Chef Abigale Weech-Starkey, The Chop Shop
Chef Abigale Weech-Starkey was born in Key West, Florida. Chef Weech-Starkey is the owner of the beloved Lakeland hangout The Chop Shop Bar & Grill, as well as Abigale’s Custom Catering and Mind & Body Foods. In addition, she previously owned the Floribbean sensation Loco Gringos Cantina, a sister restaurant to The Chop Shop, and is the former Food Director of the Salvation Army Florida Division – Lakeland. Chef Weech-Starkey has an International Business degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University and had a full scholarship to Stetson University College of Law before choosing the travel and hospitality industry as an alternative to law. She is a mother of two, a cross-country coach and is an active volunteer in the community.
Brandon Bailey, Bernie Little Distributing
To Brandon Bailey, the word leadership means going above the standard and motivating a better outcome. As a young chef who went to the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Culinary College, he sought after expressing himself through his food and work ethic. Starting as a prep cook at Red Lobster, he quickly realized he wanted to rise through the ranks and tackle bigger culinary challenges. From working as a Chef with Publix Super Markets, Inc., to going over the road as a corporate trainer for Cheddars Scratch Kitchen, the knowledge and leadership continued to grow within.
After finally getting a chance to run a kitchen with The Hilton, the Top Chef of Polk County event presented itself and opened a new door for the young chef. He saw an opportunity to not only display his culinary skills but to make an impact on the community in a positive fashion. For the next four years, Brandon would go on to participate every year in the Top Chef of Polk County event and even be named the Top Chef of Polk County in 2020.
The event kept finding a new meaning for him, each year as his son, “Jax” would grow up to attend the Achievement Academy from age 2 to his final year which he is currently in right now. This event became much more than a culinary competition for him over the years. It became a platform to continue to make an impact on the lives of children and the community around him. This year, he won’t be participating as a Chef, but as a Community Leader. His goal this year is to exceed the previous donation record and take the next step in his leadership journey.