Local chef competes in Bahama Breeze ‘Top Chef’ competition

KATHY CHANG/STAFF

WOODBRIDGE – With a savory Cajun jambalaya bowl, Nicholas Salazar, who has been a team member and chef at Bahama Breeze for more than five years, came out on top in his location’s “Top Chef” battle.

For his win, he was able to battle eight other chefs in Bahama Breeze’s northeast regional “Top Chef” battle on April 2, held at the King of Prussia location in Pennsylvania, for a chance to win a cash prize of $1,000 and an opportunity for his dish to make it on the restaurant’s menu.

“I wanted to improve my skills,” Salazar, of Fords, said of entering the competition for the first time.

Each competitor received 30 minutes to prepare and create three dishes using the ingredients in the Bahama Breeze kitchen and one ingredient from outside of the restaurant if the chef decided to.

Salazar said he just used ingredients from the kitchen, which included shrimp, chicken, spicy sausage, seafood, green peppers and red onions with rice.

The judging panel scored upon presentation, temperature, taste and creativity. The contestants had to prepare enough for 80 people in the final competition.

Jesse Farina, general manager at Bahama Breeze in Woodbridge, said the competition is in its fourth year. The northeast region has nine restaurants. A winner is chosen from each location for the final competition.

“The competition has grown over the years,” he said.

Farina said the competition not only gives an outlet to their talented chefs, but also gives local restaurants an outlet to give back to the community through charity from the Make-A-Wish Foundation to local children hospitals.

During the final competition event some 80 guests sampled and scored the dishes. The winner was chosen by a panel of local judges including special guest Bahama Breeze Executive Chef Peter Olsacher.

Salazar fell short in the final “Top Chef” regional competition. First place went to Jose “Shorty” Gonzalez from King of Prussia with a short rib mac n’ cheese dish, second place went to Guillermo Candia from Christiana, Delaware, with a seafood volcano dish, and third place went to Mike Torrent from Wayne, with a salmon with polenta dish.