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Chef’s risk with rabbit pays off at Championship BBQ

2 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Chef Stephen “Smokey” Schwartz took home his third grand prize from the 18th annual Championship BBQ held at Chicago’s Navy Pier on May 17. More than 1,000 chefs, restaurateurs and other foodservice professionals gathered to mingle and sample food and beverages at the event, which benefits Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

Entries in the cooking competition ranged from cheeseburgers to pulled pork, but  Schwartz chose to look beyond typical barbecue ingredients when constructing his winning dish.

Chef Schwartz (left) accepts a prize from Edward Don & Company owner Steve Don (Photo: Laura Meyer Photography)

“The judges at the 18th annual Championship BBQ and Cookout sure had a tough choice to make … all the food this year was incredible but in the end it was Stephen “Smokey” Schwartz from Burnt End BBQ who took home the prize, for his apple and pecan smoked rabbit rillettes, with rabbit bresaola, compressed watermelon and pickled watermelon rind, freekeh grains, micro greens, popped sorghum and citrus vinaigrette,” said Championship BBQ creator and former publisher of Food Arts magazine Barbara Mathias.

The Overland Park, Kan., chef has attended the Championship BBQ 17 times — taking home first place in 2006 and 2012 — and said he is inspired to think outside the box when cooking for the event, since “Chicago is the biggest foodie city in the world.”

When creating this year’s dish, Schwartz “started with the grains and from there I came into the rabbit … mainly I picked the rabbit because it’s hard to do right,” said Schwartz, who was assisted by chef Aaron Whitcomb of Level 257 in Schaumburg, Ill.

Barilla’s winning booth design (Photo:Laura Meyer photography)

The runner-up in the cooking competition was chef Ryan McCaskey, from popular Chicago restaurant Acadia. Also awarded that night was a prize for best tabletop design, which went to Barilla for a flower-and-pasta tablescape inspired by the Labriola restaurant in Chicago. The three winners took home prizes provided by Edward Don & Company.

SmartBrief is the official media sponsor of the Championship BBQ benefiting No Kid Hungry.

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