Two locals earn honors at companywide cooking competitionWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Two local restaurant employees recently earned category honors at Top Knife, an annual companywide cooking competition hosted by Mainstreet Ventures (MSV).
Justin Guerrero, a server at Real Seafood Company in Toledo, won the American category with his espresso-rubbed duck breast entrée while Chris Ritter, a line cook at Revolution Grille in Toledo, won the Steak category for his coffee-crusted rack of venison entrée.
Also competing was Kurt Carnicom of Ciao! in Sylvania.
Mainstreet Ventures, a restaurant group based in Ann Arbor, operates 16 restaurants in five states, including Ciao! in Sylvania and Real Seafood Co., Revolution Grille and Zia’s in Toledo.
This year’s live cook-off competition was held Jan. 8 in Ann Arbor and featured 10 competitors representing restaurants in Florida, Maryland, Ohio and Michigan. The restaurant group also has restaurants in West Virginia.
Prizes were awarded in three categories — Seafood, American and Steak — and an overall winner was declared. Special recognition was also given in three categories: Most Original, Most Likely to Appear as an Appetizer on Mainstreet Venture Menus and Most Likely to be Featured as an Entrée on Mainstreet Venture Specials Menus.
Entrées were judged on creativity, taste and presentation as well as whether the entrée was concept appropriate, executable during peak business and food-cost appropriate. The contestant also had to meet safety and sanitation standards in the preparation of the dish.
The winning entrées will be featured on future Mainstreet Venture menus.
This year’s overall winner was Gabriel Alvarez, kitchen supervisor at Real Seafood Company in Ann Arbor, who prepared a grilled swordfish with golden raisin sauce entrée. Alvarez’s dish also took top honors in the Seafood category.
The Most Original award went to Raul Flores of Carson’s American Bistro in Ann Arbor for his country ribs with ancho chile sauce. Dave Stasko of Blue Pointe Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill in Fort Myers, Fla., won Most Likely to Appear as an Appetizer on Mainstreet Ventures Menus for his Baja lemon sole while James Hanaway of Palio in Ann Arbor won Most Likely to be Featured as an Entrée on Mainstreet Ventures Specials Menus for his wasabi salmon.
The competition is always intense, said Mainstreet Ventures Executive Chef Simon Pesusich, who served as one of the competition’s judges.
“Each year, the MSV Top Knife competition is getting more competitive and challenging not only for participants, but for the judges as well,” said Pesusich in a news release. “This year the entrées were very versatile not only in terms of the preparation and creativity, but in terms of the presentation as well. Gabriel’s entrée was selected on four points: taste, originality, complexity and because it was simply an outstanding item to be featured on seafood menus.”
Each competitor earned a spot in the competition by first competing against co-workers at his or her local restaurant.
For more information visit www.msventures.com.