Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, October 20

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Event Wed Jan 21 2015

Young Chefs Battle for Regional Winner of Almost Famous Chef Competition

Food competitions are the best kind of sport--you gain weight instead of losing it, and lethal weapons are allowed. Between "Top Chef," "Knife Fight" and all of Food Network's programming, there's no shortage of TV shows where chefs chop and season away for the culinary crown. In Chicago, local competitions take place throughout the year and don't always require contestants to be established chefs. I recently attended the S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Regional Competition, an event dedicated to discovering and promoting young culinary talent across the nation. The VIP dinner took place at Kendall College, judged by a panel of culinary stars, including Chris Duffy (Grace) and Sarah Grueneberg ("Top Chef"). Though every contestant had to use the same set of pre-selected ingredients, the menu showed a diverse array of techniques:

Mediterranean Roasted Rack of Lamb with Pistachio Lemon Pesto
by Morgan Taylor from L'Ecole Culinaire - St Louis

Cajun Fried Duck Breast with Orange Gastrique, Cauliflower Puree & Sautéed Swiss Chard with Bacon & Garlic
by Reynaldo Quinones from Delgado Community College

Pepper Crusted Marsala Lamb
by Joel Klugiewicz from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Austin

Duo of Duck
by Qi Ai from Kendall College

Herb Crusted Roasted Rack of Lamb
by Charles Standridge from The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Dallas

Duck Madeira with Cauliflower "Couscous" and Swiss Chard
Presented by Haleigh Hocut from the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University

Via mounted TV displays, guests saw the student competitors prep and plate their dishes during their allotted time. Once their clock ran out, each student exited the kitchen and provided a description of their plate in front of the judges and guests. After tasting multiple portions of duck and lamb, guests ultimately selected Qi Ai as the winner of the Central Regional competition for her sophisticated Duo of Duck dish.


A Beijing native, she currently trains under Chefs Carlos Gaytan ("Top Chef") and Frank Valdez at Mexique. Along with her Rising Star Chef mentor, Sarah Grueneberg, Ai will move onto the national competition in Napa Valley in March. She will be competing against four other regional winners for the title of 2015's Almost Famous Chef.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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