2017 Chefs Taste Challenge Winners Announced

Kaimana Chee of Silver Spring, MD Takes Top Prize

NEW ORLEANS – Chef Kaimana Chee of Hampton Creek & Uncle’s Hawaiian Grindz, Silver Spring, MD, was named Champion at the 3rd annual Farm & Table Chefs Taste Challenge (CTC), which took place September 8, 2017 at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. His winning creation was  “Kalua Pig Sundae”  which featured  Whole Pig with Breadfruit.

Chef Alex Harrell of Angeline, New Orleans, LA, took home runner-up honors for his dish, Chicken Thigh Chorizo with Pink-Eyed Pea Agnolotti and Pink-Eyed Pea Chow Chow.


Chef Alex Belew of Alex Belew Catering, Murfreesboro, TN,  won the “Fan Favorite,” as decided on by the attendees, for hisr dish, Rice Grit Congee & Tomkha Broth with Quinoa Sesame Black Drum.
The nine competing chefs hail from various states across the South, and were challenged to create the best dish that utilizes farm-fresh items from a pantry of both seasonal local ingredients and products donated by State Agricultural Departments. Each attendee received a tasting portion of the following dishes and cast their votes for the “Fan Favorite”:


  • Alex Belew
    Alex Belew Catering, Murfreesboro, TN
    Rice Grit Congee & Tomkha Broth, Quinoa Sesame Black Drum
    Donated Products: Black Drum – Louisiana Seafood Board; Galangal – Hawaii Department of Agriculture
  • Robert Butts
    Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours, Atlanta, GA
    “Octopus Meets Jelly” (Octupus with Mayhaw Jelly)
    Donated Products: Octopus – Louisiana Seafood Board
  • Kaimana Chee
    Hampton Creek & Uncle’s Hawaiian Grindz, Silver Spring, MD
    “Kalua Pig Sundae” (Whole Pig with Breadfruit)
    Donated Products: Breadfruit – Hawaii Department of Agriculture
  • Jacob Cureton
    Atchafalaya, New Orleans, LA
    The Eel Ate Okra” (Smoked Eel with Okra)
    Donated Products: Smoked Eel – Louisiana Seafood Board
  • Eric Fulkerson
    Bald Headed Bistro, Cleveland, TN
    Turtle Chile Verde with Savory Beignet & Crispy Hatch Chiles
    Donated Products: Turtle – Harlon’s Seafood; Hatch Chile Peppers – New Mexico Department of Agriculture
  • Evelyn Garcia
    Pop Ups by Chef Evelyn, Houston, TX
    Thai Style Shrimp Curry
    Donated Products: Shrimp – Louisiana Seafood Board; Pecans – New Mexico Department of Agriculture
  • Alex Harrell
    Angeline, New Orleans, LA
    Chicken Thigh Chorizo with Pink-Eyed Pea Agnolotti, Pink-Eyed Pea Chow Chow
  • Blake Jackson
    Drake Catering, Shreveport, LA
    Oyster Rockefeller Risotto with Smoked & Broiled Oyster
    Donated Products: Oysters – Louisiana Seafood Board; Asiago Cheese – AMPI
  • Ülfet Özyabasligil Ralph
    Little St. Simons Island, St. Simons Island, GA
    “Little Island Big Wild” (Eggplant with Ground Beef)
    Donated Products: Grass-Fed Ground Beef – Gonsoulin Farms
  • Centerplate (Substituting for James Versefelt of Miami, who could not compete due to the impending hurricane in Florida)
    Short Rib with Stone Ground Blue Corn
    Donated Products: Stone Ground Blue Corn –  New Mexico Department of Agriculture

The dishes were judged by a panel of industry-renowned judges including Izabela Wojcik, Director of House Programming, The James Beard Foundation; Billy Nungesser, Lt. Governor of Louisiana; Chef Hari Pulapaka, Chef/Owner of Cress Restaurant, DeLand, FL, and 2015 Chefs Taste Challenge Winner; Brandon Felder, Executive Chef, Centerplate;  and Chef Plum, owner of Plum Luv Foods and a chef competitor in the 2016 Chefs Taste Challenge.

Chefs Taste Challenge Sponsors generously donated additional products for the event: Organic Wine – Bonterra; Beer – Lazy Magnolia; Chef Plates and Favors – Earthborn Studios; Cutting Boards – John Boos Co.; Chef Jackets – RiteChoice.

The Chefs Taste Challenge is produced by the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, in partnership with the National Farm to Table Alliance. The CTC is held in conjunction with Farm and Table NOLA, September 8-9, 2017 at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Farm and Table NOLA explores the cultivation, distribution and consumption of food and drink sourced locally to globally. For more information on Farm & Table NOLA, please visit farmandtablenola.com.

2017 Chefs Taste Challenge Winners Alex Harrell (2nd place); Kaimana Chee (1st place); Alex Belew (Fan Favorite)