Nate Weir, vice president of culinary for Modern Restaurant Concepts, which operates fast-casual concepts Modern Market and Qdoba, won the 11th Texas Pete Kitchen Hero Cook-Off, held at CREATE: The Experience, a conference in Palm Springs hosted by Nation’s Restaurant News.
His prize was the honor of donating $10,000 to a charity that’s beloved in the foodservice industry, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry initiative.
Weir competed against Brad Bergaus, corporate chef and director of menu innovation at quick-service Mexican concept Taco John’s; Tiffany Sawyer, corporate director of culinary & beverage at First Hospitality, which operates restaurants and bars in Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky; and Dave Woolley, former director of deliciousness for casual-dining chain Buffalo Wild Wings, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Inspire Brands.
Each of the competitors was presented with a mystery basket comprised of a protein, a Texas Pete product, and a fruit and had to develop a dish that included each of those items. They also were encouraged to use any of the other dozen or so Texas Pete’s sauces and rubs that were available.
Fergus was challenged to make a dish using Alaska cod, ’Cha — Texas Pete’s version of Sriracha sauce — and Valencia oranges.
Sawyer was given chicken, Texas Pete’s original hot sauce, and grapes.
Woolley had to work with beef, bananas and Texas Pete’s original rub, and Weir was presented with pork tenderloin, Asian pears, and Sabór, Texas Pete’s Mexican-inspired sauce.
Judging their creations were Jessica Tomlinson, vice president of culinary for Tampa-based Ford’s Garage USA, who won the competition in 2022, Diana Gahagen, director of supply chain and culinary for PDQ Restaurants, Renate DeGeorge, vice president of culinary and product development for consulting firm Flashpoint Innovation, and Tom Kempsey, senior director of culinary operations for Margaritaville Global, the Orlando-based resort operator and host of the CREATE conference.
Weir won with a dish that included quinoa cooked with the Sabór sauce, which made up about 40% of the liquid used to cook the grain. The rest was water.
“Sabór has this really taste that reminded me of Mexican rice,” Weir said. He sautéed bell pepper and onion and then added the quinoa, Sabór, and water.
Then he made an escabeche by quickly sautéing onions and then deglazing the pan with more Sabór.
The pork was rubbed in Texas Pete dust, coffee, brown sugar, and other spices including cumin, coriander, and garlic. Then it was grilled and dressed in a vinaigrette made with the Texas Pete dust and smoked paprika. It was accompanied by a slaw of Asian pear and apple with a lime-heavy dressing sweetened with a little date, a local fruit that grows in the Coachella Valley, where Palm Springs is located.
This being the 11th annual Texas Pete Kitchen Hero Cookoff meant the competition to date has donated $110,000 to No Kid Hungry, providing more than a million meals to children.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]