OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.,— Chef Ricky George of Osteria, Bar Cicchetti and El Coyote Bar & Cantina took first place in the annual Culinary Cook-Off at the ORA Expo on August 18, 2022.
George had 60 minutes to prepare a dish using five proteins from a mystery spread of ingredients provided by Hal Smith Restaurant Group. The five proteins required to be used in the final round dishes were bison tenderloin, beef tenderloin, wagyu beef, rib-eye steak and shrimp. His final presentation earned him a $2,000 cash prize, the Grand Champion trophy and gift certificates. He was assisted by Gunner Putman, a Culinary Arts student at OSUIT in Okmulgee.
George competed against 5 other Oklahoma chefs in the annual cook-off, a chopped-style competition in which some of the most talented chefs in the state race the clock to create dazzling dishes using a mystery basket of ingredients. The competitors participate in various heats until the contest is narrowed down to the last two chefs.
George’s competitor in the final round was Chef Scott Liner, owner and chef of Yum Pig OKC Food Truck. Liner’s second place finish earned him $1,000, a trophy and gift certificates. Liner was assisted by Indian Capital Technology Center culinary student Breylon Swope
“The Culinary Cook-Off is an inspiring event because it provides a small glimpse at the culinary talent Oklahoma harbors,” said Roberta Helsley, ORA Manager of Education and Culinary Cook-Off Coordinator. “These chefs bring so much passion as they compete, the whole Expo knows when the competition is taking place because you can feel their energy.”
In addition to Chefs Ricky George and Scott Liner, participating chefs included Joel Bein, The Meat & Cheese Show; Everette Bates, Skirvin Hilton Hotel; Peter Finnegan, Guyutes; and Caleb Mohr, The Palace Café, LLC.
Judges consisted of a panel of industry professionals, including Chefs Kurt Fleischfresser of Vast/Western Concepts; Marc Guizol, OKC Golf and Country Club; Mark Vannasdall, Traditions Spirits; and Dave Cathey of The Oklahoman.
Amanda Simcoe, with the Meat & Cheese Show, served as the event’s emcee.
“A unique element of the Cook-Off is these chefs are paired with a culinary student,” Helsley said. “The chefs serve as a mentor to their student as the student assists the chef throughout the competition. After seeing the chefs and students in action, it’s evident the culinary students of Oklahoma can hold their own. So many restaurant operators are in need of talented and hard-working employees, we believe showcasing students in the annual Culinary Cook Off at the ORA Expo helps shine a light on workforce development here in Oklahoma.”
During the 2-day competition, chefs had help from culinary students Katie Barnes, Makayla Pike and Gunner Putman with OSU IT, and Oklahoma ProStart students Joel Keel and Breylon Swope with Indian Capital Technology Center. Students who participated in the competition were awarded gift cards provided by ARS and Market Source. In addition to plate presentation, creativity, product taste, product texture and sanitation practices, participants were also judged on how well they utilized their assistant during the competition.
The Culinary Cook-Off was presented in partnership with Lead Partner Market Source Restaurant Supply; Premier Platinum Partners: Oklahoma City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Tractor Beverage Co.; Gold Partners: Ben E. Keith Co, Bryan Close, Go Fresh Produce, Smithfield Culinary, SpringBoard, Superior Linen Service, Super Cao Nguyen, and Zenith Insurance Co.; Friends of the Cookoff: ARS Service, Revolution Wholesale, Sysco Oklahoma, Hal Smith Restaurant Group and W3 Sales provided in-kind donations.
Founded in 1933, the Oklahoma Restaurant Association is the trade association of restaurants and foodservice operations, the state's largest private industry employer. Representing more than 4,000 restaurants and members, the ORA actively monitors legislation and regulatory agencies; helps foodservice management develop and strengthen business; and develops the membership to do together for the industry what cannot be done individually.