The Top Chef is Steven Halliday
The People’s Choice Winner is David McGurn
Dontre’al Haigler, Denny’s – Fruity Fried Octopus with Blueberry Sticky Rice
Jereme Nemeth, Sysco – Blackberry Fennel Scallops with Blueberry Risotto
Katie Bulger, Performance Foodservice – Blackberry Brown Butter Seabass with Strawberry Chimichurri
Steven Halliday, Gordon Food Service – Red Thai Berry Chicken Curry with Blueberry Lemon Rice
To learn more about the 2023 Chef Invitational, click here.
The California Giant Chef Invitational is a nationwide culinary competition that calls upon chefs to think outside the box and create innovative, original dishes featuring fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries as the hero of the plate.
The revered event invites foodservice, corporate and restaurant chefs to compete by submitting a main dish recipe that showcases the versatility of fresh berries. Unique to 2023 event is the requirement for the recipe to fall under one or more of key trends as identified by Flavor & the Menu, including: Asian Breakfast Wakes Up, Mustard’s Moment, The Dark Side of Butter, True Colors and Time for Thai.
For more information about the 2023 California Giant Chef Invitational click here!
Unload all berries immediately into a cold room, roughly 32°F. Never allow a shipment to sit outside of a cold atmosphere.
Check for maturity, ripeness level, quantity, packaging, size, count, weight, and grade. Report any discrepancies immediately.
Store unwashed, in clamshells away from sources of moisture; moisture will cause rapid breakdown of the berry.
Don’t wash berries until ready to serve and use a gentle spray of cool water.
Don’t remove green caps from strawberries until after rinsing. This helps to retain flavor inside the berries.
1 lb. • 2 lb. • 3 lb. • 4 lb.
6 oz. • Pint • 18 oz. • 24 oz. • 2 lb.
6 oz. • 12 oz.
6 oz. • 12 oz.
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Chef Steven is a native of Southwest Pennsylvania and began his early training in vocational school, continuing his education at the Le Cordon Bleu Program at Pennsylvania Culinary Institute (PCI) in Pittsburgh, PA. He accredits the most flourishing experience of his culinary youth to the renowned Culinary Apprenticeship Program at The Greenbrier. Upon the completion of his program, Steven was awarded “Apprentice of the Year”, he also earned several medals in ACF certified hot and cold food competitions. Steven later served as The Greenbrier’s Executive Sous Chef. He was the Chairman of the Greenbrier’s Apprenticeship Program, organizing food showings, demos, training and inspiring the culinary team.
Steven operated the Food and Beverage program at Adventures on the Gorge located on the rim of the New River Gorge in West Virginia. He then moved to Atlanta as the opening Chef for Rosendale Events. Later joined Gordon Food Service as the Culinary Specialist for Georgia, helping customers with their foodservice operations.
Chef David joined the Performance Foodservice team in 2019. He has over 35 years in the industry holding culinary roles, working in senior leadership, and has been a leader in Culinary Education, training thousands of culinary students on the East Coast. He is a dedicated supporter of the American Culinary Federation’s Certification process and actively mentors Chefs throughout the process as well as leads examination teams in Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Starting his career in the family restaurant at a very young age, he began to fully understand the effort and dedication it would take to become successful in the kitchen. Eventually managing the family business, he had an early understanding of small business operations, employee management, and customer service.
After nurturing his skills in the field for many years he was offered a position as Executive Chef for a historic property in Massachusetts where he completely revamped the entire operational process and management systems.
Chef later joined an accredited Culinary Institute where he was able to further master his skills in the production kitchen and develop them to apply in a classroom setting. As a Chef Instructor he was recognized for his interactive and real-life approach to educational delivery and was moved into the role of Director of Education where he championed with their national curriculum committee to completely rewrite the entire Culinary Arts, Baking and pastry, And Italian Culinary Arts programs. He also led the Career Services office where he worked to leverage partnerships with national brand partners for unique and coveted externship experiences. In addition, he was at the forefront of the competition committee creating both internal and external student competitions, Chef partner demonstrations, and guest speaker/mentor programs.
