The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), Tracy, Calif., announced the three innovative chefs who took home the ultimate to-go prize of $5,000 each in the inaugural CADairy2GO competition cook-off in Napa. Chefs Carrie Baird of Denver, Colo.; Mary Grace Viado of Birmingham, Al.; and Brian Mullins of Miami, Fla., took home the top prizes in their respective categories during the first of its kind event at the Culinary Institute of America’s Copia facility.

Inspired by chefs and foodservice operators who made creative adjustments to menus for the takeout and delivery model during the pandemic, the Real California Milk Foodservice Team invited six culinary professionals, selected from 12 semifinalists, to compete in the cook-off final on July 28, which streamed live on the Real California Milk Foodservice Facebook channel. Two chefs faced off in each of three categories: Cheese+Mac, Cal-Mex and Innovate To-Go, with the winners taking home $5,000 each and runners up winning $1,500 each, CMAB said..

A renowned panel of judges — Barbara Alexander, Certified Executive Chef and Certified Culinary Educator from the American Culinary Association; Neil Doherty, corporate executive chef and senior director of culinary development at Sysco; and Duskie Estes, culinary personality, chef and co-owner of Black Pig Meat Co. and MacBryde Farm — presided over the contest and evaluated dishes based on a variety of factors, CMAB said. Those factors included taste, innovation and the creative use of cheese and other dairy products made with Real California Milk.

CMAB said the winning chefs include:

  • Cheese + Mac Winner: Skipjack & Cheesy Mac by Chef Carrie Baird. Baird is the owner of Rose’s Classic Americana in Boulder, Colo. She competed on Season 15 of Bravo’s Top Chef, as well as Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay.” Most recently, she was an “All Star” judge on Top Chef Season 18. Baird’s winning Skipjack & Cheesy Mac dish is inspired by what she cooks for herself, with a variety of tastes and textures, including four California cheeses, skipjack tuna, charred broccoli, peas, corn and togarashi, sriracha and furikake seasoning.
  • Cal-Mex Winner: Mexi-Cali Shrimp Scampi by Chef Mary Grace Viado. Viado is the corporate executive chef for the Village Tavern in Birmingham, Ala. She graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines and is a graduate of the 2014 Culinary Enrichment & Innovation Program of the Culinary Institute of America and Hormel Foods. Viado received the 2015 James Beard Foundation’s Jean-Louis Palladin Professional Scholarship. Her Mexi-Cali Shrimp Scampi features cubes of blackened California panela and cotija cheeses and is served with homemade arepas made with California milk.
  • Innovate To-Go: Frico Pesto Melt by Chef Brian Mullins. Mullins is the owner of Ms. Cheezious food truck in Miami, Fla. He has more than 25 years of culinary industry experience and has worked with prestigious brands on over 30 restaurant launches throughout North America, South America, Asia and Europe. Ms. Cheezious is one of Miami’s most loved restaurant and food truck destinations and has been featured on several national television shows. Mullins’ winning dish puts a spin on traditional grilled cheese with fresh California mozzarella, cheesy pesto and a California Dry Jack cheese frico coating.

“The entire group of chefs is really the best of the best and brought so many innovative ideas for takeout that consumers would really crave,” said Bob Carroll, vice president of business development for the CMAB. “The winning dishes not only showcased California dairy in creative applications, but also how cheese and dairy products as ingredients help elevate everything from comfort to Cal-Mex dishes. We’re thrilled to be able to amplify and celebrate the creativity of the foodservice community in this way.”