Tag Archives: AHA

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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Matt Cooper of Cache wins 2014 Iron Chef Competition

18 Sep

Iron Chef wordsUPDATE: Chef Matt Cooper of Cache has won the 2014 Iron Chef Competition.

I saw from my search terms that some of you are wondering where in the world my Iron Chef coverage might be. I’ve been working at the trade show mainly on behalf of arfoodjobs.com, but I had to at least attend the final round of competition for Iron Chef. I’m excited to participate in the last and best round!

The finalists are Chef Matt Cooper of Cache and Chef Marc Guizol, both of whom are Iron Chef alumni. Guizol is the winner of the Iron Chef competition in 2013.

The final mystery basket contains:

  • Pumpkin
  • Molasses
  • Farro
  • Almonds
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Pork Brisket

The chefs have 40 minutes to create a dish with these ingredients. See photos and plate descriptions below.

Final dish by Matt Cooper of Cache

Final dish by Matt Cooper of Cache

Matt Cooper’s dish:

Risotto style pumpkin farro
Marinated pork with chiles, fennel, paprika, molasses
Pumpkin and fennel moustarda
Pumpkin seed and almond gremolata

Final dish by Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel

Final dish by Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel

Marc Guizol’s dish:

Pork two ways, BBQ and Asian
Potato chips and pumpkin chips
Brussels sprouts with truffle oil
Farro with shiitake mushrooms, orange, cinnamon and almond

WINNER: Matt Cooper of Cache.

On Conferences, Food Blogging and Business (#AWBU, AHA and #IFBC this month)

4 Sep
COLLAGE

I’m a little busy this month.

You may have noticed some changes around here lately at Fancy Pants Foodie. And if you’ve been with me a while, it might look familiar.

Back in 2009 when I started this blog, it was basically about what I cooked at home, teaching you how to do the same if you wanted. That morphed into my experiences at culinary school, and later I wrote quite a bit of local food industry news, often in awkwardly newsy style.

With my release of arfoodjobs.com and its own blog, I’ve decided to publish all new industry-related stuff there. So if you’re in the culinary or hospitality business, you might want to check that out! And back here at FPF, we’re back to food news, reviews and how-tos that relate directly to the home cook. We’ll continue to have an emphasis on gluten-free cooking (since that’s what I do, duh).

In the near future, I’m offering even more.

In the works: A whole new site design, video-based instruction, gear recommendations and more. I’m also writing up some publications you’ve told me you’d like, such as an elimination diet guidebook and a seasonal, local gluten-free recipe book.

This month is a great time to think new, bigger and better, because it’s conference season. I have THREE in the next few weeks! The first, this coming weekend, is Arkansas Women Bloggers University (#AWBU), a fabulous smallish event that has grown into a full-fledged blogger conference on par with just about any other of its size. For me, this one will be about the usual blog-improvement business, but even more so about learning to connect with other people, my local lady friends.

Next is my favorite industry event all year, the Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention and Tradeshow! This includes the Culinary Classic, the live Iron Chef competition, on-site seminars (I’m teaching one on gluten free foodservice!) and loads of great freebies and contacts.

And lastly, my big leap of faith, the International Food Blogger Conference by Foodista. I went to one #IFBC event a few years ago in New Orleans and it was mind-blowing, in a different way from the others I’ve mentioned. It can be summarized in whom I ended up sitting next to at the round tables during sessions. One day, it was the lead food photographer for the New York Times. Another day, it was the author of the book we used in my Professional Food Writing course in culinary school. And that doesn’t even get into the high-end companies looking for partners, the generous swag and the amazing bloggers themselves…several of whom were “internet famous.” Everyone was very welcoming and willing to chat, which I understand is not always the case at these big blog conferences.

I say that #IFBC is a leap of faith this year because it’s not just an easy drive to the Big Easy this time…it’s a flight to Seattle. I’ve never been there, and I don’t even know my roommate yet, other than a few messages online! But I know it will be great.

Starting tomorrow at #AWBU’s Foodie Friday event, I’m ready to be inspired. Want to hear more about it? Follow me on the Twitters (@ARFoodie) or just search for the #AWBU hashtag.

Arkansas Hospitality Association Iron Chef 2013 Results

19 Sep
Chef Marc Guizol of Capitol Hotel in Heat #5 on Thursday.

Chef Marc Guizol of Capitol Hotel in Heat #5 on Thursday. Guizol went on to win the final round of the competition.

The Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention and Trade show is an annual flurry of chefs, hospitality professionals and tourism folk.

It’s kind of my happy place.

Having worked in PR (lots of those folks here), museums and tourism (yep) and now the culinary arts (they’re swarming this place), it’s no surprise.

The highlight of the trade show is the Iron Chef competition, set up right this minute in the very middle of the Statehouse Convention Center floor. Every year, chefs vie for top billing in this highly competitive secret-basket event.

It’s a great learning experience for any cook, seeing how one might take a random basket of ingredients (say, what you might already have in your house on a given day) and make something otherworldly.

Below, I have listed the competitors, the baskets and the single eliminated chef from each round. I will update today as the winners are revealed.

