Iron Chef 2015 at the Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention

17 Sep
Final plate by Chef Casey Copeland

Final winning plate by Chef Casey Copeland of SO Restaurant & Bar in Little Rock.

Iron Chef Arkansas! One of the coolest competitions all year. It’s time for some food photos and feats of culinary strength. If you’re unfamiliar, this competition takes place on the floor of the annual  Arkansas Hospitality Association Vendor Showcase and Convention. Eight chefs of AHA member restaurants, clubs or catering operations from across the state are invited to compete. Through 40-minute heats over two days, the chefs must use the ingredients of a mystery basket and show their skills and creativity.

But first, a mea culpa…

I admit it, I haven’t blogged much lately. The blogging experts always say not to acknowledge it or apologize for it, but it’s just true. Things are going well for arfoodjobs.com, and I’ve spent my time and energy there. (Plus there’s a whole burnout thing with food blogging for so many years.)

All that to say, I’m sitting right now at the Arkansas Hospitality Association Vendor Showcase and Convention, as I have for many years now. The first day of the show, yesterday, I spent my time at the arfoodjobs.com booth helping candidates and employers get registered on our site. Today, I need to get back to my first love! Some of the chefs yesterday even asked me about the blog. One even said his wife and friends usually follow my live coverage each year (ouch).

As the day goes on, I will update this post with yesterday’s winners, photos of dishes, and the details of today’s competition. Stay tuned, and watch on Instagram or Twitter at @arfoodie.

Wednesday, Sept. 16

Heat 1:

  • Chef Gilbert Alaquinez, Sous Chef at Clinton Presidential Center
  • Chef Shane Curley, Sous Chef at Tusk & Trotter
  • Chef Jason Knapp, Executive Chef at Sysco Arkansas
  • Chef Brian Kumrow, Sous Chef at Southland Park Gaming & Racing

Mystery Basket: 1855 Ribeye, Figs, Masa, Cauliflower.
Chef Shane Curley was eliminated.

Heat 2: 

  • Chef Jeff Caruso, Executive Chef at Little Rock Marriott
  • Chef Casey Copeland, Executive Chef at SO Restaurant & Bar
  • Chef Justus Moll, Executive Chef at River Grille Steakhouse
  • Chef Breck Hatcher, Executive Chef at YaYa’s Eurobistro

Mystery Basket: Trout, Baby Kale, Cucumber, Grapefruit.
Chef Breck Hatcher was eliminated.

Heat 3: 

  • Chef Justus Moll, Executive Chef at River Grille Steakhouse
  • Chef Gilbert Alaquinez, Sous Chef at Clinton Presidential Center
  • Chef Jason Knapp, Executive Chef at Sysco Arkansas

Mystery Basket: Crystal Lake Farms Chicken, Duck Bacon, Mushrooms, Beets.
Chef Justus Moll was eliminated.

Heat 4: 

  • Chef Casey Copeland, Executive Chef at SO Restaurant & Bar
  • Chef Jeff Caruso, Executive Chef at Little Rock Marriott
  • Chef Brian Kumrow, Sous Chef at Southland Park Gaming & Racing

Mystery Basket: 1885 Strip, Butternut Squash, Horseradish Root, Asparagus.
Chef Brian Kumrow was eliminated.

Thursday, Sept. 17

Heat 5: 

  • Chef Casey Copeland, Executive Chef at SO Restaurant & Bar
  • Chef Jeff Caruso, Executive Chef at Little Rock Marriott

Mystery Basket: Arborio Rice, Muscadine Juice, Jicama, 1885 Skirt Steak
Chef Jeff Caruso was eliminated. Chef Copeland will move forward to the final heat.

Heat 6: 

  • Chef Gilbert Alaquinez, Sous Chef at Clinton Presidential Center
  • Chef Jason Knapp, Executive Chef at Sysco Arkansas

Mystery Basket: Salmon, Dragonfruit, Rambutan, Rice, Stick Pasta, Watermelon
Chef Jason Knapp was eliminated. Chef Gilbert Alaquinez will move forward to the final heat.

FINAL HEAT:

  • Chef Gilbert Alaquinez, Sous Chef at Clinton Presidential Center vs.
  • Chef Casey Copeland, Executive Chef at SO Restaurant & Bar

Mystery Basket: Whole Duck, Canned Truffles, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Arugula

WINNER: Chef Casey Copeland, Executive Chef at SO Restaurant & Bar

Watch the winner announcement here.

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