Tag Archives: Competition

Competitors Announced for 2015 Diamond Chef Arkansas

28 Jan

Diamond ChefArkansas’ biggest culinary competition is gearing up for its 2015 season: Diamond Chef Arkansas.

This annual event is a fundraiser for the Pulaski Technical College Foundation and is tied closely with the college’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute, which will host the preliminary competition on Tuesday, March 31, 2 – 8 p.m.

The preliminary event whittles down a large field of contenders in double-elimination style, with a full docket of the state’s best culinary talent (see below). That day’s winner will compete one-on-one against 2014 Diamond Chef winner Marc Guizol of the Capital Hotel in the finale, held Tuesday, June 2 at the Statehouse Convention Center.

Competitors in this year’s preliminaries include:

  • Billy Ginocchio, Faculty, PTC Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute
  • Payne Harding, Executive Chef, Cache
  • Elliot Jones, Executive Chef, YaYa’s Euro Bistro
  • Angela Nardi, Executive Chef, Superior Bath House Brewery & Distillery
  • Justin Patterson, Executive Chef, Southern Gourmasian
  • Jason Knapp, Executive Chef, The Green Leaf Grill

The preliminary event is casual, open to anyone, and free to attend, which I highly recommend if you have even the slightest love for fine food and friendly (albeit heated) competition. Just drop in anytime from 2 to 8 p.m. at the culinary school on March 31.

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Diamond Chef Arkansas Preliminary Competition
Pulaski Technical College – Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute
13000 Interstate 30, Little Rock
Tuesday, March 31, 2 – 8 p.m.
FREE admission, drop in anytime
(501) 812-2860

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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.)
FREE

Prelim eblast FINAL

Argenta Strawberry Foodie Fest

22 May

My family and I just returned from the Argenta Strawberry Foodie Fest, and we were, shall we say, blown away. Almost literally.

Patrons become participants as they halt progress of a blowing-away tent.

In the very left-hand side of that photo, you’ll see my husband’s feet as he scurries from the dining tables to grab poles. He was right next to the one pole that actually broke, and somehow managed to grab the tent before it fell on my two-year-old son in the stroller next to him. Good times.

Well, maybe I’m making that more dramatic than it was, but it was an interesting interruption to an otherwise awesome foodie event. The Argenta Strawberry Foodie Fest is the spring version of what we enjoyed in October as the Fall Foodie Fest. Some of the best restaurants in central Arkansas were in attendance, serving their succulent variations on the famed springtime berry theme.

My portion of Ristorante Capeo's strawberry cannelloni. No, you can't have any.

I missed the excitement at the tent because I had gone to purchase my chosen entrée, a savory strawberry pasta dish by Ristorante Capeo. The cannelloni pasta was flavored with strawberry purée and filled with a cream cheese and chicken filling, with just a touch of sweetness. It was topped with a savory berry sauce and fresh berries. Different, but amazing.

Another outstanding dish came from Donnie Ferneau (of his namesake restaurant, Ferneau): a strawberry jalapeño BBQ pork taco with creamy black bean slaw. The hubs had this, and I had a generous bite or two to ensure quality control. Just enough kick to be interesting, but not too spicy; berries (I’m assuming in purée form in the sauce) rounded the flavor without too much sweetness. Also amazing and worth an attempted replication sometime. (Donnie, care to share the recipe?)

Other highlights included a lovely bubbly strawberry tea (although I could have done without the tapioca) by Simply the Best Catering, strawberries with mascarpone cheese and balsamic vinegar over ladyfingers by Starving Artist Café, strawberry fried pies by Lindsey’s BBQ, and a strawberry spinach salad by the Capital Hotel. The mascarpone dish won the event’s “Best Dessert” award, and the spinach salad won “Best Entrée.”

Food purchases were fairly reasonable, each item ranging from 3 to 7 tickets, purchased at the event for $1 each. Some plate dinners were more, but still well within range of a more elaborate lunch out.

Even with the undue excitement, I left satisfied with great food and a nice outing with the family, endcapped by a quick stroll through the adjacent Certified Arkansas Farmers Market. If the Argenta community continues with the Foodie Fest concept — and I hope they do — this event will continue to grow and become a destination for food lovers each season.

Let’s just hope that next time, they get some sturdier, weighted tents!

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Foodie Event: Iron Chef at Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention and Tradeshow

25 Sep

(Update 9/29…See all participants and results below photos. Thanks to Holly Heer with AHA.)

Greetings, Foodies!

If you didn’t know, the Arkansas Iron Chef competition takes place annually on the Arkansas Hospitality Association convention and tradeshow floor, over the two days of the conference. Thanks to winning a couple silent auctions Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to sit in on yesterday’s Heat 2, and today’s final round.