As a leader in Culinary Education David was commissioned to film a DVD to accompany the On Cooking textbook by Sara Labensky, Priscilla A. Martel, Alan M. Hause, providing over eighty video demonstrations of culinary fundamentals that is still used in culinary schools throughout the USA today.
Chef expanded his breadth of food service management in his role as Food Service District Management for a major contract management company in their education division. There he operated properties throughout New England from public and private schools, colleges, and universities. David was able to design and roll out new concepts which were designed to be retrofit into any location throughout the US.
Chef McGurn holds certifications as a CEC Certified Executive Chef as well as in CCA Certified Culinary Administration. He also is a respected Certification Examiner throughout New England for the ACF. David has orchestrated and organized ACF Regional Competitions and Chaine Des Rotisseurs Young Chef Competition.
After attending Virginia Tech for Engineering, Derek Seigfried studied Culinary Arts at New England Culinary Institute. Derek was fortunate enough to intern at The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. After school, Derek cooked in St. John, USVI for 3 years, before moving to Connecticut. Here, he worked under Michel Nischan at The Dressing Room, as well as Denise Appel at Zinc. Derek then opened Moxie in Madison as the Executive Chef, where he remained for 7 years. Currently, Derek holds the position of Culinary Specialist at Gordon Food Service where he consults with customers on menus, trends and innovation.
Robert Stegall-Smith is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and holds a Masters in Hospitality Administration from UNLV. His background includes experience in fine dining, private clubs, colleges and universities, B&I and healthcare before assuming the Corporate Chef position for IFH in 1996.
Robert has been recognized by the American Culinary Federation as a certified executive chef since 1997, and was inducted into The American Academy of Chefs in 2005. He is a past president of the Midlands Chapter of the ACF and served as the ACF Chair on the South Carolina Hospitality Association’s Education Committee. His career holds a number of accolades and awards, ranging from being the first place winner in the 1999 S.C. School Lunch Challenge, to being named the 2013 Chef of the Year in the Midlands and received the 2013 Richard M. Lee Culinarian of the Year award.
Robert has been part of the Culinary Certificate program at the University of South Carolina since its inception. He also serves as a subject matter expert for ECPI University.
Sam Blackburn CEC, CCA, CDM / CFPP works for the Healthcare Operational Excellence Team for Sodexo North America where he gets to travel the country assisting in Culinary Operational Needs at various healthcare facilities. Influenced by his great grandmother who was an excellent cook, he knew by age 15 that he wanted to be a chef and loves to try new things in the kitchen. With over 16 years of experience, he relishes the opportunity to be able to really dig into the ever-changing landscape of the culinary scene right now. The most important thing to Chef Sam is the continual quest to learn something new every day.
Chef Bill Barker has extensive experience in the Foodservice industry. From 1977 to 1990, he served as the Kitchen Manager and Corporate Chef for Consolidated Specialty Restaurant Group. After that, he was the Club Chef from 1990 until 1993 at the Burnham Park Yacht Club in Chicago, Illinois. Chef Barker’s most recent, 17 year, tenure has been at Gordon Food Service where he has been promoted from Distributor Sales Representative to Marketing Center of the Plate and lastly to Culinary Specialist / Regional Chef. With Gordon Food Service he has also had the opportunity to attend the Worlds of Flavors conference at the Culinary Institute of America as a volunteer chef from 2002 through 2017.
Chef Travis Peters is the Owner and Chef of The Parish Gastropub, and was named the winner of the 2019 California Giant Chef Invitational. With a culmination of two decades of hard work in the restaurant industry, Chef Travis Peters honed his skills and has led several award-winning culinary teams. Among the many awards Peters and his team at The Parish have been awarded include Shamrock foods “Fired Up Chef Challenge” with celebrity Chef Richard Blaise, Stella Artois Iron Chef Tucson, 2017 Best of Tucson (Tucson Weekly). Peters also appeared on Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network, and took home first place. Chef Peters is an official Tucson UNESCO city of Gastronomy ambassador & has represented his city in Denia, Spain.
Chef Jonathon Merricks’ experience started early with a four-year Vo-Tech Culinary Arts High School Program followed by his graduation from the Culinary Institute of America, where he was handpicked by Dan Kish, to be his apprentice, for his Certified Master Chef Test. Dan later went on to become the President of Culinary Operations at Panera Bread.