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Wednesday, Sept. 18

Heat #1:

Chef Jackson Bolton of Clinton Presidential Center
Chef Matthew Cooper of Cache
Chef Michael Brown of Simply the Best
Chef Shane Curley of Packet House Grille

Basket: Whole snapper, fresh ginger, English cucumbers, Rock Town Gin

Chef Jackson Bolton was eliminated.

Heat #2:

Chef Jeff Stephens of Simply the Best
Chef Jon Lamb of Verizon Arena
Chef Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel
Chef Justus Moll of River Grille Steakhouse

Basket: Grouper, sea beans, Ritz crackers, Diamond Bear Beer, War Eagle grits

Chef Jeff Stephens was eliminated.

Heat #3:

Chef Michael Brown of Simply the Best
Chef Matthew Cooper of Cache Restaurant
Chef Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel

Basket: Chicken thighs, green lentils, tri-color baby carrots, apple.

Chef Michael Brown was eliminated.

Heat #4:

Chef Shane Curley of Packet House Grille
Chef Jon Lamb of Verizon Arena
Chef Justus Moll of River Grille

Basket: Ribeye steak, orange, fingerling potatoes, A-1 sauce.

Chef Jon Lamb was eliminated.

Thursday, Sept. 19

Heat #5:

Chef Matthew Cooper of Cache
Chef Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel

Basket: Shrimp, linguine, watermelon, watermelon cucumber, dragonfruit.

Chef Matthew Cooper was eliminated.

Heat #6:

Chef Justus Moll of River Grille
Chef Shane Curley of Packet House Grille

Basket: Pork tenderloin, apple, balsamic vinegar, dried fig, sweet potatoes, heirloom carrots

Chef Shane Curley was eliminated.
Final will be Chef Marc Guizol of Capitol Hotel vs. Chef Justus Moll of River Grille. 

Celebrity Heat:

Chef Jamie McAfee, PIne Bluff Country Club and Christina Munoz, KATV Ch. 7
Stephen Burrow, Clinton Presidential Center and Scott Inman, KATV Ch. 7

Basket: Catfish, heirloom tomato, butternut squash, honey, Rock Town bourbon

Winner: Chef Jamie McAfee, PIne Bluff Country Club and Christina Munoz, KATV Ch. 7

FINAL ROUND

Chef Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel
Chef Justus Moll of River Grille

Basket: Trout, arborio rice, cashew, tahini, avocado, red pimento pepper

FINAL WINNER: Marc Guizol of Capital Hotel

Judging the Arkansas Hospitality Association Culinary Classic (And Mildly Freaking Out)

18 Sep
Smoked, pan-seared beef tenderloin with fondant potatoes and baby vegetables by Jason Knapp, Aramark/UCA.

Smoked, pan-seared beef tenderloin with fondant potatoes and baby vegetables by Jason Knapp, Aramark/UCA.

Looking for the winners? Jump alllll the way down.

Yesterday, I had the amazing privilege of being on the panel of judges at the Arkansas Hospitality Association‘s annual Culinary Classic competition.

It kind of freaked me out.

I’ve had several opportunities to judge food competitions in recent years, and I’ve turned them down since going gluten-free. I didn’t want to risk bloating and bleh. But when the amazing Holly Heer of AHA offered, I was NOT going to say no. I’d figure it out.

The panel of 12 included excellent chefs such as Jason Godwin (now at Alltel) and Donnie Ferneau (formerly of Ferneau/Rocket 21, now consulting and preparing for his own new place), esteemed writers such as Kelley Bass (formerly of the Arkansas Gazette, Dem-Gaz and Arkansas Times), and industry giants such as Bob Coleman (retired from Coleman, now Hiland Dairy). What the heck was I doing here?

That's me in the silly hot pink chef coat, waiting with the other judges before the event.

That’s me in the silly hot pink chef coat, waiting with the other judges before the event.

We chose what category we would judge. I figured, rightly, that entrees would be the least glutenous. Good call. But would I know enough to properly judge the hard work these chefs had put in? I knew they were sweating behind those black curtains, wondering if we would taste and appreciate everything they had done. This was a big deal for them, I knew.

Judges at the appetizer course table.

Judges at the appetizer course table.

As the entrees started to come out, I slowly started to realize that I may know a thing or two after all. My fellow judges and I discussed some of the hits and misses of each dish. Because of my excellent education at Pulaski Tech (and probably a good bit from Good Eats and my own experience), I was able to describe the tiny “just off” things the other judges and I noticed in these otherwise spectacular dishes:  A dish that was smoked but maybe should have been braised. A piece of beef that would have benefited from a different cutting method. An overcooked fond that created a slightly bitter pan sauce.

IMG_0704

I should clarify that these were minor errors of technique, mere landing hops in the culinary olympiad that separated the winners from the others. I want all the participants in the Culinary Classic to know that this was a very hard job, one that we all took seriously. Each dish was stellar and a joyous representation of the culinary talent in our state.

But I came away more confident, knowing that I knew good technique when I saw it. Some kind words from Chef Ferneau also bolstered my confidence, as he encouraged me to enter the contest myself one day. We’ll see.

