Ayer, chef at Riddle’s Penultimate Cafe and Wine Bar in University City, said that it seemed only natural to enter the contest because most of his dishes include local produce on a daily basis. He said he chooses local products because he believes they are of the highest quality.
“They taste better,” said Ayer. “I want to be able to tell people I bought the very best ingredients possible.”
Drawing attention to the variety and quality of locally grown products in Missouri was one of the contest’s main goals.
“We hope to raise awareness among chefs of the fresh, quality food products Missouri has to offer so they will use them on their menus,” said Deanne Hackman, director of the department’s Agricultural Business Development Division.
The contest was open to professional chefs, sous-chefs and lead line cooks at Missouri restaurants. Competition began in August when entrants submitted original recipes that used local products.
A preliminary panel verified with suppliers that local products were used and evaluated the palatability of the submitted recipe, choosing four finalists from the entries submitted.
The four finalists were Ayer, chef DeWayne Schaaf of Celebrations Restaurant and Bar in Cape Girardeau, chef Chris Desens of Raquet Club Ladue in Ladue and executive chef Kirk Warner of King Louie’s in St. Louis.
Judges visited the finalists’ restaurants and sampled the prepared recipes, evaluating the dishes on presentation, texture and taste.
Missouri Restaurant Association Executive Vice President Pat Bergauer, Missouri Restaurant Association President Greg Hunsucker and Hackman served as the judges of the contest.
Winners will be announced Nov. 23 at an agricultural conference. The first place winner will be presented the Experience AgriMissouri Chef Contest Medal by Gov. Bob Holden and will receive $2,000. Second place will receive $1,000 and third place will receive $500.