Ocean Prime’s Execuchef Sonny Pache is Crowned the Caesar Salad Champion 2012


Caesar salad with tomato bisque and wagyu beef grilled cheese sandwiches (left); Sonny Pache (right) photos by Melisa Oporto

All hail Caesar—salad! The American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF) held its 21st annual Caesar Salad Competition on Sunday at the Westin Galleria Hotel. This year 10 chefs faced off to see who would be crowned king and sadly, there could only be one victor.

I started off with Capital Grille’s Chef Keith Hanks’ Caesar salad with a side of perfectly cooked, succulent prime beef. The salad was light and a bit tangy. The flavor of the salad was greatly enhanced by fresh cracked pepper and the grilled prime beef seasoned with a porcini mushroom ash and topped with 12-year aged balsamic vinegar.

Jump for more photos from the event.

Chef Keith Hanks (left); Caesar Salad with prime beef and aged balsamic vinegar (right)

Hanks’ salad was the first I tasted and he earned the top spot in my book. I tasted salads from chefs Joel Harloff, Pete Harrison and Aaron Henschen.  Though they each had their own special details, Hanks’ was still number one. Not even Chef Jeffery Hobbs’ Caesar salad and soft buttery Southern-style biscuit could sway this Louisiana girl’s opinion.

Caesar Salad with a mini smoked gouda and leek souffle (left); Chef Mark McDaniel (right)

Chef Mark McDaniel of ReMARKable Affairs Café offered a delicious Caesar salad that substituted the tang of the anchovy with Dijon mustard and served it with a mini smoked Gouda and leek soufflé topped with pancetta bacon crumbles.

Inspired by his travels to Siena, Italy, the dish was a definite crowd pleaser.

“The soufflé was light as air. It just worked,” said Amari Hendricks, an attendee. Agreeing with Hendricks, I allowed Chef McDaniel’s salad to change my mind.

Caesar Salad with Grana Prada cheese (left); Aaron Henschen of Del Frisco's Grille (right)

Another notable Caesar I tried was Ocean Prime’s Chef Sonny Pache’s. His salad was coupled with a creamy tomato bisque and wagyu brisket grilled cheese sandwich. This delicious mouthful earned him the Caesar Salad Competition 2012 Champion title. When the votes were tallied, Chef McDaniel was second runner up, and Hanks was first runner up.

“I feel great,” Pache said. “I competed with chefs I look up to and have known for a long time. It was great to do this competition again for a second year.”

Caesar Salad with a savory, Southern biscuit (left); Jeffery Hobbs (right)


All in all, my top three placed and they are definitely Caesar salads you should try. I ended my tastings with three of Chef John Gatteys’ mini pumpkin pecan pies from Puttin’ on the Ritz catering, and the chefs agreed it was the exclamation point to an afternoon filled with delicious Caesar salad.

D Magazine intern Tiffany Thomas is a 22-year-old from Shreveport. She graduated from Northwestern State University of Louisiana in Natchitoches, LA. She enjoys writing, cooking, shopping, and eating.