Local Chef Wins Big at San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival 2016

Chef Mark Kropczynski of the US GRANT Hotel's Grant Grill was crowned “Chef of the Fest” at the 2016 San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival’s Grand Tasting on Nov. 19

ChefofFestWinner-SDBWFF2016-cROP
Courtesy of the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival

With a perfectly-cooked and artfully plated grilled lamb loin, one local chef won top honors this year at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival’s “Chef of the Fest” competition.

Executive Chef Mark Kropczynski, of The US GRANT Hotel’s Grant Grill, won the culinary contest on Nov. 19 at the Lexus Grand Tasting, an annual event that marks the grand finale of the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.

Kropczynki’s winning dish was Grilled Lamb Loin with Pumpkin Seed Oil and Fig Vincotto, which also won the Meat Category of the competition. In addition to major bragging rights, the chef shared a purse of more than $50,000 in cash and prizes at the competition.

The Chef of the Fest contest was judged by the San Diego Chapter of the American Culinary Federation, as well as guest judges, using a blind-tasting format.

This year, those guest judges included: Suzette Gresham, executive chef of San Francisco’s Acquerello; Urs Emmenegger, executive chef at Casa De Manana and President of the ACF Chefs and Culinarians of San Diego; Dean James Max, president of
DJM Restaurants, James Republic; Nic Vanderbeeken, executive chef of Viceroy Bali’s CasCades Restaurant; Chad White, chef and restaurateur.

Kropczynski and 34 other chefs presented their best dishes and the pot was then narrowed down to five finalists and five category winners using a graded point system. Participants were ranked based on cumulative scores considering the presentation, flavor, innovation and quality of product and preparation of their delicious dish in the allotted time.

Kropczynki’s big first-place victory this year is especially sweet because last year, the chef took home fourth place in the competition with his Buddha’s Hand Citron, boasting cake, curd, marmalade, hibiscus ice cream and syrup.

According to the chef’s biography on the Grant Grill website, Kropczynski’s philosophy in the kitchen is to keep things simple, yet elegant.

Kropczynski has been in the culinary industry since he was 15 years old, when he began working in commercial kitchens. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and went on to study in France, gaining extensive experience in classical French cooking techniques. Kropczynski’s dishes are also influenced by Swiss and German cooking styles. The chef joined the Grant Grill in 2006.

Kropczynski is an avid fisherman and lobster diver. At the Grant Grill, he is known for creating California cuisine with seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients.

Other 2016 Chef of the Fest winners at the Grand Tasting included:

Second Place Winner:
Accursio Lota – Solare Ristorante
Californian Pistachio Mousse | Chocolate Crumb | Hazelnut Infusion

Third Place Winner:
Trevor Chappell – The Barrel Room
Smoked Porchetta | Almendrado Sauce | Caramelized Pear | Peppercress | Grilled Baguette 

Fourth Place Winner:
Evan Cruz – Arterra Restaurant
Duck | Pear Chutney | Mustard Seeds | Mustard Frill

Fifth Place Winner:
David Warner – Decoy Dockside Dining
Curried Garnet Yam | Liquid Cornbread | Pomegranate | Mustard Seeds | Shaved Fennel | Pickled Red Onions | Brown Butter Crumble | Mustard Greens 

Meat Category Winner:
Mark Kropczynski – Grant Grill
Grilled Lamb Loin | Roasted Baby Root Vegetables | Pumpkin Seed Oil | Fig Vincotto

Poultry Category Winner:
Evan Cruz – Arterra Restaurant
Duck | Pear Chutney | Mustard Seeds | Mustard Frill

Seafood Category Winner:
Aaron Thomas – AVANT Restaurant
Crispy Nori | Cured Hamachi | Salted Plum | Pickled Cucumber | Yuzu

Vegetarian / Raw Category Winner:
David Warner – Decoy Dockside Dining
Curried Garnet Yam | Liquid Cornbread | Pomegranate | Mustard Seeds | Shaved Fennel | Pickled Red Onions | Brown Butter Crumble | Mustard Greens 

Dessert Category Winner:
Accursio Lota – Solare Ristorante
Californian Pistachio Mousse | Chocolate Crumb | Hazelnut Infusion

The annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival is a showcase of the world’s premiere wine and spirits producers, chefs and gourmet food, with a spotlight on San Diego’s thriving dining scene.

This year, it was held Nov. 14 through Nov. 20, with many cool culinary events throughout the week, culminating with the Grand Tasting, which featured scrumptious samples from more than 150 wineries, breweries and spirits companies, plus bites from dozens of local chefs representing 60 of San Diego’s top restaurants.

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