SAN ANTONIO, Oct. 9, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Some of the best cooks from Church's Chicken® company and franchise restaurants competed with fire and flair at the Excellence in Leadership Conference (ELC) in San Antonio, Texas. The contest's participants, four international and eight domestic contestants came from all corners of the world – Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Alabama, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, and as far away as Bahrain, Mexico, and Guyana. They were selected to participate in the brand's first-ever Master Chicken Chef contest, a big cookout during the ELC, sponsored by Procter & Gamble. The contest included two judges and 12 contestants from across Church's worldwide family of restaurants. The 12 cooks selected were flown to San Antonio for the conference and received recognition throughout the event as well as prizes for their participation.
"This contest was a first for us and is an example of our initiatives and goals related to culinary innovation, which is important to the brand," said Felicia White, Senior Director of Training and Development at Church's Chicken. "It was also very important to us to take advantage of the chance to honor and showcase some of the behind-the-scenes faces and unsung heroes from our kitchens –the people who make it happen and add the flavor to our brand every day."
The competition began to sizzle back home at Church's Chicken restaurants throughout the world, long before the ELC, as contestants went through the Church's Chicken PHD certification process. The cooks took tests and completed in-person evaluations during which they were recorded and scored on their bone-in chicken and boneless tenders cooking procedures. The cooks that were certified were then considered to be part of the group that would go on to the ELC to compete.
"We were really looking for those cooks who had mastered the art of delivering the quality flavor Church's is known for, in our bone-in chicken and Tender Strips®. They proved their mastery by going through our PHD program," continued White. The selected 12 contestants, who are active cooks at Church's restaurants and some of the best cooks of the brand, were taken off of the schedule so that they could further perfect their skills before heading to the conference.
As exciting as it was to be selected for many of the cooks, the Master Chicken Chef contest was also a journey of a lifetime for some. Jerry Anthony Taylor of Memphis, Tennessee, for example, traveled by plane for the first time ever to attend the conference and compete. "This was one of the most exciting things I have done --not only was this my first time on a plane but I really enjoyed and appreciated the honor of being part of the event and the contest, which gave us the opportunity to get to know the brand a lot better and to see how we really do make a difference every day," said Jerry. "Seeing all of our team players was amazing." Some of the contestants coming from international countries had similar experiences – either never before being on a plane, or this being the first occasion they ever had to obtain a visa or passport.
The complete list of 12 cooking heroes included: Jose Luis Gonzalez of Houston, Texas; Juan Manuel Guerra of San Antonio, Texas; Jose Martin Rocha of Mission, Texas; Itzayana Nevarez-Rivera of Hobbs, New Mexico; Maria Martha Velazquez Resendex of Phoenix, Arizona; Myron McClinton of Metarier, Los Angeles; Robert Moore of Birmingham, Alabama; Jerry Anthony Taylor of Memphis, Tennessee; Jose Luis Naveira of Puerto Rico; Eric Catabay of Bahrain; Abraham Cervantes of Mexico; Roxanne Watts of Guyana.
When they arrived at the ELC, the contestants' first order of business was an orientation meeting with lead judges, Luis de la Torre and Ruben Flores, who welcomed them and got them ready to compete. During the contest, at an outside kitchen set up for the event, the 12 chefs were busy cooking and preparing batches of bone-in chicken and tenders, following the contest's outlined procedures. The chicken masters were given points for following the established procedures and steps to follow.
"They all had to strictly follow Church's methods. We have very specific procedures that must be followed when making our chicken and tenders in restaurants," said White. "They were looking at hitting every step according to the manual as outlined –how we bread the chicken, the way we place it in the fryer, and the quality of the product once it is finished."
Each chef's finished product was graded on appearance and taste. Jose Luis Naveira of Puerto Rico received the contest's highest score and became the first-ever Church's Master Chicken Chef. He was crowned during the gala awards dinner with a $1,000 cash prize. The second- and third-place winners, Abraham Cervantes of Mexico and Maria Martha Velazquez Resendex of Phoenix also received cash prizes, and all other participants were recognized at the dinner and received $250 cash prizes. All the contestants were also highlighted throughout the conference with special ribbons on their name badges and VIP seating in all of the conference's sessions.
"We had such a great time with the contest that we will be incorporating it to the conference next year --we'll probably also include biscuits and have individuals who can compete on side items," added White. "This was a great success for the brand."
About Church's Chicken®
Founded in San Antonio, TX in 1952 by George W. Church, Church's Chicken, along with its sister brand Texas Chicken® outside of the Americas, is one of the largest quick service chicken restaurant chains in the world. The brands specialize in Original and Spicy Chicken freshly prepared throughout the day in small batches that are hand-battered and double-breaded, Tender Strips®, honey-butter biscuits made from scratch and freshly baked, and classic, home-style sides all for a great value. Church's Chicken and Texas Chicken have more than 1,500 locations in 23 countries and global markets and system-wide sales of more than $1 billion. For more information, visit www.churchs.com. Follow Church's on Facebook at www.facebook.com/churchschicken and Twitter at www.twitter.com/churchschicken.
Contact: Kim Miller
SOURCE Church's Chicken