7 Chefs, 5 Judges, 1 Football Great Walk into FARE...
GRAPEVINE, Texas -- Competing against All-Pro running back Herschel Walker is enough to make anyone sweat, but contestants in the second annual FARE Culinary Competition also had to face hundreds of onlookers and the pressure of their peers on Monday evening of the FARE conference, held at the Gaylord Texan June 16-18.
The final dishes exemplified the culinary creativity that happens when operators from across the foodservice channels team up to vie for best in show.
The winning dish: A torta-style burger, from Ben Lucky, director of foodservice for Sprint Food Stores, August, Ga., and Pete Torres, executive chef at the Dallas Medical Center. It featured a chorizo and Italian sausage patty topped with pulled pork, caramelized onions in a chipotle raspberry sauce, micro greens, chicken-skin “chicharrones” and a garlic-parmesan chimichurri. It was served with mesquite-flavored tortilla chips and grilled pineapple.
The competition was held during the evening’s strolling dinner, just after an inspiring keynote by celebrity chef Robert Irvine—who visited the dinner to take photos with fans and compare “guns” with Culinary Competition contestant Herschel Walker.
Walker himself paused between chopping and tossing to shake hands and pose for photos with attendees. Walker’s teammate Katzie Guy-Hamilton—a culinary great herself, having appeared on “Top Chef, Just Desserts” and recently named one of Dessert Professional magazine's Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America for 2014—remained beyond cool under the pressure of the extra spotlight.
Participants were given 60 minutes to prepare, package and serve an original and innovative on-the-go style meal item. They were judged on a 10-point scale in four categories, each weighted equally: taste, creativity and innovation, presentation and—a true FARE twist—portability/convenience: Dishes could be considered grab-and-go or made-to-order and either travel well for later consumption, or easily eaten quickly or on the go.
To create their dishes, teams had to use at least one product from sponsor companies Arcobasso Foods and McCormick for Chefs. They also had to use at least one protein from either Pierce Chicken/Pilgrims Pride or the National Pork Board. Teams would receive an extra point if they used a protein from each sponsor—which each overachieving team did.
Each teams’ station was manned by a shiny new Ovention oven, which they had to use in at least one application. Gloves were provided by sponsor FoodHandler.
Other participants and teams consisted of:
Katzie Guy-Hamilton, Director of Food and Beverage, Max Brenner, New York, and Herschel Walker, Foodservice Entrepreneur and All-Pro Running Back. Dish: Toasted pork, chicken and apple hash flatbread, served with a Parmesan-honey sauce.
Edward Rodriguez, Senior Kitchen Manager, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and Andy Wittman, Culinary Operations Manager, Pizza Inn / Pie Five Pizza Co., The Colony, Texas. Dish: Brown-sugar cured pork with caramelized onions, vegetable slaw and a raspberry-chipotle sauce on toasted focaccia, served with a rice ball stuffed with chicken and mozzarella and topped with garlic Parmesan sauce.
Jason Beecher, Culinary Manager, Product Development for Wawa, Wawa, Pa., and Paul Glassman, Food & Beverage Director, Five Star Senior Living, Dallas. Dish: Mesquite chicken flatbread sandwich with caramelized onions, spicy chipotle and chorizo, greens and roasted bell peppers tossed with balsamic glaze—all topped with a fried egg.
“I am so grateful to have participated with so many select professionals from the various foodservice industries,” said Lucky. “Being able to both showcase our talents and—in my case—represent Sprint Foods was a privilege. And to have the venue to compete and then actually win against such outstanding competitors is an honor.”
“I learned, socialized and even played, and I came back to work a more motivated, determined and overall a better person and manager to my staff and myself,” said Torres. “Thank you for giving me a chance to prove to the industry that there’s more to a healthcare chef than your standard peas and carrots.”
The Culinary Competition judges included:
- Pat Cobe, Senior Editor, Restaurant Business Magazine, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.
- Andrew Franco, Executive Chef, Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes, Canastota, N.Y., and 2013 FARE Culinary Competition Winner
- Darrick Henry, Dietary Director/Chef, Baylor Orthopedic and Spine Hospital at Arlington, Texas
- Dan Phalen, Corporate Executive Chef, Luby’s Fuddrucker’s, Houston
- Laurence Shiner, Executive Chef, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Ill., and 2013 FARE Culinary Competition Winner
“There is so much artistry in the culinary field from the simplest appetizer to the high end entrée,” said Phalen after the competition. “The live event is a great way to celebrate what we all do for our customers every day to bring them good, flavorful meals that they hopefully enjoy today and want to come back tomorrow—and bring a few friends in the process.”
Next year’s FARE Conference will be held June 22-24 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville. Visit www.fareconference.com for more details.