in both cities, including the year the Miami Heat won the NBA Championship in 2012. He also played an integral role in the 2012 ,2013 and 2014 U.S. Open Tennis Championships in New York and for the opening of the Barclays Center, home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

Chef Javier will be featured on both Friday and Saturday Grand Tastings, as well as Sunday's Brunch on the Bay.

Chef Christopher Holbrook

Christopher Holbrook has always loved food; all the fuss was simply about eating, cooking, and watching the vegetables grow in the garden. Named Student of the Year during his college experience at Johnson & Wales University, Holbrook proved to be exceptional. He was tapped as the Executive Banquet Chef at the renowned Kiawah Island Resort in Charleston at the young age of 23. He trained under local celebrity Chef Tim Creehan, at Bluepoint in Atlanta - the area’s then #1 restaurant - and with French Chef Christian Deslandes at Beaumont’s in Charleston. Holbrook then ventured into the private sector, beginning with the prestigious Dingman Family and concluded his private chef career by working for New Orleans mogul Al Copeland, Sr. His career continued with a brief return to South Walton, working under James Beard Foundation nominee, Phillip Krychek, before venturing to Atlanta to work as the Executive Chef for the Infinity Dining Group. During this time his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in, and he developed his own catering company, Signature Catering, for many distinguished Buckhead families and also with some of the top restaurant designers in the southeast, such as “The Johnson Studio”. In 2010, Holbrook returned to the beautiful Beaches of South Walton, with his Signature Catering on 30A company, where he presents his love of food to companies and private entities alike. We are honored to have this Best of the Emerald Coast award winner for this year’s Savor South Walton experience.

Chef Holbrook will be featured during the following seminars: Friday's Wines of South Africa and Saturday's seminar featuring Jeff Meyers.