Tag Archives: chefs

A Taste of the 2014 Culinary Classic

16 Sep
Sweetbreads and pork belly by Arturo Solis of the Capital Hotel took top honors at the AHA Culinary Classic. More details on awards to come.

Sweetbreads and pork belly by Arturo Solis of the Capital Hotel took top entree honors at the AHA Culinary Classic. 

Last night I had the priviledge of helping judge the Culinary Classic at the Arkansas Hospitality Association’s 70th annual Convention and Trade Show. (SEVENTY years!)

If you’ve read my blog for any time, you know that this conference is my favorite thing all year. The Culinary Classic kicks things off with a bang!

The AHA Culinary Classic is an annual event, always held the night before the trade show begins. Chefs from across the state gather in the Statehouse Convention Center to offer their best plates to judges (I was one for entrees) and to those who bought tickets to the tasting-style event. It’s always full of surprises, both from innovative new plates and from new chefs to the event and community. If you missed it, be sure to buy a ticket next year and join us.

Award winners:


1st Jason Godwin, Acxiom – Sopa Azteca

2nd Jason Knapp, Green Leaf Grill – Thai spiced sweet potato soup

3rd Adam Hanry, Camp Mitchell – Purple pea soup


1st Micheal Mayer, LR Marriott – Crab and smoke gouda stuffed tempura shrimp

2nd Jason Knapp, Green Leaf Grill – Three see seared salmon

3rd Matthew Cooper, Cache – Dungeness crab cakes


1st Arturo Solis, Capital Hotel – Sweet breads

2nd Stephen Burrow, Clinton Presidential Center – Korean BBQ veal ribs

3rd Jason Knapp, Green Leaf Grill – Pan seared filet of beef


1st Jason Godwin, Acxiom – Curry roasted fruit tart

2nd Adam Hanry, Camp Mitchell – Animal crackers

3rd Lauren Creel, LR Marriott – Deconstructed peanut butter and jelly

People’s Choice

Adam Hanry, Purple Pea Soup

Best of Beef

Stephen Burrow, Korean BBQ veal ribs

Hiland Pride Award

Matthew Cooper, Dungeness crab cakes

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Diamond Chef Prelims Set for March 6 at PTC

19 Feb
Chef Dan Capello, Executive Chef of Chenal Country Club, competing in last year's Diamond Chef preliminaries.

Chef Dan Capello, Executive Chef of Chenal Country Club, competing in last year’s Diamond Chef preliminaries. Capello won last year’s final and will compete against this year’s preliminary winner. Photo courtesy of Pulaski Tech.

UPDATE 3/5/14: Specific competitor heat times announced here.

What better setting for this year’s Diamond Chef preliminaries than a shiny new culinary school, right?

The annual Diamond Chef competition is a fundraiser for the Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute, taking place in two phases. The preliminary competition, taking place at the school on Thursday, March 6, culls the field of several talented local chefs (see graphic below) down to one competitor, using an elimination-style setup. Each heat features a mystery basket of ingredients that both chefs in that round must use.

Then later in the spring, at a ticketed event at the Statehouse Convention Center, the finalist goes mano-a-mano (or woman-o, if one had entered) on-stage against the previous year’s winner, Chef Dan Capello of Chenal Country Club, while the audience enjoys a multi-course meal. In the final, a single secret ingredient is revealed that must be used in each of at least three courses.

This year marks the preliminary event’s move to the institute’s new building, which opened to students last fall. The preliminary had been held at the former Peabody Hotel in years past.

If you’ve never been to the preliminary competition, it’s a great time to jump in. As opposed to the final, this event is free, and this year it will include some complimentary hors d’oerves and beverages from 5 – 8 p.m. (Thanks, sponsors!) You can drop in anytime between 2 and 8 p.m. to watch the action.

Diamond Chef Arkansas Preliminary Competition
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute
13000 Interstate 30, Little Rock
Drop in 2 – 8 p.m. (hors d’oerves and beverages 5 – 8 p.m.)

Prelim eblast FINAL

Local Chefs Get Down in the Streets for “Let’s Move” Campaign

12 May


Ever wonder what happens when you feed central Arkansas chefs at night?

Just kidding. But they can get pretty crazy.

This video is of a recent event by the Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Culinary Federation (read: chef professional association). Led by Chefs Suzanne Campbell and Cynthia Malik on behalf of the ACF’s Chef and Child Foundation, this group held a public event in the Argenta area of North Little Rock promoting real food, exercise and culinary arts. The Foundation aims to bring chefs into schools and communities to help fight obesity and malnutrition.

