WATSONVILLE, CA – June 29, 2023 – California Giant Berry Farms today announced the winner of the 2023 Chef Invitational, Steven Halliday from Gordon Food Service. Halliday won the title of California Giant Berry Farms’ Top Chef with his dish, Red Thai Berry Chicken Curry with Blueberry Lemon Rice.
Judged against the criteria of best overall appearance, flavor and taste appeal, creativity, use of ingredients, key trends and utilization of berries, the judges agreed that Chef Steven’s dish used berries in a unique way that packed a very flavorful, avant-garde punch.
“I’m thrilled to win the title of California Giant Top Chef,” said Steven Halliday, Culinary Specialist at Gordon Food Service. “I’m grateful to Gordon Food Service, Markon and my family for their ample support and allowing this opportunity. Participating in the California Giant Chef Invitational has been a transformational experience. California Giant’s commitment to quality and premium berries to foodservice providers is a labor of love that I have the utmost appreciation for.”
In addition to the prestigious title of Top Chef, the chef semi-finalists had the chance to win the People’s Choice vote. The website received an overwhelming response to this voting option, crowning Chef David McGurn as the People’s Choice Chef with his recipe, Congee with Brulee Berries and Quick Berry Pickles.
The finale event included a 3-day immersive experience for the chef finalists consisting of grower-led field tours, an educational session led by Chef Rosalyn Darling, focusing on Culinary Compassion™ for meaningful menu development and the grand finale itself.
“Our foodservice chefs are challenged to continually evolve their menus and grow their skillsets in the kitchen, and so we wanted to do the same for the experiences we provide to the participants of the Chef Invitational,” shared Tom Smith, director of sales at California Giant. “The biggest difference this year was the addition of Chef Rosalyn Darling’s Culinary Compassion™ session. Her work around Culinary Compassion™ re-examines current methodologies of food and beverage innovation, determining that there is a deeper, more impactful way strategists and chefs can approach innovation—through the spectrum of universal human emotions and a desire to help address these emotions through intentional, sensory-based culinary innovation.”
At the finale, the five chef finalists prepared their recipes to present to a panel of judges composed of previous Chef Invitational winners, including Derek Seigfried from Gordon Food Service, Sam Blackburn from Sodexo, Travis Peters chef/co-owner at The Parish and The Delta in Tucson, Arizona, Luis Reyes from Sysco and Cookbook Author and Wellness Expert, Marie Reginato.
In line with California Giant’s commitment to philanthropy, the prize structure includes a matching gift to the non-profit organization of the winning chef’s choice. As winner of Top Chef, Steven Halliday wins $1,000 cash for himself and a matching grant towards his selected non-profit organization, The Giving Kitchen, as well as event participation as brand ambassador for California Giant throughout the year. People’s Choice winner, David McGurn won $500 cash and a matching grant for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“I am pleased that the California Giant Chef Invitational continues to garner awareness for the brand, for the increased interest around the utilization of fresh berries as an ingredient item, while highlighting the amazing talent there is within the Foodservice industry,” added Tom Smith, Director of Sales at California Giant.