Student Chef, Professional Chef Take Top Honors in Annual Food & Wine Challenge

The 2012 Epicurious Vino Challenge bestows accolades, raises funds for children and adults with disabilities.
Culinary student Jacob Busler with Chef's Choice award.
Culinary student Jacob Busler with Chef's Choice award.
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* Event
* Fundraiser
* Food And Wine
* Chefs
* Chefs Challenge

* Non-profit
* Restaurants

* Raleigh - North Carolina - US

June 7, 2012 - PRLog -- (Pine Level, NC) – Culinary student Jacob Busler of the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, and Chef Connie Pennell of Parkside Café and Catering in Pine Level, NC, walked away with top honors from the 2012 Epicurious Vino Challenge, an annual food and wine competition that was held this year on June 2 at Hinnant Family Vineyards in Pine Level, NC.

Selected through a blind tasting by professional chefs, culinary student Jacob Busler won the coveted Chef’s Choice award for his Shrimp and Bacon Creole – a surprise win for a student competing against veteran professional chefs. Busler’s wine ingredient was Hinnant’s Blanc du bois. He also took third place in the People’s Choice competition.

Chef Connie Pennell received the most votes from the sold-out crowd of diners for her Pork Tenderloin with Chardonnay/Gorgonzola Cream Sauce. Along with the People’s Choice award, she also received an Honorable Mention in the Chef’s Choice competition.

In this annual fundraiser for RHA Howell, a statewide organization that serves children and adults with disabilities, seven professional chefs and two culinary students were challenged to use a Hinnant wine as a primary ingredient in a signature dish.

Other winners in the Chef’s Choice competition were:

·       Third place: Chef Tom Armstrong of Vinnie’s Steakhouse & Tavern in Raleigh for his Duck Dumplings in a Blackberry Wine/Ginger Sauce.

·       Second place tie: between Chef Mario Huante, of Chef Mario's Inc., in Raleigh, for his Bacon Wrapped Steak prepared with Hinnant’s Norton red wine, with a Vanilla Bourbon Sauce and Red Wine "Caviar"; and Chef Jeremy Law of Soco Farm & Food in Wilson for his Scuppernong Sorbet with Spiced Rhubarb Compote and Toasted Walnuts.

Chef Mario Huante also took second place in the People’s Choice challenge.

“We would like to thank each and every one of our executive chefs and restaurants who participated in this year’s food and wine Epicurious Vino Challenge,” said RHA Howell event coordinator Debbie Valentine.

Other participating chefs were:

·       Chef Peter Edgar, Quince: A Southern Bistro, Wilson

·       Chef Gordon Gray, Garden on Millbrook, Raleigh

·       Chef Mark Lawson, East Restaurant at the Blockade Runner, Wrightsville Beach

·       And student chef Jeneen Hill, also of the at International Culinary School of The Art Institutes, Raleigh/Durham.

The judges for the Chef’s Choice competition were Chef Bob Passerelli, executive chef with US Food Services and a former executive chef at the North Carolina Governor’s Mansion, Chef David Gaydeski, current Executive Chef at the Governor's Mansion, and Chef Wes Dills who serves as event manager at Hinnant Family Vineyards.

Along with sampling all the food created by the nine chefs who participated this year, the sold-out food and wine event included a silent and live auction that added to the funds raised, as well as entertainment by comedian Derrick Tennant.

The main sponsors for the 2012 event were RHA Howell, Inc; US Foodservice, Inc.; Hinnant Family Vineyards; Southern Pharmacy Services; Van Products; Morcom Medical Consultants; Fallon Benefits Group; and Wake Stone Corporation. Print Enterprise, Inc., provided all printed materials.

All proceeds from the Epicurious Vino Challenge benefit children and adults with medical, physical, or mental disabilities. For more information on RHA Howell, visit

About RHA Howell, Inc.:  RHA Howell is a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) organization that has been helping people with disabilities and special needs, and their families, make choices to live more independently for more than 35 years. Integrity, high standards for quality, and hard work are at the core of every RHA Howell disability assistance program. Proven leaders in caring for people, RHA Howell, Inc. is a pioneering force in the field of human services, particularly supporting infants and children. For more information, please go to
Source:RHA Howell, Inc.
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Tags:Event, Fundraiser, Food And Wine, Chefs, Chefs Challenge
Industry:Non-profit, Restaurants
Location:Raleigh - North Carolina - United States
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