Watch and enjoy, and let me know in the comments if your school or organization would be interested in a chef-led educational event. No promises, but between myself and this group of folks, we may be able to work something up!

Wildwood Wine and Food Festival

19 Sep

The crowd begs for more (ha) at the Pulaski Tech table.

I worked among an army of white-clad culinary students at Friday’s Wildwood Wine and Food Festival, both to learn from the other chefs there and to bring our own offerings to the party.

Our team from Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School served crab cakes with fruit coulis, stuffed profiteroles (think cream puff), beef wontons with a spicy mango salsa, and the sleeper hit of the party: roasted, overstuffed baby red potato halves.

I really loved working the table, answering questions about the school and about our food, or cooking in general. It’s one of those moments my PR background comes in handy, I guess.

If you saw my tweet about the focaccia…well…it didn’t make it there. Apparently I overmixed a bit, and they were a little tough. I guess we’re at school to learn, right? I think they’re going to serve some of the better pieces at the school café. Consider yourself forewarned.

Some of the highlights from the event:

  • Lewis Curtis, executive chef at Lulav, cooked two dishes while a flurry of attention buzzed around him. This Wednesday marks the premiere of this season’s Hell’s Kitchen, where he is among the cooks up against Chef Gordon Ramsay’s simmering temper. My quick observation of Curtis: talented and delightfully punkish, the one you’ll “love to hate” on the show. Lulav is holding a premiere viewing party Wednesday; call for details at (501) 374-5100.
  • The longest line award goes to Boulevard Bread, whose Mediterranean-inspired table of olives, cheeses and their famous breads were more than most could resist. In fact, I never got any, as my breaks from our own table didn’t afford the long wait. But it was beautiful. (As I write this, I’m munching on my own purchase of Boulevard Bread’s artisan European loaf, nuked with some Monterey Jack on top. Hey, we can’t be fancy all the time.)
  • The best dish, in my humble opinion, was by Chef Daniel Capello of the Chenal Country Club: an amazing pecan wood roasted wild king salmon topped with (!) sea beans on a corn brioche, with garlic aioli and a tomato-corn relish. Capello said the salmon had just been flown in that morning, and however the heck he roasted the thing, it was tender and melty as butter. Remind me to camp out in his kitchen sometime and absorb his awesomeness.

And this is the event that has finally convinced me…If I’m going to do these kind of events for the blog, I’ve GOT to invest in a better camera. I’m thinking a Nikon D90. Any suggestions are welcome. But for now, the ghetto-photos will have to suffice:

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Foodie Event: Chef’s Culinary Classic, Part 2 and more

23 Sep

(Update 9/28, award winners listed below photos. Thanks to Holly Heer with AHA.)

Today, I spent a good part of the day at the Arkansas Hospitality Association’s annual tradeshow and convention. I love conventions, especially this one! Lots of great opportunities to rub elbows with fellow foodies. This was especially so at the Iron Chef competition, which had its first several heats today. I got to be a taster (but not a judge) in the second heat today. Each round had a new protein for the secret ingredient; the protein for the round I sat in for was duck. Yum!

Tomorrow, I get to be a taster again in the semi-final round. I’ll hang out for the final round and report more at that time. If you absolutely need at least one or two photos of Iron Chef right away, follow me on Twitter (@ARFoodie) and check out my Twitpics from today.

Meanwhile, I want to give you the final scoop on yesterday’s post, the Arkansas Chef’s Culinary Classic. The AHA folks haven’t gotten back with me on all the final winners (they’re busy with the convention and all), but I’ll update as soon as I have that info.

I did want to let you know about some of the highlights:

  • Watermelon and mint salad with balsamic vinegar by the Chef Osi Imomoh and Sous Chef Howard Austion at Southland Park Gaming & Racing. Must get recipe…there were two unusual types of melon involved.
  • Beautiful lamb chop with a fruit relish and Asian salad by Chef Jamie McAfee of the Pine Bluff Country Club.
  • London broil steak salad by Chef Tyler Husser and Chef Jerry Dolson of Hilton, Little Rock.
  • Saffron shrimp bisque by Chef Donnie Ferneau of the restaurant Ferneau.
  • An amazing Tahitian vanilla bean gelato with homemade maraschino cherries by Chef Adam Hanry of the Ozark Conference Center. This won best dessert, and rightfully so.
  • And my favorite…the roasted beef tenderloin with compound butter sauce by Chef Jason Knapp of the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. Wondering if Gov. Beebe is gaining weight? Chef Jason is the culprit. (See photo from yesterday’s post.)

