MEET THE JUDGES
Our esteemed panel of judges will review dishes in three categories: Cal-Mex, Cheese & Mac, and Innovate-To-Go. All dishes must be optimized for the takeout or “to-go” experience and incorporate sustainability-sourced California cheese and other dairy ingredients.
Chef Barbara Alexander has worked as a professional chef for 30+ years, running pedigree Hotel Kitchens & Michelin level restaurants in Vancouver, BC and Sydney, Australia and as a culinary educator at The Dubrulle French Culinary School in Vancouver Canada, The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, and as Culinary Director and Executive Chef at the lauded Napa Valley Cooking School for the last 16 years, placing many students in Michelin star restaurants. Chef Barbara holds degrees in English Literature and Journalism, Certified Executive Chef and Certified Culinary Educator from the American Culinary Association; she brings a humorous synergy of education, knowledge and experience to the table. As well as educating professional chefs, Chef Barbara escorts adventurous travelers to culinary hotspots on bespoke culinary journeys. Her specialty is guiding the uninitiated on serendipitous excursions, incorporating local food, education, and a sense of cultural place.
Chef Neil began his career at Sysco in 1999 and has served in roles of increasing responsibility including Director of Business Review, Marketing Specialist, and Culinary Development. He assumed his current role as Corporate Executive Chef – Sr. Director of Culinary Development in 2011 and has been instrumental in leading the enterprise’s culinary strategy. Neil is also responsible for providing product and culinary training expertise to Sysco’s international entities in Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Costa Rica and Europe.
The media took notice of Chef Neil’s lively personality and vast culinary expertise. He has been featured in national and trade magazines, newspapers, and TV programs for his creative take on traditional dishes from various ethnic cuisines.
When Neil isn’t in the kitchen you can find him on the rugby pitch, working on his land in the Texas Hill Country, and spending time with his family.
A graduate of Brown University, Duskie Estes’s career has included critical acclaim as a chef, as well as television appearances on Food Network and PBS.
Duskie and her husband, John Stewart, operated ZAZU Kitchen+Farm in Sebastopol, Calif. from 2001 – 2019, when the restaurant was lost due to the flooding of the Russian River. ZAZU was consistently named a top restaurant and was included in the San Francisco Michelin Guide for over a decade. They also own Black Pig Meat Co., which specializes in ethically-raised pigs sourced directly from small farms.
Previously, Estes worked with Tom Douglas at his acclaimed Seattle restaurants: Palace Kitchen, Etta’s Seafood, and the Dahlia Lounge. Earlier in her career, Estes worked in a variety of mission-driven roles, including positions at Share Our Strength and the White House.
Estes’s work has been featured in numerous national publications, and she competed on the Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef”, seasons 3 and 5 and serves as a judge on Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games”.
Estes and Stewart have two daughters, Brydie and Mackenzie, who inspired the name for their farm, MacBryde Farm where they raise rabbits, chickens, ducks, sheep, pigs, and goats.