( Courtesy California Giant )

California Giant Berry Farms’ Third Annual Chef Invitational is moving online and add a philanthropic component, giving non-profits the ability to win cash prizes.

The event’s online format, a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, allows trade and consumers to watch and participate, according to a news release.

“Understanding that the foodservice category was hit hard by shelter-in-place orders and business closures, it didn’t take long for us to realize we needed to bring this competition online so that the show could go on,” Tom Smith, director of foodservice and organic sales, said in the release. “As we have all been faced with adapting to the reality of what has been ‘normal’ for the past few months, we are equally hopeful that this event can re-focus and rejuvenate each of us as we tell our stories through food, friendship and continued partnership in the Chef Invitational.”

The finalists for this years competition, who they work for, their entry and their chosen charity are:

  • Adam Walkover, Markon Coop/Gordon Food Service, Blackberry Sweet Tea Glazed Pork Tenderloin, Cannonball Kids Cancer;
  • Robert Stegall-Smith, Performance Foodservice, Petite Grilled Brie Sandwich with Blueberry Hibiscus Jam, White Chocolate and Onion Mole, Sesame Crusted Strawberries, and Berry Salsa Fresca, Palmetto Place – Children & Youth Services;
  • Anthony Palermo, Performance Foodservice, Blueberry Pasta Fritta with Raspberry Mascarpone and Crushed Pistachio, Freedom Service Dogs of America;
  • Chris Desens, Performance Foodservice, Warm Blueberry Gooey Butter Cake with Lemon Ricotta Sherbet and Mixed Berries, No Kid Hungry;
  • Sam Blackburn, Sodexo, Pan Seared Pacific Halibut with Spicy Pickled Strawberries, Fermented Blueberry Bacon Fried Quinoa and Blackberry Mushroom Sauté, Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation’ and
  • Bill Barker, Markon Coop/Gordon Food Service, Tres Berry Cakesicles, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The Chef Invitational runs through July 8, with the chefs and their creations promoted on social media. The People’s Choice winner and corresponding non-profit will each receive $500. Past winners and other culinary professionals will choose the Top Chef, who will receive $1,000, along with his chosen charity. The Top Chef will be California Giant’s brand ambassador for a year.

“One of the greatest rewards from this event over the past several years has been the camaraderie and community that has developed around it,” Smith said in the release. “Although the platform has changed from previous years, our commitment and focus on making it great remains the same.”

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