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Tulsa Chef Wins Statewide Culinary Cook-off

September 4, 2017 Click here for photos

Tulsa Chef Wins Statewide Cook-Off
Chef Sarah Leavell of SMG Tulsa took first place in 20th annual Culinary Cook-Off at the Oklahoma Restaurant Convention & Expo on August 31, 2017.

Leavell had 60 minutes to prepare an appetizer and an entree using sustainable mystery basket items, including octopus from Spain; local pork belly; Chatham Island, New Zealand blue cod; and red gurnard from New Zealand. Her final presentation earned her a $3,000 cash prize, a trophy, and gift certificates. She was assisted by Kathryn Lundy, a Culinary Arts student at Autry Technology Center in Enid, who earned a $250 cash prize, a medal, and gift certificates. 

Leavell competed against 11 other Oklahoma chefs in the annual cook-off, an Iron Chef-style competition in which the most talented chefs in the state race the clock to create dazzling dishes using a mystery basket of ingredients. The competitors participate in various heats until the contest is narrowed down to the last two chefs. 

Leavell’s competitor in the final round was Chef Theron Jessop of The Artesian in Sulphur. Jessop’s second place spot earned him $1,500, a trophy and gift certificates, and his student assistant Hayden Hilsabeck, a culinary arts student of the Culinary Institute of Platt College won a $150 cash prize, a medal, and gift certificates. Chef Tyler Whitson of Autry Technology Center placed third and took home a cash prize of $750, a trophy, and gift certificates; Whitson’s student assistant Brandon Burton of the Culinary Institute of Platt College earned $100, a medal, and gift certificates. Taking home fourth place was Chef Saul Paniagua of River Spirit Casino & Resort in Tulsa and his assistant Daniel Marquez, also of Platt, who took home $375 and $50, respectively.   

“This was our 20th year to showcase the talent among Oklahoma chefs,” said Zena Dater of Market Source Restaurant Supply and founder of the Culinary Cook-off. “They get better and better each year, and every competitor in this competition is a force to be reckoned with.”

In addition to Leavell, Jessop, Whitson, and Paniagua, participating chefs included Chad Epley, VAST, Oklahoma City; Rachel Foster, Moni’s Pasta & Pizza, Edmond; Jose Fuentes, OKC Golf & Country Club, Oklahoma City; Jonathan Groth, Meridian Technology Center, Stillwater; Jovanny Montreal, Covell Park/Guernsey Park, Edmond; Michael Paske, Boulevard Steakhouse, Edmond; and James Wyman, Oklahoma State Fair Inc., Oklahoma City.

Judges consisted of a panel of industry professionals, including world-renowned Chef John Bennett; Chef Kurt Fleischfresser of Western Concepts; Robert Black, Culinary Director/Partner for A Good Egg Dining Group; Mark Vannasdall, Executive Chef for Traditions Spirits and Chickasaw Nation; and David Cathey of The Oklahoman.

Sam Bracken, Consultant for Hotel Indigo Tulsa, Amanda Simcoe, host of “Tasting Oklahoma,” and Alan Zeman, Executive Chef for Rational USA, served as the event’s emcees. 

During the 2-day competition, chefs had the help of culinary students from Francis Tuttle Technology Center, Autry Technology Center, OSU IT, and The Culinary Institute at Platt College. In addition to how well they utilized their assistant during the competition, participants were judged on plate presentation, creativity, product taste, and sanitation practices. 

The Culinary Cook-Off was made possible by Market Source; Auto-Chlor System; Ben E. Keith Foods; Carlisle Foodservice Products; Freedman Meats; Freshpoint; Kelly Brokerage; Oklahoma Pork Council; Rational USA; Southern Glazer’s; Superior Linen Service; Super Cao Nguyen; Thirst Wine Merchants; and US Foods. 


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Chef Sarah Leavell of SMG Tulsa took first place in 20th annual Culinary Cook-Off at the Oklahoma Restaurant Convention & Expo on August 31, 2017.
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