FRESH chef winner in nationwide competition

Published on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 23:57 - Written by Christine Gardner, food@tylerpaper.com

In June, Michael Brady, executive chef at FRESH by Brookshire’s, was selected to compete in the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) Supermarket Chef Showdown.

More than 130 supermarket chefs representing 30 retailers submitted recipes in five categories for the competition. Ultimately, the top 25 finalists were selected to compete live at the FMI conference in Chicago in a kitchen stadium-type venue for a panel of celebrity judges.

Brady prepar-ed his original recipe for Banana Beignets with Buttermilk Gelato and White Wine Vanilla Honey in a showdown-style competition against four other chefs from across the country.

Recipes were judged on criteria including taste, presentation, level of difficulty, use of ingredients and creativity. Chefs were required to use at least three eligible ingredients in their recipes and prepare them in 20 minutes or less.

He was named overall winner in the dessert category and received a trip for two to the 2015 Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

“Michael is a very talented chef, and I am proud he had the opportunity to display his culinary skills on a national level,” Rick Rayford, president and CEO of Brookshire’s said. “This accomplishment further proves Michael’s ability to create recipes that are both unique and delicious — exactly the types of dishes he develops every day for our FRESH by Brookshire’s store.”

A Shreveport native, Brady joined Brookshires as executive sous chef at FRESH when the store opened in 2011 and was promoted to executive chef in 2012. He graduated from Johnson & Wales University and has worked at several restaurants throughout the South. Brady helped develop and open the Wine Country Bistro in Shreveport with his brother and in 2010 was named one of Louisiana Cookin’ magazine’s “Chefs to Watch.”

In a recent interview Brady recounted some of the most interesting and anxious moments of the competition.

TMT: Tell me more about the FMI organization and what they do for grocery store chefs?

MB: “So, FMI is a pretty big player in the retail-grocery world. You could say they are the NFL of the grocery store industry. There is a group within FMI that sees the trends where chefs are going within the industry.

Chefs in grocery stores share some of the same ideals. We loved the mayhem in the restaurant world, but once you get married and have kids it’s not a conducive lifestyle. Two conflicting schedules completely collide.

FMI is working to open avenues to showcase these chefs. This is the second year for the competition and I am excited to be at the ground level. This will help expose some of Brookshire’s Co. great concept to the marketplace. I am very excited to be able to jump in this arena and represent FRESH.”

TMT: Did you have a chance to try some of the great restaurants in Chicago and see what Chicago-area chefs are doing?

MB: “Chicago is an awesome city. Kristen and I went to Moto and Alinea (No. 9 on the list of best restaurants in the world), and then we ate at some awesome family bistros and had plenty of good street food.

We talked the whole time about how we miss and love big city life, but also how we really love Tyler. Big cities offer diversity in culture and flavor, but often they lack the perks of a small town. Things like being family oriented, minimal traffic and knowing your community is safe and comfortable for your children and family. We hope that I can keep working towards more opportunities to travel, compete and share what’s going on with FRESH, and keep coming back to share the experience, back home, with Tyler.”

TMT: When you watch these competitions on television there’s always a lot of scurrying around and panic over ingredients and limited time. Did you have some anxious moments as you tried to finish your dish for the judges?

MB: “I think the biggest anxiety came from the fact that I had to be at the McCormick Center at 7 a.m. and then my category did not compete until 2 p.m. The facility is huge. About the size of a small town! So finding where I needed to be early in the morning and then anxiously waiting all day was a little nerve-racking.

But at 2p.m., I was ready to rock! I love these kinds of things and the pressure. I’m a pretty intense dude. So, being in front of people, with a 20 minute stopwatch in my face, having to prepare from scratch banana beignets, create six plates and stand in front of an intense panel of judges is right up my alley. I came from 15 years of fast-paced restaurants and I’ve learned to feed off the pressure.”

TMT: Was anyone there to cheer you on?

“It was very cool to see all the people from the BGC team that came out to support me. Brad and Ann Brookshire were by my side the whole time, along with CFO Mike Terry, Teresa Byrd and 10 other members of the BGC family. I am a big team guy, so that was great motivation to see how supportive and our company is with our team.”

You can meet Michael Brady at FRESH every Tuesday at 10 a.m. for Coffee Talk. It’s a brief cooking class that is free to the public and a fun time to learn more about the store and some of the chef-prepared items that are on the menu.