2013 Vitamix Challenge

The 2013 Vitamix Challenge took place on October 1st at the 8th Annual StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress. Six Finalists traveled to New York City to compete at this one-of-a-kind blend-off, creating dishes that showcased the Vitamix blender in unusual and innovative ways. This year's judges included Chef Elizabeth Falkner of Corvo Bianco, Chef Daniel Holzman of The Meatball Shop, Christy Bezuijen, Commercial Marketing Manager of Vita-Mix Corporation, Rocco Dispirito, cookbook author and TV personality, and Richard Martin of Foodrepublic.com.

Meet the Winner

 

Evan Hennessey – Dover, NH
Stages at One Washington

Winning Dish: Rockweed & Fish Skin Crusted Scallop Mousse, Heirloom Tomatoes, Encapsulated Castelveltrano Olives, Boston Marrow Squash Custard, Tarragon, Agretti, and Aqua Pazza

Meet the Runner-Up

 

Joel Gonzalez – Las Vegas, NV
JW Marriott Las Vegas

Dish: Whipped Goat Cheese Cake, Serrano Ham Crumble, Melon Gazpacho Sorbet, Pedro Ximenez Gel, Marcona Almond Toast

Meet the Competitors

 

Jon Cichon – Philadelphia, PA
Lacroix at the Rittenhouse

Cooking wasn’t Jonathan Cichon’s first choice as a profession, but the prospects of finishing business school and sitting behind a desk forced him to abruptly and decisively abandon numbers for a life behind the line. At his first job in Freight House in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, he worked every station and inspired by his newfound skills, enrolled in the Restaurant School of Philadelphia.

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RJ Cooper – Washington, D.C.
Rogue 24
Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, R.J. Cooper fancied himself a rock star chef, playing in the kitchen with his mother and Sicilian grandmother. Since graduating The Culinary School at Kendall College, Illinois, Cooper has worked with Daniel Schaffhauser at The Ritz Carlton, Atlanta; Guenter Seeger at The Buckhead Ritz Carlton; Gilbert Le Coze at Brasserie Le Coze; and with Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin.

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Joel Gonzalez – Las Vegas, NV
JW Marriott Las Vegas

Joel Gonzalez began his post-culinary school adventures with his sights set on the savory kitchen. However, the first job he landed was in the sweet kitchen where he had an epiphany. Since then, he’s passionately pursued pastry, blazing a trail through top restaurants and hotel and resort kitchens.


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Evan Hennessey – Dover, NH
Stages at One Washington

Chef Evan Hennessey has cooked his way across the country at restaurants such as Aureole, Trio, Café Boulud, Clio and Per Se. An alumnus of New Hampshire’s Le Cordon Bleu at the Atlantic Culinary Academy, Hennessey has been the executive chef of 43 Degrees North and the Dunway Restaurant in Portsmouth.


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Mauro Rossi – Hollywood, CA
The Art Institute of California

A Milan native, Mauro Rossi has traversed the globe and explored the world of food in more ways than one. Not only is he a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, but he also holds a Masters degree in Anthropology with a concentration in food and culture.



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Josh Watkins – Austin, TX
Carillon

Josh Watkins left Central Texas for the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. He opened several restaurants with Chef Reed Hearon—includingRose Pistola, which earned James Beard Foundation’s “Best New Restaurant.” Back in Texas, Watkins worked with Chef William Koval at The French Room in the Adolphus Hotel, before joining the culinary team at the historic Driskill Grill with fellow Rising Star—David Bull, where he eventually became Executive Chef.

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Meet the Judges

 

Elizabeth Falkner – New York, NY
The Spotted Pig

Elizabeth Falkner began making a name for herself and her clever, pastry artistry well before she opened Citizen Cake, in San Francisco. From the pastry department at Masa’s under Julian Serrano to head pastry chef at Elka, Falkner went on to open Rubicon with Traci Des Jardins before she finally set off on her own. Author of Demolition Desserts: Recipes from Citizen Cake, her projects in New York include Krescendo in Brooklyn and Corvo Bianco on the Upper West Side.

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Daniel Holzman – New York, NY
The Meatball Shop

Daniel Holzman didn’t start his culinary career washing dishes at a local watering hole. The 15 year old was working after school at Le Bernardin. And it was Chef Eric Ripert who encouraged Holzman to attend the Culinary Institute of America (which he did, with a full scholarship from the James Beard Foundation).


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Rocco Dispirito – New York, NY
Rocco Gets Real

Rocco DiSpirito is an Italian-American chef, cookbook author, and radio and television personality from Queens, New York. His culinary foundation was laid early on by his grandmother Nicolina, his first teacher. Later, at the prodigal age of 16, DiSpirito began his formal studies at the Culinary Institute of America and also trained across the pond at Le Jardin des Cygne inFrance with Dominique Cecillon and Gray Kunz.

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Richard Martin
Foodrepublic.com

Richard Martin is editorial director of Foodrepublic.com, the popular food and drink website he launched in 2011 with Chef Marcus Samuelsson and others. He is also a founding editor and former editor-in-chief of Manhattan and Miami magazines — part of Modern Luxury Media — and the long-running men’s lifestyle magazine and website Complex. An accomplished writer, Martin has contributed to The New York Times, LA Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter. Currently he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Prizes:

1 Grand Prize winner will receive:

  • The Ultimate Vitamix Package
    • Vita-Prep® 3
    • Vitamix® XL™
    • The Quiet One™ from Vitamix
  • A $500 American Express Gift Certificate

The Runner-up will receive:

  • Vita-Prep® 3
  • $250 American Express Gift Certificate

All 6 Finalists will receive:

  • $500 Travel Certificate/Stipend for travel to New York City
  • 3-day Industry Pass to attend the StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress
  • Vitamix travel bag

** Contestants will share available equipment. Selected finalists will be given the exact equipment available in advance of the competition.

StarChefs.com Managing Editor Will Blunt, Vitamix President Jodi Berg, Winner Philip Speer, and StarChefs.com CEO Antoinette Bruno Competition winner Pastry Chef Philip Speer's Scallop Chorizo, Fried Egg Emulsion, Corn Crumble, Chives, and Rye Crisp

General Competition Information:

Terms and Conditions

Competition is open to any working chef (restaurant, hotel, catering, banquet, etc)—both savory and pastry.

Six finalists will be chosen to compete at the International Chefs Congress.

At the International Chefs Congress:

Finalists will have access to the prep kitchens at the International Chefs Congress and will have one (1)hour to prep. Chefs will then have one (1) hour to complete and present his or her dish to the judges' panel. The blending portion of each recipe must take place at the International Chefs Congress in front of the judges.

Ingredients:

  • Competitors will be required to bring their own ingredients.

Judging:

Judges Matt and Ted Lee, Paul Qui, and Richard Blais get excited about all the dishes about to come their way

Judges will base their assessment on the visual presentation, uniqueness of equipment technique, and the overall taste of the dish.

Points will be awarded on a 1-10 scale (10 being the best) for each of the weighted categories:

  • Unique Vitamix application: 50%
  • Taste: 30%
  • Overall Dish Presentation: 20%