I'm currently lining up chefs to participate in our Tampa Food Issue for June — the $20 Menu Challenge. All they have to do is create a meal for two with at least three courses and keep the ingredient list to under $20. (We did this last year in Sarasota, without the course requirements. Jose Martinez' contribution was amazing.)
Not too difficult, in my opinion, but I had a chef yesterday who was shocked. "That's impossible," she explained, trying to wrap her head around the concept. "Maybe these people don't want to eat very much?"
I suspect that she'll come up with something after she thinks about it, but later that day I was telling China Yuan owner Peter Chan what she'd said. Maybe it's just a stylistic difference, but he had different take on the matter. "If a chef told me that, I would tell them to go to hell!" he said. "You want dinner for four I can do that. You want dinner for eight, I can do that for less than $20." Chan explained that he's had to feed his family for a lot less than that in the past and he knows how to stretch a dining budget.
He'll be providing us with some recipes for the issue, so if there's anything special on his menu you want the details on, just drop me a line. And, if you know a chef who could turn a $20 bill into haute cuisine, let us know. We'll add them to the list if they're willing.
What can you do with $20?