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Meet the Culinary Artists Behind the Easton Chef’s Challenge

FoodE here with some of my favorite chefs to get the scoop on the upcoming Easton Chef’s Challenge. Anticipation for the event is heating up as chefs from five of Easton’s premiere dining locations prepare to slice through the competition.

If you’re a big fan of Food Network shows like “Chopped,” you’ll love the Easton Chef’s Challenge. In this competition, you can watch chefs test their culinary skills in elimination rounds at Whole Foods Market on October 10 and 17. Then, observe as one of Easton’s culinary artists rises above the rest in the final Chef’s Challenge round on October 24. The winner of this year’s Chef’s Challenge will earn bragging rights and $1,000 in prizes. Come see who makes the cut. This is one fun thing in October you won’t want to miss!


Isaac Holzworth from Smith & Wollensky

Isaac has been experimenting at the stove since he could walk up to it and start reading cookbooks. He’s been in restaurant kitchens for 29 years and an executive chef for 15. Seasonality, mood and availability all affect what Isaac decides to create. To Isaac, putting love into your food is one of most important parts of cooking. This, and the communal aspects of food, are all part of why he enjoys using his culinary expertise to cook for friends and family.


Jason Mrugacz from Fadó Irish Pub

Jason is passionate about the art and science of cooking. One of his favorite cuisines to cook is good old-fashioned comfort food. Which, for him, always brings a little nostalgia with it. With the guidance of his parents, Jason started cooking around 7 years old. For Jason, cooking has always been a part of family functions, and he feels the best part of good food is its ability to make others happy. Jason prides himself on being able to take a simple dish, use his creativity and farm fresh ingredients to make it more elaborate. His ability to make straightforward dishes more intricate is a skill he’s hoping to show off at this year’s Easton Chef’s Challenge. If you’re cooking from home, Jason’s advice is to never be afraid to experiment because you might pleasantly surprise yourself.

Shawn Burkepile from Ted's Montana Grill

For Shawn, the culinary industry has always been a major influence in his life and now that he's in the industry he can't imagine leaving. Shawn has been with Ted's Montana Grill since they opened in 2016. When he's not in the kitchen, he enjoys fishing. Shawn is grateful to be included in this year's competition and cook alongside some great Easton chefs! If he had to choose a favorite dish, it would be pasta. There are so many possibilities with the dish and it goes great with garlic, his favorite ingredient. His advice for all the chefs at home is to cook from the heart, plain and simple. 



Norman Speakes at McCormick and Schmick’s

Norman has been in Columbus for 30 years. He decided to become a chef because food has always been part of his life and it seemed like the natural next step. Aside from cooking, Norman enjoys coaching little league and racing motorcycles. At this year’s competition, he is looking forward to intensifying the flavor of his dishes by showing off his reduction skills. Norman loves Italian food and enhancing flavors by using his favorite spice, cilantro. His advice to all the culinary artists at home is to never skimp on seasoning!


Steve Zaborski from Mitchell's Ocean Club

Steve started cooking because his mom inspired him to experiment in the kitchen. She was his inspiration to go to culinary school. Along with cooking, Steve is passionate about backpacking, snowboarding and playing music. He’s looking forward to sharing his culinary skills in the competition, loves using meat in his dishes and enjoys cooking anything braised.

What’s your favorite part about cooking? Share your own culinary expertise in the comments below!

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With more than 26 million visitors per year, Easton is the Midwest’s premier shopping, dining, and entertainment destination featuring nearly 300 best-in-class retailers alongside Columbus’ most exciting dining options, Ohio’s largest movie theatre, a world-class comedy club, and pedestrian-friendly open-air town squares, fountains, and parks.

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