And the Winner of the S&D Coffee Culinary Challenge Is...

The S&D Culinary Challenge announces its grand prize winner, JWU Charlotte student Chainey Kuykendall

Now in its sixth year, the S&D Coffee & Tea ‪‎Culinary Challenge‬ at JWU’s Charlotte Campus is a highly competitive event that tests students’ culinary chops as well as creativity.

This year, students were asked to pay tribute to the Carolinas’ rich culinary heritage in their dishes, all of which were required to feature coffee or tea as a prominent ingredient.

Twenty semifinalists were narrowed down to 10 for the challenge finale, which took place at JWU Charlotte’s Hance Auditorium and was emceed by WCCB on-air personality Jon Wilson.

Student Dishes Pay Tribute to Southern Cuisine
Before a packed house, the student chefs — or, in some cases, chef-duos — described the inspiration behind their dishes and prepared them for an all-star panel of judges that included Brian Foye, president of Seasons 52, and Jenny Brulé, NBC Charlotte chef and cookbook author.

This year’s proud winners are:

  • 1st place: Chainey Kuykendall, “Cheerful Blend of Carolina” (coffee-marinated beef ribs with sweet potato)
  • 2nd place: Tracy-Ann Mitchell, “Southern Belle” (baked stuffed apples with sweet potato ice cream, coffee praline and ginger caramel sauce)
  • 3rd place: Joy Turner, “Low Country Jamm’in” (a refined take on Southern shrimp and grits)

Grand Prize winner Chainey took home the $5,000 check, while her chef-mentor Cody Suddreth also accepted a $5,000 donation on behalf of his restaurant, a nonprofit serving southern-inspired cuisine with proceeds feeding the poor and operating an on-site job-training program.

John Buckner, vice president of marketing at S&D, was deeply impressed by Kuykendall: ”Chainey’s unique approach to incorporating her Filipino background with her North Carolina upbringing was truly unique and memorable for everyone in that auditorium,” said Buckner. “The talent, creativity and eagerness of these up-and-coming chefs are something to celebrate. S&D is honored, through our ongoing partnership with JWU, to be able to engage the larger culinary community and provide real-life culinary experiences for the students so they can excel in the food service industry.”

Owen Beatty won Best Rub, Marinade or Sauce recipe, while powerhouse duo Taylor Hughes + Chance McWhorter won for Best Demo Presentation. Olivia Pedroff and Maria Meacher’s Southern Shrimp n’ Grits won Facebook Fan Favorite.

Meet all 10 of the finalists in this video:


  1. Taylor Hughes + Chance McWhorter, “I’ll Take My Coffee Black — In a Chocolate Raspberry Torte Cake” (chocolate coffee cake with raspberry reduction and chocolate-rum ganache)
  2. Brittany Plante, “Touch of the Y’all Sea” (coffee-rubbed tuna steaks with collard greens and sweet potato fritters)
  3. Joy Turner
  4. Brandon Staton, “Coffee in a Coop” (fried chicken in biscuits with a red-eye ham jam)
  5. Ashley Cutrona, “Not Your Mamma’s Biscuit” (coffee and cinnamon biscuit with sweet potato ice cream)
  6. Willard Baker + Watson, “Mini Coffamel Cheesecake” (mini cheesecakes with whipped cream toppings and coffee syrup)
  7. Olivia Pedroff + Maria Meacher, “Southern Shrimp n’ Grits” (shrimp and grits with chorizo-coffee gravy)
  8. Tracy-Ann Mitchell
  9. Owen Beatty, “S&Delicious BBQ Sandwich” (smoked, brined pork belly with Carolina cherry BBQ sauce and coleslaw dressing)
  10. Chainey Kuykendall

Working with Acclaimed Chef-Mentors
The student chefs were paired with a chef-mentor — including 3 JWU alums — to help them polish their dishes and their presentations.

  • Luca Annunziata, owner of Passion8
  • Clark Barlowe '09, owner of Heirloom
  • Blair Cannon '11, sous chef at Charlotte Country Club + 2012 Challenge winner
  • Jon Fortes '97, owner of Flipside Café
  • Cody Suddreth, executive chef at The King’s Kitchen

All of the chefs jumped at the opportunity to pass along their knowledge, with many of them fondly recalling their own experiences as mentees.

“The biggest influence on my career was Chef Matt Gennuso at Chez Pascal restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island,” Chef Barlowe. “He was the first chef to really take me under his wing and show me how to work with whole animals; how to change the menu seasonally; how to work with local ingredients and make them work with our own style.”

Meet each of the chef-mentors in this video:

Congratulations to all the amazing finalists, as well as their chef-mentors. Looking forward to next year’s competition!

Follow S&D Coffee & Tea on Facebook.

The S&D Culinary Challenge announces its grand prize winner, JWU Charlotte student Chainey Kuykendall