The Rose Group, a franchisee of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar and Corner Baker Cafe restaurants in eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware, announced the winner of its 4th Annual Top Apple Chef competition, Applebee’s line cook Aimee Downes. 

Recently, nine Applebee’s employees were named regional winners, allowing them to compete for the coveted title of Top Apple Chef. The participants were challenged to showcase their creativity and imagination in the kitchen, and dish out their culinary creations to a panel of company judges. 

“We were incredibly impressed with this year’s line-up of talented employees who showcased their culinary skills throughout our Top Apple Chef competition,” says Jeff Warden, president and CEO of The Rose Group. “Our chefs are limited to following the recipes of menu items, so as a spin off of the famous Food Network show, we started this contest as a way to breakout of the traditional franchisee mold and allow employees to express their creativity in a fun way that goes beyond the normal work environment.” 

What stands out to the judges is a contestant’s ability to take risks with ingredients that would not typically be blended together and turn them into a mouth-watering recipe with an impressive presentation. This year, the finalists spiced up the competition by mixing unconventional ingredients, such as pairing strawberry and maple flavors with fish, and creating mouthwatering, gourmet specialties that kept the judges wanting more. 

The Rose Group’s culinary experts had the opportunity to taste and judge nine dishes prepared by the finalists. After lengthy deliberations, the panel declared Aimee Downes, from the Easton Commons Applebee’s, the Top Apple Chef Champion with her pancake-inspired Mediterranean Chicken. 

The runner up was Matt Gondeck with his rendition of Summer Essence Salmon, in which he grilled the salmon in a sauce combination that mixed strawberry vinaigrette and maple flavors. 

Downes turned up the heat by introducing pancake batter to a Mediterranean-inspired chicken dish. Red peppers and a drizzle of a balsamic glaze topped off her winning dish. 

This year’s panel of judges included: Jeff Warden, CEO of The Rose Group; Harry Rose, chairman of The Rose Group; and Jon Weber, Rusell Lambe, and Mary Burdenski from ASI.  

In addition to life-long bragging rights, each finalist took away a specialty chef knife, cash prizes, and an engraved plaque to be displayed in their stores. Downes took home an additional cash prize as well as a flat screen TV and the Top Apple Chef trophy.

The Rose Group's Top Apple Chef contest was open to all Applebee’s employees and consisted of four rounds: store finals, district semi-finals, district championships, and the annual Top Apple Chef Championship. 

In each round, contestants went head-to-head and displayed superior performance, but ultimately the most creative and inspiring dishes, and the chefs who created them, advanced to compete for the title of Top Apple Chef. The 4th Annual Top Apple Chef Championship was held at the Newtown, Pennsylvania, Applebee’s location. 

Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants, Industry News, Applebee's