Tag Archives: Daniel Capello

Diamond Chef 2014 Pits Capello, Guizol this Tuesday

1 Jun

Disclaimer: Although I’ve attended for free for years as a student or volunteer, this year marks the first time I’ll be sitting at a “big kid” table at Diamond Chef. Organizers offered me a ticket in exchange for my normal coverage, so I’m telling you and the FTC powers that be. Sorry for two “sponsored” things in a row, technically.


It’s time once again for that iconic culinary throwdown, the Diamond Chef competition final, this year pitting Executive Chef Daniel Capello of Chenal Country Club against Executive Sous Chef Marc Guizol of the Capital Hotel. The ticketed event will be held this Tuesday, June 3, 6 p.m. at the Statehouse Convention Center. Tickets are still available, $200 each or $2,000 for a table of 10.

Diamond Chef is a fundraising event for the Pulaski Technical College Foundation, specifically for the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute, or CAHMI (Read: “Cammie”) for short. If you know me at all, you know I’ve got quite the soft spot for CAHMI, being a graduate and now sitting on the advisory board. Every dollar raised at Diamond Chef helps students have the equipment and opportunities they need to be the well-trained workforce that Arkansas deserves.

I’ve had the privilege of covering the Diamond Chef event for several years now (excepting last year, when I was at Disney World — my bad), since my days as a culinary arts student at Pulaski Tech. Since then, the event has become even bigger, better and more fun!

Students and faculty line both sides of the doors while welcoming Diamond Chef guests.

Students and faculty line both sides of the doors while welcoming Diamond Chef guests.

The event starts with a cocktail hour in the lobby, giving attendees a chance to mingle and start bidding on the well-stocked silent auction. Later, attendees are ushered into the ballroom, flanked on both sides by CAHMI students and faculty in their white chef coats. The guests are then seated at round tables for 10 while dining on a multi-course meal. (And because I know you’re wondering, none of these meals are made by the frantically-competing chefs, just by the amazingly talented culinary staff at Statehouse.)

While you watch, the two finalists, each with two sous chefs, are presented with the one secret ingredient that must be used in every dish presented that night, and they have but 60 minutes in which to do it. At least three courses are required, but being the overachievers that they are, we often see more. A panel of expert judges will score the chefs on creativity, taste and presentation, while Chef Andre Poirot of Crowne Plaza Little Rock will serve as a technical judge, scoring the chefs on sanitation and organization. Note: I’ve seen chefs lose by a fraction of a point for sanitation. It matters!

The seated part of the event also includes a live auction, filled with fantasy prizes and trips for foodies. (I swear, one day I’ll bid on a trip to eat at the renowned French Laundry, if that auction item appears again.)

I hear you…”Wasn’t there a Diamond Chef just a few weeks ago?” Well, yes, gentle reader; I’m glad you remember. That was the preliminaries, an exciting, multi-round free event that chooses this year’s challenger to the previous year’s Diamond Chef champion. See, here’s a selfie I took with Chef Guizol just after his big win!

We were having a silly moment. He was pretty happy. He also said his out-of-town friends saw everything on Fancy Pants Foodie!

We were having a silly moment. He was pretty happy. He also said his out-of-town friends saw everything on Fancy Pants Foodie!

At this preliminary event and at other food events around town, I’ve been amazed at Chef Guizol’s skill. It’s a testament to the stacked deck of awesome over at the Capital Hotel that someone of his stature is second in command (to Executive Chef Joel Antunes) and is flanked by tournant (or roundsman, basically a chef who can do anything at any station) Arturo Solis, whose performance at last year’s AHA Culinary Classic was as astounding as any head chef in town.

Guizol came away as the winner of last year’s Arkansas Hospitality Association Iron Chef competition, so he’ll be a formidable competitor at this year’s Diamond Chef.

Meanwhile, Chef Daniel Capello is a Diamond Chef legend. He won the title last year as well as in 2010, and has long been active in culinary competitions and other events such as Wildwood’s Wine and Food Festival, CAHMI’s Chef Ball, and the March of Dimes Signature Chef event.

The main thing that stands out to me about Capello is his generosity to the local food community. If you are a culinary student or up-and-coming chef in Arkansas, chances are you’ve had the chance to visit with him and glean from his experience. His attendance at all the aforementioned events show that he’s not too busy or too good to share the culinary wealth.

I hope you’l join me this Tuesday at the Diamond Chef final event. It’s a great event for a great cause. Our students at CAHMI very much appreciate your support of their education!


Diamond Chef Final
benefiting Pulaski Technical College
Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute
Statehouse Convention Center
6-10 p.m. (Cocktails from 6-7)
$200 each / $2000 for a table of 10


ProStart Culinary/Hospitality Winners Announced; Diamond Chef Prelims Tomorrow

5 Mar
A student from North Pulaski High School's Simply Delicious restaurant competing last week. North Pulaski's team won the culinary competition.

