Sam Blackburn Discusses California Giant Berry Farms' Chef Invitational
WATSONVILLE, CA - Driving berry consumption is only one of the many goals California Giant Berry Farms’ Chef Invitational has in mind. Outside of fostering a community of industry peers, the grower has taken this event to new heights each and every year. As the fifth annual Chef Invitational draws closer, I took a beat with past winners to talk about how the event impacted their careers.
“Being part of winning a competition is awesome and it surprises you,” Sam Blackburn, Senior Culinary Manager of Sodexo North America’s Healthcare Segment, shared with me. “California Giant really established this family with the chefs, and the entire experience definitely gave me a lot of confidence.”
Sam took home the title of Top Chef in 2020 due to his winning dish, Pan Seared Pacific Halibut with Spicy Pickled Strawberries. He would then go on to win another competition, the Sodexo Love of Food Innovation Challenge, in 2021.
Outside of the community of chefs and the confidence of taking the title of Top Chef, I asked Sam how this experience helped him elevate berries as a menu item.
“It pushed me to incorporate them in way more creative and savory applications. I've done a ton of different recipes with pickled berries, as well as utilizing them in sauces and marinades for fish and meat,” Sam explained. “I’m a corporate chef in healthcare, so the health properties of berries appeal to me, and the event pushed my willingness to get more people to expand their palates and consume more berries. And on a personal level, my family and I certainly consume more berries than before.”
It’s only a matter of time before this year’s Chef Invitational is upon us, so stick with AndNowUKnow as we cover the latest news, and be sure to vote for the People’s Choice Chef by clicking here.