News Release: Student Gillian Howard Wins 5th Annual S&D Culinary Challenge

Johnson & Wales University Charlotte freshman awarded $5,000 for coffee-infused creation

CHARLOTTE, N.C., February 27, 2015 – Concord-based S&D Coffee and Tea (S&D), the nation’s largest custom coffee roaster for the foodservice industry, is proud to announce that Johnson & Wales University (JWU) Charlotte freshman Gillian Howard took top honors in its highly competitive annual S&D Culinary Challenge held Feb. 24 at the school’s uptown Charlotte campus. The student chef, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, wowed a distinguished panel of judges and a packed auditorium with her hometown-inspired dish titled “A Tennessee Date Night,” coffee-infused date cake with tea and lemon ice cream, and walked away with the grand prize of $5,000.

Students were invited to submit original recipes using S&D coffee and tea extracts, with ultimately 10 submissions making it through to the finals round. Local culinary celebrities Jenny Brulé, chef and food writer, and Jim Noble, founder of Jim Noble Restaurants, LLC, The King’s Kitchen and Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen, served as chef mentors to the finalists preparing them for the head-to-head battle in the live cooking finale.

“During Gillian’s demo, her passion and sincerity came across loud and clear to everyone in that auditorium,” said John Buckner, vice president of marketing at S&D. “Each year we’re blown away by the talent and creativity of these young chefs and their eagerness to make a mark on the foodservice industry in Charlotte and beyond. Our culinary future looks bright and S&D is honored that, through our partnership with JWU, we do our part by investing in these rising stars.”

Gillian served in the United States Air Force for seven years before enrolling at JWU this past winter semester. “I loved serving the military and serving my country, but this is my dream and it doesn’t feel like work,” said Howard before overwhelmed with emotion. “Just being here today, means so much to me.”

The complete list of all the winners from the 2015 S&D Culinary Challenge are as follows:
Grand Prize Winner ($5,000)
Gillian Howard, freshman, Memphis, Tenn., Tennessee Date Night (coffee infused date cake with tea and lemon ice cream)

Gillian Howard

Gillian Howard

2nd Place ($1,500)
Joy Turner, junior, Lancaster, S.C., Coffee’s Aggressive Side (bacon-wrapped chicken livers with coffee gastrique)

Joy Turner

Joy Turner

3rd Place ($750)
Tracy-Ann Mitchell, sophomore, Portmore, Jamaica, Meat-luffin (meatloaf muffins with mashed potato topping and coffee and tea flavored vegetables)

Tracy-Ann Mitchell

Tracy-Ann Mitchell

Best Breakfast Recipe ($250)
Mikquell Nell, sophomore, Baltimore, Md., Chai Tea Waffle with Lemongrass Apple Butter and Chai Spiced Whipped Cream

Mikquell Nell

Mikquell Nell

Facebook Fan Favorite ($250)
Joy Turner

Best Demo Presentation ($250)
Gillian Howard

Finals judge chef Clark Barlowe, owner of Heirloom and JWU alum, understands the stress of competing in a culinary competition. “As someone who competes often, I was very impressed with all the students’ stage presence and their ability to perform so well under the pressure,” said Barlowe. “What these emerging chefs did takes a lot of finesse and culinary awareness, producing ‘restaurant ready’ dishes that inspire. These students definitely have what it takes to excel in this industry.”

Sitting alongside Barlowe on the judges panel were fellow JWU alums Jessica Foust, director of culinary innovation at McDonald’s USA, LLC, and Allison Oesterle, restaurant consultant formerly with Zaxby’s, as well as Michael LaDuke, corporate executive chef at The Capital Grille, and Eric Nakata, vice president of culinary and innovation at S&D Coffee and Tea. WCCB Charlotte’s resident funny man Jon Wilson, host of “Wilson’s World,” emceed the event. For more information on the competition, please visit facebook.com/sndcoffee.