Chef Jonathan’s work history takes us on an interesting tour:
Boca Raton Resort & Club, Chef Jonathon worked in every position of each restaurant, banquet facility and country club location as part of an externship
New York City at the Beacon Restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, with Chef Waldy Malouf. Malouf opened Beacon Restaurant and Is also co-founder of the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund, which aids restaurant worker’s families that were affected by 9/11.
Italy, in a teaching position for a Cooking School, located in Tuscany, on an olive oil farm.
San Francisco, California at Acquerello, under Executive Chef Suzette Gresham. Acquerello holds two Michelin Stars. Chef Jonathon also worked alongside Executive Chef Michael Mina for the Michael Mina Group at the Michelin-starred MICHAEL MINA, Michael’s flagship restaurant.
Vail, Colorado, Chef Jonathon worked with Chef Richard Sandoval at Maya, his flagship restaurant bringing Colorado’s Vail Valley “Modern Mexican”.
Nantucket Island, he spent time broadening his career with Toppers at Wauwinet, where Chef Jonathan regularly cooked for Drew Barrymore.
Chef Luis Reyes, Executive Chef for Sysco Central Florida, has found the joy of helping local chefs and owners into finding their own flavor just like he enjoys cooking, this is thanks to the support and the opportunity given by the Sysco corporation. But the truth is, this isn’t what Reyes had always envisioned for himself.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, he first enrolled in a local college for an accounting career, but destiny had different plans for him. While he was in this path, he had the luck to work on a local Bakery, on which he started from the bottom as a dish washer, then started moving up into helping in the lines, serving pastries, and on from there, that’s what lighted the spark on him.
Besides that, he grew up always around his family who taught him that the dining table was the “center of family” and unconsciously feed and shaped his inner Chef and his passion for food. Without losing too much time, he moved into West Palm, FL, in the 96 and joined the ranks of the Florida Culinary Institute, where he graduated and formally started his successful chef career which included Hilton Corporation, The Breakers Hotel, Cucina Del’ Arte and Benvenuto Restaurant in the West Palm Beach area. He sits on the board in the American Culinary Federation Central Florida Chapter and also sits on the Advisory Board for Orange County Technical School.
Right now he is a very valuable piece of Sysco Corporation, leading the culinary team in Central Florida, as their Executive Chef, on where he has enjoyed the chance of being around exceptional people and celebrities, but he explains that the real satisfaction comes from helping and supporting small “mom and pops” restaurants that lack of great marketing budgets like some big chain restaurants.
And he knows this because, apart from being in charge of the kitchen, he is the one visiting their customer’s locations, talking to them, looking at the layout, the staff training, menu development and so many other details necessary to make a restaurant profitable and competitive.
Shane’s passion for cooking began while learning on the job. After graduating high school, he enrolled at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication and Criminology. As a college student, Shane’s culinary passion grew while working at the Jonesboro Country Club. Shane enrolled at the prestigious culinary school at Johnson and Wales in Providence, RI. Not only did Shane excel at school, he also took full advantage of his time on the East Coast to learn time honored methods of preparing fresh seafood and to embrace the art of home-style Italian cooking. After culinary school, Shane returned to his native Arkansas and continued to hone his culinary and management skills. He has worked for a number of well-known establishments including John Brown University, Ridge Pointe Country Club, Simply the Best Catering and the Argenta Market. For the last seven years, Shane has served as Executive Chef for Ben E. Keith Foods, Mid-South Division, in North Little Rock. Shane lends his expertise to independent restaurant operators, nursing homes and hospitals. Shane contributes to the many philanthropic events and non-profit organizations that Ben E. Keith supports including Make-A-Wish, Thea Foundation, Argenta Community Theater, BOST and American Cancer Society. Shane taught at Pulaski Technical College’s Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management Institute for four years.
He has won the Salut au Restauranteur Award, the “Gold” Award presented by the Central Arkansas ACF for lifetime service to culinary education and was named Pro-Start Mentor of the Year. Shane serves as a member of the Arkansas Tech University Advisory board, the American Culinary Federation and Arkansas Hospitality Association.