Vegas Uncork'd Chefs Compete In Chase Sapphire Preferred Grill Challenge

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Grill Challenge will take place during Bellagio’s Block Party at the seventh annual Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit on Saturday, May 11, at 8:45 p.m. Chase Sapphire Preferred®, a premier travel rewards card from Chase, in partnership with Bon Appétit, will host the live culinary challenge.

Vegas Uncork’d

Bellagio Block Party
Bellagio Block Party

The cooking challenge puts grilling skills to the test as celebrity chefs and restaurateurs, Akira Back, executive chef of Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant & Lounge at Bellagio, and Todd English, chef, Olive’s at Bellagio, battle live on-stage to create the ultimate barbecue feast.

The winning team will receive $20,000, presented by Chase Sapphire Preferred to help fund the student’s culinary education and dream of becoming a world-class chef. An additional $5,000 will be presented to the runner-up.

“I am thrilled to participate in the Chase Sapphire Preferred Grill Challenge to help fund a local culinary student’s schooling,” said Todd English, chef, Olive’s at Bellagio. “Vegas Uncork’d is the perfect stage for a live grilling challenge that supports the next generation of Las Vegas culinary talent.”

Two talented students from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in Las Vegas will be given the opportunity to participate as sous chefs during the event.

Todd Huelsman (on Team Todd English):
Huelsman, a single father of two, questioned his ability to pursue his passion as a chef at an older age and later stage in his career. Lost, he reached out to Chef Todd English for career guidance and to his surprise Chef English responded and advised Todd to not give up and pursue his hunger to become a chef. Fast forward to today and this has come full circle as Huelsman will grill alongside Chef English and thank him in person for his inspiration and advice that changed his life.

Andrew Merfalen (on Team Akira Back):
As an Islander of Guam, Merfalen is no stranger to grilling as grilled vegetables and meats are a staple at their Fiesta celebrations. Merfalen has a passion for cooking and creating and will use the winnings to attain his Associates Degree in May 2014.

One year ago, Huelsman sent a letter to Todd English in hopes of receiving guidance on how to remake himself as a chef after building a career in insurance to support his two children. To his surprise, English responded and advised him to never give up and to follow his dream. Huelsman enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute – inspired to make it.

Bon Appétit restaurant and spirits editor, Andrew Knowlton, will serve as emcee and head judge for the event, while Robin Leach, entertainment and celebrity reporter, and a Chase Sapphire cardholder will also judge the chefs culinary creations and select the winners.

The event is part of the 7th annual Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit, a week-long food, wine and spirits festival in partnership with Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand and Chase Sapphire Preferred. This unique culinary festival brings together famed Las Vegas resorts, celebrity chefs, master sommeliers and true food fans in celebration of the Las Vegas culinary scene and growing food community.

“Las Vegas is one of the nation’s top culinary travel destinations and we are excited to celebrate the food and talent that continues to thrive and emerge from this city,” said Sean O’Reilly, general manager, JP Morgan Chase. “Chase Sapphire cardholders are passionate about unique food experiences. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Grill Challenge not only creates an opportunity for cardholders to taste and witness true culinary magic first-hand, but also allows them to be a part of something greater by raising awareness for local aspiring chefs.”

As part of its presenting sponsorship, Chase Sapphire offered cardholders the ability to redeem credit card rewards points or purchase tickets to select Vegas Uncork’d events – and enjoy exclusive perks, such as preferred seating, VIP lounge access and a private brunch with acclaimed Chef Julian Serrano. Photo credit: Vegas Uncorkd

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Bill Cody is an entertainment, technology and luxury travel reporter in Las Vegas. He reports on celebrities, events, tech, food, Las Vegas and luxury travel.

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