Student Gillian Howard Wins 5th Annual S&D Culinary Challenge

S&D Culinary Challenge WinnerConcord-based S&D Coffee and Tea (S&D), the nation’s largest custom coffee roaster for the foodservice industry, is proud to announce that Johnson & Wales University (JWU) Charlotte freshman Gillian Howard took top honors in its highly competitive annual S&D Culinary Challenge held Feb. 24 at the school’s uptown Charlotte campus. The student chef, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, wowed a distinguished panel of judges and a packed auditorium with her hometown-inspired dish titled “A Tennessee Date Night,” coffee-infused date cake with tea and lemon ice cream, and walked away with the grand prize of $5,000.

Students were invited to submit original recipes using S&D coffee and tea extracts, with ultimately 10 submissions making it through to the finals round. Local culinary celebrities Jenny Brulé, chef and food writer, and Jim Noble, founder of Jim Noble Restaurants, LLC, The King’s Kitchen and Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen, served as chef mentors to the finalists preparing them for the head-to-head battle in the live cooking finale.

“During Gillian’s demo, her passion and sincerity came across loud and clear to everyone in that auditorium,” said John Buckner, vice president of marketing at S&D. “Each year we’re blown away by the talent and creativity of these young chefs and their eagerness to make a mark on the foodservice industry in Charlotte and beyond. Our culinary future looks bright and S&D is honored that, through our partnership with JWU, we do our part by investing in these rising stars.”

Gillian served in the United States Air Force for seven years before enrolling at JWU this past winter semester. “I loved serving the military and serving my country, but this is my dream and it doesn’t feel like work,” said Howard before overwhelmed with emotion. “Just being here today, means so much to me.”

The complete list of all the winners from the 2015 S&D Culinary Challenge are as follows:

Grand Prize Winner ($5,000)
Gillian Howard, freshman, Memphis, Tenn., Tennessee Date Night (coffee infused date cake with tea and lemon ice cream)

2nd Place ($1,500)
Joy Turner, junior, Lancaster, S.C., Coffee’s Aggressive Side (bacon-wrapped chicken livers with coffee gastrique)

3rd Place ($750)
Tracy-Ann Mitchell, sophomore, Portmore, Jamaica, Meat-luffin (meatloaf muffins with mashed potato topping and coffee and tea flavored vegetables)

Best Breakfast Recipe ($250)
Mikquell Nell, sophomore, Baltimore, Md., Chai Tea Waffle with Lemongrass Apple Butter and Chai Spiced Whipped Cream

Facebook Fan Favorite ($250)
Joy Turner

Best Demo Presentation ($250)
Gillian Howard

Finals judge chef Clark Barlowe, owner of Heirloom and JWU alum, understands the stress of competing in a culinary competition. “As someone who competes often, I was very impressed with all the students’ stage presence and their ability to perform so well under the pressure,” said Barlowe. “What these emerging chefs did takes a lot of finesse and culinary awareness, producing ‘restaurant ready’ dishes that inspire. These students definitely have what it takes to excel in this industry.”

Sitting alongside Barlowe on the judges panel were fellow JWU alums Jessica Foust, director of culinary innovation at McDonald’s USA, LLC, and Allison Oesterle, restaurant consultant formerly with Zaxby’s, as well as Michael LaDuke, corporate executive chef at The Capital Grille, and Eric Nakata, vice president of culinary and innovation at S&D Coffee and Tea. WCCB Charlotte’s resident funny man Jon Wilson, host of “Wilson’s World,” emceed the event. For more information on the competition, please visit

About S&D Coffee and Tea
S&D Coffee and Tea is the nation’s largest custom coffee roaster and supplier of iced tea to the foodservice industry. S&D is also a leading producer of liquid extracts. In continuous operation since 1927, the company serves over 100,000 customers through national distribution and direct store delivery. In 2013, S&D Beverage Innovations introduced MilkSplash®, a character-based flavoring platform that makes drinking milk awesome. Kids young and old now enjoy enhancing their milk and cereal with flavor friends like Jammin’ Banana, Orange Cream Dream, Strawberry Swirl and Cocoa Loco. For more information about S&D Coffee and Tea, go to For more information about MilkSplash™, please visit

About Johnson & Wales
Founded in 1914, Johnson & Wales University (JWU) is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with approximately 17,000 graduate and undergraduate students at its four campuses in Providence, R.I., North Miami, Fla., Denver, Colo., and Charlotte, N.C. An innovative educational leader, the university offers programs in business, nutrition, health sciences, hospitality, culinary arts, technology and education. Its unique model integrates arts and sciences and industry-focused education with work experience and leadership opportunities, inspiring students to achieve professional success and lifelong personal growth. The university’s impact is global, with alumni from 152 countries pursuing careers worldwide. For more information, please visit

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