Wandering Pig Food Truck Chef and Owner Wins Statewide Cook-Off Championship
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.,— Chef Theron Jessop of the Wandering Pig food truck took first place in the 24th annual Culinary Cook-Off at the ORA Expo on August 19, 2021.
Jessop had 60 minutes to prepare a dish using four proteins from a mystery spread of ingredients provided by Super Cao Nguyen. The four proteins required to be used in the final round dishes were silky chicken, pork torso, fresh octopus and fresh squid. His final presentation earned him a $2,000 cash prize, the Grand Champion trophy and gift certificates. He was assisted by Gabriel McKinley, a Culinary Arts student at OSUIT in Okmulgee.
Jessop competed against 5 other Oklahoma chefs in the annual cook-off, a Chopped-style competition in which some of 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.
Jessop’s competitor in the final round was Chef Josh Valentine of Milo at The Ellison Hotel. Valentine’s second place finish earned him $1,000, a trophy and gift certificates. Valentine was assisted by OSUIT culinary student Anthony Cepeda.
“It has been inspiring to see the number of talented chefs who have come back to compete this year,” said Roberta Helsley, ORA Manager, Education. “We know the challenges they have faced operating during the pandemic and they continue to show resilience.”
In addition to Jessop and Valentine, participating chefs included Lucas Yeager, Bradford House; Zach Hutton, Scratch Kitchen and Cocktails Paseo; Roxanne Fincke, Catering by PARTYSERVE; and Zack Walters, The Jones Assembly.
Judges consisted of a panel of industry professionals, including Chef Kurt Fleischfresser of Vast/Western Concepts; Robert Black, SpringBoard; and Dave Cathey of The Oklahoman.
Amanda Simcoe, host of “Tasting Oklahoma,” served as the event’s emcee.
“What is unique about the ORA Cook-off is these chefs are paired with a culinary student,” Helsley said. “The chefs serve as a mentor to their student as the student assists the chef throughout the competition. After seeing the chefs and students in action, it’s evident the culinary students of Oklahoma can hold their own.”
Zena Dater, Market Source Vice President and Senior Account Manager, started the Culinary Cook-Off competition in her Market Source booth 24 years ago.
Dater said one of the most integral parts to the evolution of the Cook-Off has been the addition of the student chefs. The Oklahoma culinary students gain invaluable experience by competing with a professional chef and soaking up knowledge through the mentorship, Dater said.
During the 2-day competition, chefs had help from culinary students Anthony Cepeda and Gabriel McKinley with OSUIT and Trevor Chase with Francis Tuttle Technology Center. Students who participated in the competition were awarded gift cards provided by ARS and Market Source. In addition to plate presentation, creativity, product taste, product texture and sanitation practices, participants were also judged on how well they utilized their assistant during the competition.
The Culinary Cook-Off was presented in partnership with Lead Partner Market Source Restaurant Supply; Premier Platinum Partners: Oklahoma City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and US Foods; Gold Partners: Ben E. Keith Co; Bryan Close; CFS Brands; EPI Kitchens; Go Fresh Produce; SpringBoard; Superior Linen Service and Super Cao Nguyen; Zenith Insurance Co.; Friends of the Cookoff: ARS Service; and Revolution Wholesale.
Founded in 1933, the Oklahoma Restaurant Association is the trade association of restaurants and foodservice operations, the state's largest private industry employer. Representing more than 4,000 restaurants and members, the ORA actively monitors legislation and regulatory agencies; helps foodservice management develop and strengthen business; and develops the membership to do together for the industry what cannot be done individually.
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