I was so full. And then I attended the public event and tasted all the other categories’ offerings. (In a few days, I’ll review three of my favorite plates that were not among those I judged.)

Yum.

JUDGING AND ENTREE PHOTOS
NOTE: I did not know who made each dish until after judging.

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Congrats to all the winners!

Appetizer:

1st — Chili encrusted hanger steak by Chef Matthew Cooper, Cache
2nd — Charred raw shrimp by Chef Arturo Solis, Capital Hotel
3rd — Pork slider by Chef Adam Hanry, Camp Mitchell

Soup/Salad:

1st — Cream of roasted poblano pepper by Chef Jason Knapp, Aramark/UCA
2nd — Corn bread salad by Chef Adam Hanry, Camp Mitchell
3rd — Baked beef and brie soup with caramelized apple crisps by Chef Brandon Douglas, Ark. Children’s Hospital

Entree:

1st — War Eagle farms cheese grits with braised beef short rib by Chef Gilbert Alaquinez, Governor’s Mansion
2nd — Lightly smoked porcini crusted halibut by Chef John Greenwald, Southland Park
3rd — Smoked pan seared tenderloin by Chef Jason Knapp, Aramark/UCA

Dessert:

1st — “Fall”en chocolate torte by Chef Jan Lewandowski, Pulaski Technical College
2nd — S’mores by Chef Adam Hanry, Camp Mitchell
3rd — Raspberry chocolate pistachio macaroon by Chef Heidi Eppling, Cache

Best of Beef Award:
Chili encrusted hanger steak by Chef Matthew Cooper, Cache

Best of Dairy Award:
Cream of roasted poblano pepper by Chef Jason Knapp, Aramark/UCA

Lulav’s Matt Cooper wins 2012 Iron Chef Arkansas at Ark. Hospitality Association Convention

22 Sep

Chef Matthew Cooper of Lulav displays a black truffle earlier in the week at the AHA Culinary Classic.

Congrats to Chef Matt Cooper of Lulav Modern Eatery, who won this week’s Iron Chef Arkansas competition at the Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention and Trade Show.

I have a particular fondness for this guy because he was one of my instructors at Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School. He wasn’t a regular instructor, brought in from the field, so to speak, to teach our American Regional Cuisine class in my last semester. He brought a refreshing perspective, still being full-time in a professional kitchen and having an interesting range of experience.

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Culinary Classic at Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention 2012

19 Sep

She-Crab Soup by Chef Andre Poirot and culinary staff at the Peabody Hotel.

Second Update: Award winners are now listed.

Updated: Full dish descriptions are now in the photo captions. Please let me know if I missed a chef’s name, as there were often several at one station.

It’s time once again for my favorite food event of the year, the Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention and Trade Show!

Last night, I attended the opening event, the Culinary Classic. It’s a competition event in which Arkansas chefs prepare their best dishes featuring products from sponsors, such as the Arkansas Beef Council and Coleman Dairy. Paying diners visit each chef’s station, as well as an open bar of adult beverages from Glazers, sampling mini plates of each item. There is also a silent auction, live music and lots of great company, seated come-and-go style at round tables as they try their plates in hand.

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Arkansas Hospitality Association and Iron Chef Competition

22 Sep

It’s here! My favorite convention of the year, the Arkansas Hospitality Association.

Today, several of my fellow students and I are eating, looking and learning; booths here range from large food purveyors such as Ben E. Keith and Sysco to hotel service providers and restaurants. Meanwhile, the annual Iron Chef competition booms in the background. I’ll bring you updates on each heat as they come in.

Iron Chef Competition

Heat 1: Kathy Webb of Lily’s Dim Sum, Then Some and Heather Brown of Alice 107.7 vs. Brandon Douglas of Big Rock Bistro, Pulaski Tech and Poolboy of Alice 107.7
Mystery Protein: Duck Breast
Winner: Brandon Douglas and Poolboy

Egg dishes from Heat 2.

Heat 2: Jason Knapp and Doug Spharler of Pulaski Tech vs. Lewis Curtis and J. Matt Lile of Lulav.
Mystery Protein: Egg
Winner: Jason Knapp and Doug Spharler of Pulaski Tech

Top sirloin dish by Simply the Best.

Heat 3: Jason Godwin and Joel Carr of Simply the Best vs. Tung Nguyen and Howard Austion of Southland Park Gaming & Racing.
Mystery Protein: Top Sirloin
Winner: Jason Godwin and Joel Carr of Simply the Best

Heat 4: Ted Roman and Jody Smallwood of the Arlington Hotel vs. Rob Nelson and James Rose of River Grille.
Mystery Protein: Tuna
Winner: Rob Nelson and James Rose of River Grille.

FINAL OVERALL WINNERS:
Rob Nelson and James Rose of River Grille

Iron Chef winners Rob Nelson and sous James Rose of River Grille.

Chef Rob Nelson busting a move.

Here are some photos from the convention, as well as Wednesday’s heats of Iron Chef. Please forgive any lack of detail until I have time to fill in.

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