Gordon Food Service's Steven Halliday Talks Craft, Strategy, and More Prior to California Giant Berry Farms' Chef Invitational
WATSONVILLE, CA - When I spoke with the finalists for this year’s Chef Invitational, I got a real sense of how deeply they care about food. Now I know that might seem obvious, but the love and craft each of them poured into the dishes that won them a spot at California Giant Berry Farms’ competition is truly inspiring. For one finalist, Steven Halliday, his attention to craft is one of the many ways in which he continues to put produce first on the menu.
“Understanding the flavors of your ingredients matters,” the Culinary Specialist for Gordon Food Service told me. “You have got to understand your product and its flavors, and what you could add that would complement those ingredients. When people ask me what my favorite dish to cook is, I tell them it’s the dish I’ve yet to make. That keeps me learning, keeps me sharp.”
The dish that won Steven a spot in the fifth Chef Invitational is a prime example of his understanding of flavors: his Red Thai Berry Chicken Curry with Blueberry Lemon Rice.
“I felt that I could incorporate and bend the flavors of Thai food more than I could with other categories. Thai food has notes of sweet, salty, spicy, and herbal, and that was a great platform to put together a dish that would marry well with berries,” he explained to me.
Ensuring that his dish hits on multiple flavors is part of Steven’s strategy heading into the Chef Invitational, as he wants to make the berries the star of the dish.
Steven is no stranger to competing and knows the basic—but effective—ways of getting yourself closer to a win. Although it might sound simple, keeping a clean and organized station and making sure your food items are the right temperature—hot food served hot, cold food served cold—has been many the tie-breaker in food competitions. From a woman who loves Chopped, I can attest to this!
Steven has a more practical experience, having competed in American Culinary Federation competitions when he was younger and being the ambassador of the Greenbrier Apprenticeship program, where he trained chefs around the resort—some of which would go on to compete for the United States on the Culinary Olympic team.
“I worked with Michael Voltaggio while he was working at the Greenbrier. During my career, I’ve worked with both him and his brother Bryan,” Steven added.
Throughout his career, Steven’s been able to pivot when necessary, running his own virtual kitchen during COVID before landing his position at Gordon Food Service.
As Steven continues to innovate in the culinary world, seeing him cook at the Chef Invitational will be a real experience for those who love seeing chefs practice their craft.
Best of luck to Steven as we get closer to the event itself!