MIAMI — Kara Adanalian of Fresno, CA, took top honors in the Del Monte Fresh "Find Your Inner Chef" competition, besting runner-up Karen Gulkin of Greeley, CO, in a cook off held June 15 at the Miami Culinary Institute, here.
Adanalian earned the title and the grand prize of a retreat for two to the Napa Valley Culinary Institute for her winning recipe, red pepper and avocado-stuffed chicken breast with pastry gremolata and white wine reduction.
In addition to capturing the cook off title, Adanalian also won the People's Choice Award as voted by the live studio audience at the Miami Culinary Institute, a state-of-the-art facility that is part of the Miami Dade College Hospitality School.
The entire event was filmed, photographed and live-streamed on Fruits.com.
Adanalian and Gulkin advanced to the finals after beating out Areli Biggers from Hopkinton, MA, and Gisele Rainville from Drummondville, QC. The four women were invited to compete in Miami after being selected winners during the four-week contest that began April 15. The contest encouraged consumers to submit their own favorite recipe using Del Monte Fresh fruits and vegetables.
Judging was based on the following criteria: creativity of the dish; taste of the dish; use of Del Monte fresh fruits or vegetables in the recipe; and presentation of the dish. The winner from each week moved on to compete for the grand prize and coveted title.
"To be the grand prize winner of the Del Monte Fresh Produce Find Your Inner Chef' contest is not only a thrill but an honor, given the level of competition, judging and event facility," Adanalian said. "I'm at a loss for words to describe how happy I am, but there's a smile on my face that won't go away. Thank you Del Monte for providing such a great product and top-notch event! I'm very proud."
"Congratulations to our Grand Prize winner, Kara," said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing, North America, for Del Monte Fresh, based in Coral Gables, FL. "The cook off event was as exciting to witness as it was to judge the entire span of the contest from launch to today's cooking competition. We're amazed at each finalist's culinary skills and at their creativity in using specific ingredients such as our Del Monte fresh fruits and vegetables during this intense competition."
Christou told The Produce News that the goal of the contest was to try to get fresh fruits and vegetables more integrated into everyday life.
"Consumers want ideas about how to use fresh fruits and vegetables, so we thought this would be a great idea to introduce people who regularly use them," he said. "At Del Monte, we are trying to become more relevant to consumers, and this contest was a way to do that, and it was extremely successful. We hope to build on this in the future."