Signature Dish Competition

It’s Day 2 of the Almost Famous Chef’s Competition here at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Napa Valley. After a grueling first day at the Mystery Basket Competition, chefs gear up to make the dish they know best – their signature winning dish that got them here in the first place.
Yours truly is ready to report! (check out the HUGE bag full of camera gear!)
CIA 2nd floor
The hall is ready. Chefs have been cooking since 1pm.  They have exactly four hours to prepare their signature dish for 200 people!
CIA kitchen
In the kitchen, the contestants are hard at work putting the finishing touches on their meals.
CIA kitchen
Judges look on with watchful eyes (above, Judge Sophie Gayot from
Another esteemed judge, Wade Wiestling of the Oceannaire Seafood Room in Minneapolis

All of a sudden, the clock strikes 5pm. Chefs rush to roll their huge warming ovens (on wheels) down to the 2nd floor where the reception is held.

Here are the entries!
Signature Dish

Amanda Digges

Apilada Sani

Brian Schreiber

Dan Luckey

Johnathan Lynch

Justine de Valicourt

Laura Torresin

Luis Young

Peter Clark

Robert Crawford

Timothy DeVore

Our Thoughts
I think it’s pretty cool that we got to try all these dishes.  Keep in mind, these dishes were the winning entries in their respective regions.  The dishes are complex, full of interesting flavors and components.  And exotic!  We had lamb, ostrich, duck, chicken, pork belly, cornish hen, venison, halibut .  .  . I think it’s funny no one did beef.

The dishes took some time to plate.  The chefs tried to plate them as fast as possible as hungry guests stood in line at the various stations.  It’s pretty amazing to watch.  I asked Tim DeVore, “what’s the largest group you’ve ever cooked for?”

His reply?  1400!  I guess 200 is nothing compared to that!

We had a great time sampling all the dishes.  It was really hard to just pick one dish.  I really wish we could have ranked the dishes somehow, or been given the opportunity to vote for more than one dish.

The guests voted. And then . . . the winners!

People’s Choice Award (best dish voted by the 200 participants)
Peter Clark from New England!!!
People's Choice

Fan Favorite Award (from online votes)
Johnathan Lynch from Louisiana! (South Central Region)

Mystery Basket Winner – Brian Schreiber from Chicago!
Brian Schreiber

Signature Dish Award
Luis Young from Miami! (South Regional) – I love his expression in this photo.  He looks so happy!

The final Crowned Winner of the Entire Competition???

 Luis Young!!! He can hardly hold both checks!
Congratulations all around.
Winners with the judges.
Congratulations Luis!
Congrats to Peter!
Thanks to S. Pellegrino for hosting this amazing event!
Congrats to all the chefs! In my mind, you are all winners.
Other posts from the Napa Valley Series
Welcome Reception
Mystery Basket
Bouchon Bakery
Del Dotto Caves / Winery
Antica Vineyards
Our Excursion: Robert Mondavi and Opus One Vineyards
The French Laundry

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  1. says

    I enjoyed reading about your trip so much! What an experience…and boy what a bunch of talented young chefs! I was amazed by the level of creativity and artistry! The judges must have had a tough time!

  2. says

    This looks like so much fun-even for the chefs who I’m sure were also tense! You all look very happy…
    Oh, and, of course, the food looks and sounds amazing…

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