As reported earlier, I tasted the results of yesterday’s Heat 2 between the boys from Forty Two and Simply the Best, with Forty Two winning. Here are the dishes from that round, using duck as the surprise ingredient:

Iron Chef Heat 2 dish by Chef Jacob Peck and Sous Chef Greg Wallis of Forty Two.Roasted duck with a mango gastrique, asparagus and couscous.

Iron Chef Heat 2 dish by Chef Jacob Peck and Sous Chef Greg Wallis of Forty Two. Roasted duck with a mango gastrique, asparagus and couscous.

Simply the Best

Iron Chef Heat 2 entry by Chef Jason Godwin and Sous Chef Willie Yearwood of Simply the Best. Seared duck breast with tomato onion jam, asparagus and mozzarella tortellini, and mushroom cream sauce.

I’m not going to pick favorites here, as they were both incredible. But let me just tell you…that “onion tomato jam,” as bizarre as it sounds to most of us, was slap-your-momma good. I was literally whacking the table. Mmmm. But both were wonderful, and Forty Two won the heat with tons of points, carrying them immediately to the final round.

**Intermission** I have to tell a funny story. I thought all this time that my second silent auction prize was for the Semi-Final round. It said so on the ticket. I sit down today at the appropriate time, and the folks in charge politely shoo me out, as someone else had won that tasting. Turns out that my ticket was misprinted, and I had, in fact, won the FINAL round tasting. Booyah!

The final round was between Chef Jacob Peck and Sous Chef Greg Wallis of Forty Two, and Chef Osi Imomoh and Sous Chef Howard Austion of Southland Park Gaming & Racing. The surprise protein was — wait for it — rabbit. I think I was the only one to chuckle, picturing the poor old rabbit form they used to use at the greyhound races. (They tell me it’s now a bone shape that draws the doggies around the track.)

Me 'n' Mona about to eat some good stuff.

Me 'n' Mona about to eat some good stuff.

Since I had so much food to myself yesterday for Heat 2, I invited a friend, Ramona Collins (@monaspoeticwax) to eat with me. Our lives have crossed paths in several weird ways over our lives, and we’re just now getting to know each other. What a great way to do so, over great food!

Here are the two dishes we tasted for the final round:

Iron Chef Final Round dish by Chef Osi Imomoh and Sous Chef Howard Austion of Southland Park Gaming & Racing. Smothered rabbit with cornmeal johnnycake, greens and roasted squash.

Iron Chef Final Round dish by Chef Osi Imomoh and Sous Chef Howard Austion of Southland Park Gaming & Racing. Smothered rabbit with cornmeal johnnycake, greens and roasted squash.

Iron Chef Final Round dish by Chef Jacob Peck and Sous Chef Greg Wallis of Forty Two. Roasted rabbit with a raspberry coulis, sweet applesauce, carrots and greens w/bacon. This was the winning dish.

Iron Chef Final Round dish by Chef Jacob Peck and Sous Chef Greg Wallis of Forty Two. Roasted rabbit with a raspberry coulis, sweet applesauce, carrots and greens w/bacon. This was the winning dish.

IRON CHEF COMPETITION PHOTOS:

Wednesday, September 23

Heat 1, Celebrity Round – Chef Jamie McAfee, Pine Pluff Country Club & Steve Marston, Point 94.1 vs. Chef Andre Poirot, Peabody Hotel & Jennifer Trafford, Point 94.1

Winner: Poirot & Trafford

Heat 2 – Chef Jacob Peck & Sous Chef Greg Wallis, 42 vs. Chef Jason Godwin & Sous Chef Willie Yearwood, Simply the Best Catering

Winner: 42

Heat 3 – Chef Ted Roman & Sous Chef Jody Smallwood, Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa vs. Chef Osi Imomoh & Sous Chef Howard Austion, Southland Park Gaming & Racing

Winner: Southland Park Gaming & Racing

Heat 4 – Chef Phillip Southan, River Grille & Sous Chef Krista Rogalla, Pulaski Tech Culinary School vs. Chef Nathan Miller & Sous Chef Karle Johnson, The House

Winner: The House

Thursday, September 24

Semi-Finals

Chef Osi Imomoh & Sous Chef Howard Austion, Southland Park Gaming & Racing vs. Chef Nathan Miller & Sous Chef Karle Johnson, The House

Winner: Southland Park Gaming & Racing

Finals

Chef Osi Imomoh & Sous Chef Howard Austion, Southland Park Gaming & Racing vs. Chef Jacob Peck & Sous Chef Greg Wallis, 42

Iron Chef Champion: 42

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!

ARKANSAS CHEF’S CULINARY CLASSIC PHOTOS

Award Winners:

Appetizer

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

Soup/Salad

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

Entrée

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

Dessert

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.