An innovative approach to using fresh grapes from California gave the winning edge to Elijah Gurman of Eden Restaurant, South Beach, Florida, in a nationwide foodservice recipe contest.

Gurman was awarded $1,500 in the California Table Grape Commission’s Foodservice Recipe Contest for his Grape Fennel Flan.

“Chefs, cooks, and culinary instructors from throughout the country were invited to participate, and we were very pleased with the quality and creativity we found among the entries,” says Cindy Plummer, vice president of domestic marketing for the commission. “It wasn’t an easy task, but we felt Elijah’s Grape Fennel Flan best represented the versatility of grapes as a culinary ingredient. And, of course, the flan was absolutely delicious.”

Second place honors and $1,000 went to Michael Watz, chef instructor at Washburne Culinary Institute in Chicago, for his Wine Country Shrimp, Pan-Roasted Grapes, and Manchego Cheese Salad. The third-place prize of $500 was awarded to Adam Hegsted, executive chef, Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort and Hotel, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for his Three Grape Salad and Walnut Dressing.

Gurman is a line cook/roundman at Eden and recent graduate from Johnson & Wales University, North Miami, Florida. He credits his inspiration for Grape Fennel Flan from working in California last summer and making and selling flans at a Spanish market there. “Grapes bring a lot of nuances to cooking, with a sweetness and acidity that perform well in both sweet and savory dishes,” Gurman says. “You can use them whole or sliced, sautéed, roasted – they’re very versatile. I really like pairing them with sweetbreads, too.”

Gurman’s flan features overlapping sliced red grapes lining flan ramekins prior to cooking. A well-spiced custard contains roasted fennel seeds, star anise, allspice berries’ and vanilla bean scrapings to form the flan. The flan is plated onto a swirl of Maple California Grape Spread, a combination of maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, coriander seeds’ and grapes. The dish is finished with grapes in a port/brown sugar/basil leaf glaze, salted pistachio caramel bars, and basil flowers.

For contest recipes and the text of the interview with winner Gurman, go to

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