On Monday, Strack & Van Til in Schererville hosted the Culinary Fight Club, featuring Bo Jackson’s Grocery Store Blitz and Tailgate Throwdown. The event promoted Bo Jackson’s Signature Food Line as chefs from around the Midwest used different Jackson products to compete in the Tailgate Throwdown.
The event welcomed eight chefs from Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to compete in the competition. Culinary Fight Club, owned by CEO Jiwon McCartney, is a national organization that hosts live cooking competitions. Its mission is to "bring the passion of a high-energy kitchen and the thrill of a timed competition for you to enjoy. No two events are the same, with new teams and themes every month, we promise you'll come back for seconds."
As the event began, each chef was given a $100 gift card to shop for groceries inside of Strack & Van Til. The chef who spent the least amount of money with the gift card was awarded extra points toward their final score. Each chef decorated their own shopping cart “tailgate style” in order to gain extra points from the judges, too. Once the first chef got all of the food they needed and left the inside of the store, a clock started for 60 minutes, allowing the chefs to begin preparing their dishes.
As the cooking was underway, attendees were able to meet Bo Jackson, Founder of Bo Jackson’s Signature Food, All-Star in MLB Baseball and Pro Bowler in NFL Football, and a judge for the cook-off. Guests mingled around, tasted different foods, like Bo Jackson’s Burgers, bought raffle tickets, and even enjoyed a refreshing beer.
“My husband and I were walking into the store today like we always do on Mondays, and we noticed all of the music and smelled the delicious food, so we just had to stay,” said guest Mary Keys. “I think it is amazing that Strack & Van Til is hosting a fun event like this. It is unique and it promotes some local restaurants in our area, which is great.”
Aside from being an incredibly fun event, Culinary Fight Club also is partnered with Fight2Feed, an organization that fights hunger with rescued food, mobilizes to get it to hungry people in need, and partners with top restaurants with food trucks to provide service and support. Culinary Fight Club wouldn't be where it is today without their amazing partners. These organizations have not only provided an amazing cooking experience for everyone to enjoy, but they've helped Culinary Fight Club's cause and partnership with Fight2Feed.
When the 60 minutes was up, the judges prepared themselves to taste eight deliciously cooked dishes. The four judges included Lisa Milla, Store Director of Strack & Van Til, Larry Moore, Director of Operations, Joseph “Pepe” Daniele, Owner of Pepino’s Italian Restaurant in Schererville, and Jackson. After the judges tasted each dish, the public had a chance to taste all of the food and vote for their favorite dish as well.
By the end of the event, 4 chefs were recognized and awarded for their dishes. Chef Daniel Velasquez of Griller’s Restaurant in Whiting won the popular vote of the audience, Chef Geo Phelps of Chili Rocks Chili in Cincinnati, Ohio won the judges vote, while Chef Bill Hazel of Bill’s Grill Mobile BBQ in Chicago, and Chef Kris Schoenberger of BBQ’d Productions in Chicago won Most Creative dishes.
“I love helping people through cooking and having a firefighter background,” said Geo Phelps, Champion Chef of the Tailgate Throwdown, Owner of Chili Rocks Chili and retired firefighter. “I do not have any culinary school background, I am simply a person who just has loved to cook for many years. It feels amazing to win this competition because I have come in 2nd place at many other events for too long.”
Strack & Van Til hosted a fun and important event for both the chefs and attendees. It was unique in a way that allowed every person to have fun at a “usual day in the grocery store.”
For more information about Strack & Van Til, please visit https://strackandvantil.com/.
Sponsors for the event included: Samuel Adams, Big Guys BBQ, Bull Grill, Malanos Bakery, and Rhineland Knives.