A student from North Pulaski High School’s Simply Delicious restaurant competing last week. North Pulaski’s team won the culinary competition.

If the weather outside hasn’t caught on that it’s almost spring, the event calendar is getting the hint. This time of year brings back some of our favorite food-themed competitions and events.

Last week, the annual ProStart Student Invitational brought the state’s top high school culinary and hospitality programs to Pulaski Tech’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute for a couple days of intense competition. (What, you didn’t know ProStart was a thing? It’s like home ec on steroids, doing a lot of the stuff we did in culinary school.)

Thursday, six culinary teams were set up in the institute’s open atrium, each at a professional workstation. Each team presented a multi-course menu to a team of judges, and I got to watch some of the cooking action. These guys and gals had it going on.

In the end, North Pulaski High School’s Simply Delicious restaurant team won the culinary competition. On Friday, Northwest Arkansas Community College Early College Experience won the hospitality management competition. Both teams will advance to the national ProStart competition.

Tomorrow, the Diamond Chef preliminary competition takes place from 2 – 8 p.m., also at Pulaski Tech CAHMI. This free event is to identify this year’s competitor against last year’s champion, Chef Dan Capello of Chenal Country Club, in the ticketed final event on June 3 at the Statehouse Convention Center.

The schedule has just been announced:

Heat 1, 2pm: Chef Ducrot of PTC Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute vs. Chef Coby Smith of Arkansas Heart Hospital.

Heat 2, 3:00pm: Chef Marc Guizol of the Capital Hotel vs. Chef Elliot Jones of YaYa’s.

Heat 3 at 4p: Chef Jason Morell of Starving Artist vs. Chef Payne Harding of Cache.

The final two rounds after that will determine this year’s competitor.


Photos from last week’s ProStart competition:

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Knapp, Capello to Battle at Diamond Chef Arkansas on June 4

28 May

Diamond Chef 2013It’s time again for one of the best culinary events of the year, Diamond Chef Arkansas, which will take place on Tuesday, June 4 at the Statehouse Convention Center. The event benefits the Pulaski Technical College Foundation. Tickets are $200 and can be purchased online.

The preliminaries to this event were held in February at the then-Peabody Hotel, with Chef Dan Capello of the Chenal Country Club winning the elimination-style competition. The final event next week will pit Capello against last year’s winner, Chef Jason Knapp of Aramark at the University of Central Arkansas in a live-action dinner throwdown.

While guests dine on an unrelated three-course dinner with wine, the chefs will be presented with a mystery ingredient that must be used in a three-course meal of their choosing. The mayhem that results is quite the stage show, especially for those of us who know just enough to talk a little bit of smack about what we would do. (Last year, I totally called the sabayon sauces and a couple other things they made from the ostrich egg mystery ingredient. Not that I could do theirs justice.)

If you’re also a sucker for silent auctions like me, there will be plenty. Items range from glassware and kitchen gadgets to fine dining and wine pairing experiences. The fairly-infamous live auction also brings in the heavies, bidding on elaborate in-home dinners and even food-related travel. Someday, when I’m rich and famous, I’ll bid on the trip to The French Laundry that sometimes comes up.

Should you go? Um, yes. If $200 is too rich for your blood (and you’re not a culinary student who can schlep in for free), ask your employer to sponsor a table, or get all friendly-like with one who already has.

And now, my confession…I’ve live-blogged this event for years, and this time I will be on family vacation. It just turned out that way. I expect the good PR folks at Pulaski Tech will tweet and such, so give them a follow if you can’t get yourself to this outstanding event.

Culinary Inspiration at Wildwood Wine and Food Festival

16 Sep

Points for the most creative (and possibly the most delicious and complex) dish goes to Oceans for their tuna tataki. It was served on a watermelon base with fresh cucumber, sriracha, spicy mayo, and caviar. A bit hard to eat, but the combination of spicy, sweet, salty and savory was a bite to behold.

On Friday night, I got to experience the Wildwood Wine and Food Festival in a completely new way — as a diner.

In the past, if I was at this event, it was as a culinary student, serving up items we had made in class. This year, I got to casually walk from station to station, chatting with the chefs and visiting with friends I saw there. It was kinda fabulous, other than trying to figure out what in the world to wear since I couldn’t wear a chef coat!

Having this extra time to savor each dish (or at least study the gluten-having ones I couldn’t eat) also allowed me to learn more about each chef’s philosophy and ways to use different ingredients. I’m sharing some of these items with you in the slideshow below so we can be inspired together.

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