California Giant Berry Farms Names 4th Annual Chef Invitational Finalists; Tom Smith Comments
WATSONVILLE, CA - The 4th Annual Chef Invitational put on by California Giant Berry Farms is nearly here, and I can hardly wait to see the excitement unfold. In anticipation of the event, the berry supplier announced its chef finalists and People’s Choice winner yesterday morning.
“It was incredibly challenging choosing our finalists this year,” said Tom Smith, Director of Sales. “We had an array of impressive, innovative recipe submissions and loved seeing chef participants thinking outside of the box when using fresh berries. I fully expect this to be our best Chef Invitational yet!”
The finalists and their recipes are:
- Adrian Day-Murchison, Calavo – Spiced Blueberry Lamb Waffle Burger with Strawberry Feta Tzatziki
- Derek Seigfried, Gordon Food Service – Blackberry Lamb Kofta
- Dontre'al Haigler, Denny’s – California Giant Berry Meets the Sea
- Jereme Nemeth, Sysco – Berry Brisket Sando
The People’s choice winner is Robert Stegall-Smith of Performance Foodservice, who crafted the Giant Berry Pizza with Triple Berry Chipotle Sauce & Strawberry “Pepperoni.” He will automatically progress to the final in-person round of the competition and take home a $500 cash prize, accompanied by a matching grant to his selected non-profit organization, Palmetto Place Children and Youth Services, a press release noted.
In addition to Stegall-Smith, the four chef finalists will attend an in-person, three-day finale event on California’s Central Coast from August 29–31. Field tours of California Giant berry fields, meet-and-greets with growers, and a grand finale—at which the Top Chef will be named—will be part of the event, all emceed by Michael Muzyk, President of Baldor Foods.
The finalists will be re-creating their custom recipes for the competition. Ultimately, a panel of judges will select the Top Chef based upon the four specific criteria of appearance, usage of berries, flavor, and creativity. The panel of judges includes the previous Chef Invitational Top Chefs: Sam Blackburn from Sodexo, Luis Reyes from Sysco, and chef and restaurant owner Travis Peters. They are accompanied by California Giant Influencer, Chef, and Cookbook Author Marie Reginato and Tony Baker, Owner and Chef at Baker’s Bacon.
Recipe samples will be served in addition to bites and beverages provided by local sponsors.
I wish the best of luck to all these talented chefs!