I also had to mention separately a remarkable find, but one you won’t be able to visit. That is, unless you work at the Dillard’s corporate offices on Cantrell. Bistro 1600, exclusively owned and operated by the food and beverage services of said corporate office, offered an impressive lineup. Hubby and I could not believe the food was not from a hoity-toity downtown restaurant. Chef Norman Geisselbrecht, Chef Michael J. Mass and Chef Marjis Meti presented dishes nothing less than divine. (My notes, other than WOW, got mixed up. In order to get the exact dishes right, I’ll have to update when I get the list.) The chefs were excited about food and about pleasing the diner, whether that be a top executive or hourly grunt.

Well, I just spent about half an hour writing captions for all these photos, and the computer ate them somehow. Until I put in a new plugin (I’m thinking something Flash based), you’ll just have to guess what each is. But they sure are purty!

What a busy foodie week…more tomorrow on Iron Chef, the AHA convention, and…oh yeah…tomorrow’s Taste of the Town in North Little Rock. Eat up!


Award Winners:


1st Donnie Ferneau, Ferneau – Ahi Tuna nachos

2nd Adam Hanry, Ozark Conference Center – Pork rinds w/lime salt

3rd Will Hutchison, Pulaski Tech Culinary School – Slow Roast of Strip loin


1st Andre Poirot, Peabody Hotel – Wild Mushroom soup

2nd Ted Roman, Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa – Acorn Squash Bisque

3rd Osi Imomoh, Southland Park Gaming & Racing – Watermelon Splash Salad


1st Jason Knapp, AR Governor’s Mansion – Seared filet of beef

2nd Joe Coleman, Peabody Hotel – Blue cheese stuffed beef roulade

3rd Donnie Ferneau, Ferneau – Beef wellington w/brie


1st Adam Hanry, Ozark Conference Center – Standing ice cream cone

2nd Brian Cochrane, Pulaski Tech Culinary School – Almond Florentine

3rd Christian Alexander, Peabody Hotel – Cake & mousse dessert

Coleman Pride Award

Andre Poirot, Peabody Hotel – Wild Mushroom Soup

Best of Beef

Jason Knapp, AR Governor’s Mansion – Seared filet of beef

People’s Choice Award

Jamie McAfee, Pine Bluff Country Club – Asian Lamb Chop

Foodie Event: Ark. Chef’s Culinary Classic, Part 1

22 Sep

I don’t have time to write the entire post this event deserved, but I had to give you a little taste of what hubs and I experienced tonight.

Tomorrow begins the Arkansas Hospitality Association’s annual convention and tradeshow. I love conventions — one of the things I actually miss from my PR days — and all the events that go with them. As a preview event, tonight AHA had many of the top chefs across the state prepare small dishes and compete for cash prizes.

Hubs and I ate all kinds of wonderful things, to the point that we were surprisingly stuffed from all those teeny plates. But the most fun, for me, was to visit with all the chefs and “talk foodie.” I just about had a spell listening to Chef Donnie Ferneau (of the restaurant Ferneau) explain to my hubs why his Saffron Shrimp Bisque reminded my man of his days in Charleston, SC. Something about classical French technique, velouté sauce, and I got a little woozy after that.

I’ll have an update of who all made what and won what, along with more photos of the participants, tomorrow or so. But for now, I just wanted to share a little taste.

London Broil Steak Salad from Hilton of Little Rock, and Wild Mushroom Soup and Tuna Tartare from The Peabody Hotel.

London Broil Steak Salad from Hilton of Little Rock, and Wild Mushroom Soup and Tuna Tartare from The Peabody Hotel.

My pick for winner of the night...simple, yet stunning. Roasted beef tenderloin w/compound butter sauce from Chef Jason Knapp of the Governor's Mansion.

My pick for winner of the night...simple, yet stunning. Roasted beef tenderloin w/compound butter sauce from Chef Jason Knapp of the Governor's Mansion.

Me eating tuna tartare for the first time. I was surprised I actually liked it.

Me eating tuna tartare for the first time. I was surprised I actually liked it.