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Arkansas State Parks Holds Annual Top Chef Competition

Arkansas State Parks Holds Annual Top Chef Competition

Park Chefs Will Test Their Culinary Skills


(Little Rock, AR) February 22, 2018

Arkansas State Park chefs will partner with Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute to compete in a Top Chef competition on Thursday, February 22, 2018. Each team will be judged on their entrée to earn the title of Arkansas State Park’s Top Chef.  There will also be a People’s Choice Award. 

“It was an idea we thought of a few years ago to highlight the fact that we have some really good restaurants in state parks,” said State Parks Director Grady Spann. “There are 8 restaurants that serve our public during the season or year round. This is a healthy competition as well as a team building opportunity.”  

There will be two parts to the competition: the traditional judging and the judging from peers and fellow conference attendees.  Contestants will need to be prepared to share sample sized versions of their entrée and dessert to accommodate 40 attendees.  Participants will also need to consider how the items will be displayed on their park’s table and come prepared to enhance the presentation. 

The team from the Ozark Folk Center State Park won last year’s competition. Assistant Restaurant Manager Jessica Sterlin was thrilled.

“Winning the 2017 State Park Top Chef competition meant that we go to proudly showcase Arkansas’s diversity and opportunities for locally produced foods,” said Sterlin.

Here are the details:

  • The surprise component of the competition will be the creation of an entrée and sides from the pantry with all supplies provided at Pulaski Technical College.  Each team needs only to be prepared to be creative. 


  • Each team will bring a desert that is a healthy alternative to a traditional favorite.  The dessert can be fully prepared or created on-site. 


Teams will consist of a “Chef” and “Sous Chef” from each park and a student from the Pulaski Tech Culinary Team.  Teams will be decided between the restaurant managers and park superintendents. 

The judges will consist of State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commissioners, a chef from Pulaski Tech and representatives from agencies that work with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Below are the criteria upon which competitors will be judged.




Taste and Temperature

Overall taste of ingredients and appropriate temperature of dish

Minimum Points – 1

Maximum Points - 5


Appearance and plating

Minimum Points – 1

Maximum Points - 5

Team work

Work habits, techniques, safety

Minimum Points – 1

Maximum Points - 5


Development of dish and use of the “Arkansas Ingredient”

Minimum Points – 1

Maximum Points - 5



clean and neat working habits and work station

Minimum Points – 1

Maximum Points - 5


General Guidelines: teams will prepare four (4) plated meals.

 • Desert can be prepared off-site or on site.

• Sauces must be produced during the competition.

• Any dressings are to be prepared during the competition.

• Teams must leave the workstation in a neat and tidy condition; this is part of the judging criteria.

Sequence of Events:



12:00 p.m.

Facility and pantry tour for contestants Briefing for judges

12:15 – 2:00 p.m. (15 minute staggered entrée delivery times)

Preparation and Cooking Time

Each team will prepare four identical plates to present to the judges (smaller portions are appreciated to reduce waste)

1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.


Presentation of Dish and Judging

Note: Dish must be presented on scheduled time to avoid point deduction in the Team Work category.

2:15 p.m.

Declaration of Winner


The Top Chef competition will take place at the Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute located at 13000 Interstate 30 Little Rock, AR.

For further information or questions please contact:

Meg Matthews

Arkansas State Parks Public Information Coordinator

(501) 682-2873 – Desk

(501) 837-3086 - Cell