Channel Your Inner Chef: a dish, a story, a thousand lives

The thousand stories told by the dish that won the contest organised by HMSHost at Chicago O’Hare International Airport in the spirit of culinary innovation.

Sometimes, reality overcomes imagination. Whilst waiting for your flight, at Chicago O’Hare Airport, you sip a beer at one of the tables of Goose Island Brewery and order a dish of Blackened Jerk Chicken. You may not realise it, but in that moment just before boarding, you will have taken a significant journey and crossed the path of thousands of others, all while staying comfortably seated at the table. But how? Because it is by no coincidence that this dish of Jamaican flavours has been included on the menu - it was chosen from among many others. But let’s explore how it  all came to be...

HMSHost Sponsors the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards

It all began with the culinary innovation of HMSHost and the Group’s desire to  celebrate its proud sponsorship of the 2015 James Beard Awards Gala - the most important event in the US culinary industry.

The idea is revolutionary: a cooking contest open to employees and passengers of Chicago O’Hare International Airport, one of the world’s busiest airports with an annual traffic of more than 70 million passengers. Thus, HMSHost in partnership with the Chicago Department of Aviation created Channel Your Inner Chef, a first-of-its-kind recipe contest and cooking competition open to anyone visiting the US airport by simply proposing a recipe by means of a video lasting no more than five minutes.

The prize for the winner? Two VIP passes to the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala in May, two tickets to travel anywhere within the United States of America and, above all, the pride of seeing their dish included on the menu of one of the 80 restaurants managed by HMSHost within the airport.

But there is still a  long story behind the dish you are enjoying...

Channel Your Inner Chef, all the flavours of the world

Per partecipare al contest non serve essere cuochi professionisti, né una tecnica sopraffina, bastano fantasia, gusto e il coraggio di  mettersi in gioco.

You do not need to be a professional chef nor possess an excellent technique to take part in the contest, but you do need imagination, taste and the courage to put yourself out there.

Channel Your Inner Chef presents an incredible potential for a rich gastronomic experience: every day, Chicago Airport sees a stream of passengers from all over the world, who bring their culinary culture, tastes and gastronomic traditions with them.

In fact, during the week at the end of February when the video recipes are collected, a real roller coaster of flavours is experienced: from sushi to Mexican spices, from Italian cuisine to hamburgers. It is a real trip around the world for the panel appointed to choose the five competitors who will take part in the final cook-off of 31 March.

And this is where Nikkia Stone comes into play...

Nikkia Stone and her recipe for Blackened Jerk Chicken

Nikkia Stone is among five finalists called to prepare and present their recipes live at Chicago O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 2.

Nikkia works in the kitchen of one of the airport’s HMSHost restaurants and took part in the contest to put - first and foremost for herself - her skills and potential to the test.

The dish she  submits for the contest and eventually prepares for the crowd, Blackened Jerk Chicken, has a Jamaican history and flavour and a great deal of passion behind it.

The panel is called to assess not only the flavour of the dish, but also preparation technique, its presentation and the recipe as a whole, and is firmly convinced that Nikkia deserves to win.

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Your dish, a story, a thousand lives

Thus the dish you are enjoying, comfortably sitting at the table of Goose Island Brewery of Chicago Airport, comes from Jamaica, goes through the hands of an airport chef, and becomes the star of an innovative cooking competition, winning over flavours from across the globe.

But that is not all, because the Blackened Jerk Chicken you are enjoying allows you to take a journey while relaxing away the time you spend waiting for you flight in a tasty way. Simultaneously it has allowed Nikkia Stone to live a day as a great chef and fly across the United States of America. For both, we hope this is just the start!

Autogrill at Chicago O’Hare
Autogrill has been the main food and beverage operator at the airport since 1998. With more than 80 points of sales managed, the Group has made a key contribution in helping Chicago O’Hare become a top class hub in terms of airport dining options, as the various awards obtained for the airport’s supply of food and beverage services show.
The restaurants that won international awards in recent years include:

  • Beaudevin, “Best New Airport Bar 2013” at the Business Travel Awards assigned by Entrepreneur Magazine’s;
  • Wicker Park Seafood & Sushi, “Best restaurant design 2013” at the Airport Revenue News Award 2013; and
  • Tortas Frontera, “Best Fast Food/Quick Service Restaurant 2012” at the FAB Awards.


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