How it Happened: UF/IFAS Flavors of Florida

Flavors of Florida event logoSince its inception in 2014, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Flavors of Florida event has been a testament to the pioneering spirit of UF/IFAS and rich agricultural heritage of the Sunshine State. Led by visionary researchers Dave Clark and Harry Klee, this annual celebration of taste, science and community has evolved into a beloved tradition that features the innovative research, diversity of impact and culinary creativity that define UF/IFAS. 


A Tasty Tradition 

Map of Florida with plant breeding efforts highlighted across the state.In 2014, faculty researchers at the UF/IFAS Plant Breeding Program presented the first Flavors of Florida event to showcase, through the senses, the groundbreaking science of plant breeding. Their vision was to create an immersive experience that brought together campus, community and industry leaders to celebrate the flavors of Florida and the transformative power of agricultural research. 

At the heart of the Flavors of Florida event is the opportunity for attendees to sample products of UF/IFAS research firsthand. From new varieties of blueberries and citrus to emerging crops like hops and finger limes, guests indulge in dishes and beverages crafted from ingredients sourced from UF/IFAS research farms and Florida farmers and ranchers. The event offers an enticing glimpse into Florida agriculture, highlighting the diverse range of fruit, vegetables, legumes, meat, seafood and even ornamental plants UF/IFAS has had a hand in developing. 

   Photo 1: Flavors of Florida guests with plates of food learn about Florida native plants. Photo 2: Event decor centerpiece (an alligator statue surrounded by fruit and vegetables and with an event-branded glass in its open mouth).


Culinary Collaboration 

Local chefs play a crucial role in the Flavors of Florida experience, using their expertise to create original dishes that highlight UF/IFAS and Florida ingredients. Breweries and distilleries have also joined the festivities, crafting one-of-a-kind beverages that complement the culinary offerings. The result? Mouthwatering dishes, like Fresh From Florida’s spice and garlic-roasted Florida gulf shrimp with blueberry BBQ sauce and Underground Kitchen’s rosemary-basted ribeye steak. 


Photo 1: artful sample plates and skewers of shrimp ready to be served at Flavors of Florida.Photo 2: Jeanna Mastrodicasa and Underground Kitchen's Chef Carl smiling on stage at Flavors of Florida. Carl holds a plaque with event artwork reading "Taster's Choice." Photo 3: Three staff members smile behind the table for Mildred's Big City Food, which is prepped with serving cups and plates. A menu in the foreground lists "seared Bluehouse Salmon" and "Florida Key Lime Mascarpone Mousse" in partnership with Atlantic Sapphire Bluehouse Salmon and Vert Nature. The table has a stack of four 1-foot cubes with info on artichokes, blueberries, salmon, and arugula.
Left: Two Chefs on Hillview’s dishes featuring Florida shrimp. Center: Underground Kitchen’s Chef Carl accepts the 2024 Taster’s Choice award. Right: Mildred’s Big City Food.



Nearly A Decade of Flavorful Success 

2024 Flavors of Florida event invitation artwork.In its ninth year, the 2024 Flavors of Florida event welcomed over 400 attendees, including UF alumni, industry leaders, researchers, students and community members. The event presented attendees with a chance to sample some of the newest flavors emerging from UF/IFAS research, including artichokes, muscadine grapes and tropical fruit. Guests engaged directly with researchers, providing feedback to the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center on orange juice, grapefruit and lime flavor and tasting the subtle differences among blueberry varieties developed by the UF/IFAS Blueberry Breeding Program.  

This year’s event included student chefs: the Florida 4-H Food Challenge state champion team from Hillsborough County shared a unique and refreshing strawberry gazpacho, while students from the UF/IFAS Food Science and Human Nutrition Department offered surprising finger lime macarons. 


Photo 1: Three women from the UF/IFAS Food Science and Human Nutrition Department smile behind their table of pink finger lime flavored foods at Flavors of Florida. There is a sign in the background reading "Finger Lime, the caviar of the plant world."Photo 2: two teen 4-H youth in black 4-H branded chef outfits smile behind their table at Flavors of Florida. A sign in the foreground reads: "Hillsborough Jalapenos, Florida 4-H State Food Challenge Championship Senior Team/Strawberry Gazpacho/in partnership with Driscoll's, DiMare Fresh, G&F Farms."
Left: the UF/IFAS Food Science and Human Nutrition Department. Right: Hillsborough Jalapeños, the Florida 4-H Food Challenge state champion team.

  With its growing popularity, Flavors of Florida has become known for sharing culinary innovation as well as offering a friendly atmosphere and tasty demonstration of UF/IFAS’s far-reaching impact. 


Community Engagement and Impact 

Beyond offering a feast for the senses, Flavors of Florida is committed to making a positive impact. A portion of each ticket purchased goes toward supporting UF/IFAS programs, such as the UF Field & Fork Campus Food Program and the Path to Pioneers program. These initiatives provide hands-on educational opportunities for students and address food insecurity, reflecting UF/IFAS’s commitment to addressing pressing societal challenges. 

Generous sponsors like Alan and Cathy Hitchcock and Florida Foundation Seed Producers (FFSP) play a major role in the event’s success. The Hitchcocks are champions of the UF Field & Fork Campus Food Program, and FFSP is the direct support organization that facilitates UF/IFAS plant breeding efforts. 

Elaine Turner, Cathy Hitchcock, Alan Hitchcock, and Anna Prizzia smile and pose on stage at the 2024 Flavors of Florida. Cathy holds a colorful plaque. The Flavors of Florida event logo is visible in the background.
Cathy and Alan Hitchcock, center, were the Pioneer Sponsors of this year’s event.


A Vision for the Future 

At UF/IFAS, food is our middle name. From teaching the next generation of food scientists to collaborating with industry, we work to develop crops and livestock suited to Florida to make growing, packing and shipping food streamlined and to create new economic opportunities for local communities. 

Through the land-grant mission, UF/IFAS continues to partner with producers and community leaders to cultivate the knowledge, products and solutions needed to address the challenges facing our state and world. Flavors of Florida stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation, demonstrating how, by working together, we can shape a more sustainable and flavorful future for all. 


The “How it Happened” series showcases the transformational gifts made by donors to UF/IFAS during the University of Florida’s Go Greater Campaign. To learn more about creating your own impact through UF/IFAS programs with a charitable gift, please visit our website at or call the UF/IFAS Advancement Office at 352-392-1975. 


Posted: March 27, 2024

Category: AGRICULTURE, EVENTS, Fruits & Vegetables, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension, UF/IFAS Research
Tags: 4-H, Alan And Cathy Hitchcock, FFSP, Field And Fork, Flavors Of Florida, Food Is Our Middle Name, Fresh From Florida, FSHN, How It Happened, Mildred's Big City Food, Plant Breeding, UF/IFAS, Underground Kitchen, University Of Florida

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