The National Restaurant Association today announced that Geoffrey Zakarian will host the fifth annual Restaurants Rock event and 2015 Star of the Bar competition finals at the 2015 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show and BAR (Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants).
Following six regional competitions in cities across the country, the finalists will be flown to Chicago in May to showcase their bartending skills at BAR, with the finals taking place at the Restaurants Rock. The industry celebration will be held at The House of Blues Chicago on Sunday, May 17 from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m.
“Mr. Zakarian is respected just as much for his culinary insight as he is his talents as a chef,” says John C. Metz, Convention Chair for NRA Show 2015 and CEO, executive chef, and co-founder of Marlow’s Tavern, Aqua Blue, and Sterling Spoon Culinary Management. “Restaurants Rock celebrates the accomplishment of the foodservice industry, and the individuals continuing to push the industry forward, so we can think of no greater host that Geoffrey Zakarian.”
For the featured programming of the Restaurants Rock event, this year’s Star of the Bar finalists competed in front of an esteemed panel of judges in Atlanta, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and New York. Each of these cities’ top bartenders were challenged to create an innovative cocktail using sponsor spirit, Casamigos Tequila, for a shot at the finals and a chance to win $5,000 at the finals. The following bartenders were selected as semifinalists from their respective markets:
- Atlanta: Madison Burch of modern American restaurant Seven Lamps combined Casamigos Tequila Reposado with Fresno chili-infused Sepp Zweigert, lime zest, Orgeat, and chocolate bitters for a spicy cocktail with a depth of flavor that she named “Once More with Feeling.”
- Chicago: Andrew Turner of Rockit Ranch Production’s Bottlefork created the “Elotéd,” a butter-washed Casamigos Tequila Reposado with lime juice, brown sugar, corn, allspice simple syrup, mole bitters, chili liqueur, roasted corn puree, egg white, chipotle chili powder, cayenne, pepper, and white hominy. In addition to the impressive ingredient list, Turner wowed the judges with his pre-cocktail treat of chicharrones and his whimsical Styrofoam cup presentation.
- San Diego: Stephen Tuttle of Kettner Exchange infused Casamigo Tequila Reposado with serrano pepper for his “Casa de Tiki,” which also featured mezcal, pineapple, lime juice, Orgeat, Falernum, Curacao, and black walnut for a complex cocktail with a pop of brightness and spice.
- San Francisco: Elmer Mejicanos of Italian eatery, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, crafted a whimsical food-centric cocktail named “Panadero” made with Casamigos Tequila Reposado, strawberry, Hot Infusion Siphon citrus tea, toasted bread, lemon juice, and walnut cordial, topped with mint foam.
- Las Vegas: Seong Ha Lee from members-only club Tokyo 365’s winning cocktail was called “Forbidden Amigo,” combining Casamigos Tequila Reposado with refreshing flavors of sage and ginger, bright apple and lime juices, and sweet honey.
- New York: Meagan Montagano from Brooklyn seafood and cocktail spot Extra Fancy combined Casamigos Tequila Reposado with Banane du Bresil, dry Curacao, lemon juice, and chocolate bitters garnished with grated chocolate and nasturtium flowers for her appropriately-named winning cocktail “Banana Danza.”
With a knack for culinary commentary after serving as a judge on shows such as Chopped and Top Chef, the 2011 winner of The Next Iron Chef will engage the crowd as emcee for Restaurants Rock. Currently, he also serves as co-host on the Food Network talk show, The Kitchen, currently in its fourth season. Zakarian has presided over some of the country’s top kitchens, and he still serves as executive chef and culinary director at several restaurants from New York to Atlantic City, including the renowned The Lambs Club in Manhattan. Drawing from his years of experience in the industry, Zakarian published his newest cookbook, My Perfect Pantry, in October 2014, offering home cooks 150 easy recipes from 50 essential ingredients that every pantry should stock. He will showcase these culinary talents at the NRA Show 2015 during a demonstration on the World Culinary Showcase stage, after which he will sign copies of My Perfect Pantry. For more insights on Zakarian’s work, visit www.geoffreyzakarian.com and follow Geoffrey Zakarian on Facebook, @gzchef on Twitter and gzchef on Instagram.
The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show is the largest annual gathering of restaurant, foodservice, and lodging professionals in the world. NRA Show 2015 will be held May 16-19 at McCormick Place in Chicago, and the 2015 BAR (Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants, formerly the International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event), held in conjunction with NRA Show, will take place May 17-18. The events attract 65,000+ attendees and visitors from all 50 states and 100+ countries, and showcase the latest products, services, innovative ideas, up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues, and growth opportunities. For more information, visit the NRA Show and BAR websites at Restaurant.org/Show and Restaurant.org/BAR, and find the NRA Show on Twitter @NRAShow, Facebook, Instagram @NRAShow, YouTube, Flickr, and our year-round content hub Brainfeed.