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California Giant Berry Farms Chef Invitational 2022 logo
2022 Semi-Finalists
adrian day murchison

Adrian Day-Murchison


Adrian Day-Murchison grew up in Merced surrounded by family that made a point of showing her around the kitchen. Cooking with her parents and watching her grandmother create simple, yet delicious food from the bounties of her garden gave her hope that one day she may share that same happiness with her food.  

After graduating from Johnson and Wales University and Le Cordon Bleu, Adrian wanted opportunities that fed her creativity and drive. As such, she has worked for such companies as Compass Group, Hyatt Hotels, Le Cordon Bleu and Calavo as part of their Culinary Product Development Team.  

Being in the culinary field for over 20 years has offered Adrian a whirlwind of ups, downs, and elegant chaos at its finest. Adrian’s Central Valley roots provide her with a keen awareness of the bountiful produce grown in California. To share her passion and knowledge of food, Adrian volunteers in her community with local and national non-profit organizations, as well as local farms and high schools. 

Headshot - Christian Kearns

Christian Kearns


Christian Kearns is a Regional Culinary Specialist for Sysco Spokane. In his role, Christian coordinates all aspects of the culinary team including menu development, new product showcases, and customer culinary training. Christian has been in the restaurant industry for nearly 30 years, working as a chef, manager, and trainer, opening multiple restaurants throughout the country. He grew up in restaurants from a young age working with many different cuisine types, picking up worldly culinary techniques and trends which he uses to blend multiple cultural and regional cuisines.   

Headshot - Derek Seigfried

Derek Seigfried


After attending Virginia Tech for Engineering, Derek Seigfried studied Culinary Arts at New England Culinary Institute. Derek was fortunate enough to intern at The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. After school, Derek cooked in St. John, USVI for 3 years, before moving to Connecticut. Here, he worked under Michel Nischan at The Dressing Room, as well as Denise Appel at Zinc. Derek then opened Moxie in Madison as the Executive Chef, where he remained for 7 years. Currently, Derek holds the position of Culinary Specialist at Gordon Food Service where he consults with customers on menus, trends and innovation. 

dontreal haigler

Dontre’al Haigler


Dontre’al Haigler started as an English major at South Carolina State University before following his true passion for the culinary arts. He graduated from the Art Institute of Charleston with a degree in Culinary Management. He gained hands-on experience with homestyle cuisine as well as in the areas of deli, pizza, burger production, and various international fare while working within the foodservice system at South Carolina State University. Dontre’al joined Denny’s Product Development team in 2016. He has contributed to the success of the company with the development and launch of such products as the Co-Reactor pancakes which were a feature of the” Han Solo” movie LTO menu and the seasonal favorite, Double Chocolate Pancake Puppies.

jereme nemeth

Jereme Nemeth


Jereme started his Culinary Career at age 15 under Chef Jimmy Babb as a dishwasher, where he developed his passion for food and the hospitality industry. He continued to learn through work experience while training at the tech center under Chef Skip Ailstock, when he realized that food would be his chosen path for the future. While studying for BAS at Johnson & Wales University, he pushed himself to work in as many areas of the business as he could.   

His past career ventures include Executive Chef, Burtons Grill Charlottesville, Opening Chef at Whiskey Kitchen, Virginia Beach and Executive Chef at The Butcher’s Son in Chesapeake, Commune, Terrapin & Keegan’s Restaurant Groups.  

Currently Jereme is a Culinary Specialist at Sysco of Hampton Roads, where he has been for 5 years. He works with customers to build trusting relationships and trendy menus items enhancing operators’ success and profitability.  

marites cotillion

Marites Cotillion


Marites Cotillon was born and raised in the Bay Area of California. She graduated culinary school in 2014 and worked in her first professional kitchen at the Historical U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego at the age of 19. Marites then transitioned to the casino life where she was a Sous Chef for two venues. One of Marites venues was a banquet rooftop venue that held 400 people and played host to various events from multi-course dinner and a show to promotional high-roller cocktail parties, and weddings. The second venue was an elevated steakhouse where she imparted most of the creativity in the menu production and plating development. The steakhouse seated 200 and hosted multiple buyouts weekly. 

Currently, she works as the Banquet Chef at Stone Brewing in Escondido with an array of different locations for event space.   

michael boyer

Michael Boyer


Graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in 2004. 

Michael Boyer has been a Chef at multiple Nordstrom Restaurant locations across the country for 12 years, followed by 2 years as R&D Chef. Currently, Michael is a Food and Beverage Product Development Chef that is responsible for all recipe and product development as well as purchasing and supply chain for the Restaurant Group. 

Michael is corporately based in Seattle, WA but located remotely in Massachusetts. 

Michael is thrilled that 200+ Nordstrom Restaurant and Specialty Coffee locations in the US and Canada will be featuring fresh berries from 7/5 to 8/1. He is passionate about featuring a wide variety of dishes that highlight the flavor and fresh quality of berries. 

robert stegall smith

Robert Stegall-Smith


Robert Stegall-Smith is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and holds a Masters in Hospitality Administration from UNLV. His background includes experience in fine dining, private clubs, colleges and universities, B&I and healthcare before assuming the Corporate Chef position for IFH in 1996.  

Robert has been recognized by the American Culinary Federation as a certified executive chef since 1997, and was inducted into The American Academy of Chefs in 2005. He is a past president of the Midlands Chapter of the ACF and served as the ACF Chair on the South Carolina Hospitality Association’s Education Committee. His career holds a number of accolades and awards, ranging from being the first place winner in the 1999 S.C. School Lunch Challenge, to being  named the 2013 Chef of the Year in the Midlands and received the 2013 Richard M. Lee Culinarian of the Year award. 

Robert has been part of the Culinary Certificate program at the University of South Carolina since its inception. He also serves as a subject matter expert for ECPI University. 

Shea Zappia

Shea Zappia


Shea Zappia started his cooking career in my father’s restaurant when I was 13 years old.  The restaurant started as a humble neighborhood bar and grill in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY, which then grew into a popular casual fine dining destination. 

He attended culinary school in Buffalo, NY and was urged by one of my Chef instructors to try out for the American Culinary Federations Regional Hot Food Competition Team. He was then able to serve as team captain for three years, winning multiple medals.  

Shea left his father’s restaurant at the age of 21 and worked in various private clubs in the city while still competing and coaching young ACF culinarians in hot food competitions.  Shea got his first Sous Chef job at 24 years old in a casual fine dining restaurant in South Buffalo.  After 2 years as Sous Chef, he was promoted to Executive Chef and was nominated as Best Chef of Buffalo 2013 by the Buffalo News. Shea is currently the Executive Chef for Sysco Foods in Upstate New York working as a Culinary Specialist and Consultant. 

2020 Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the California Giant Chef Invitational! Thank you for making this event a success!

2020 Chef Invitational People’s Choice Winner

Chef Bill Barker

2019 Winners

2019 Chef Invitational Top Chef

Travis Peters

Sweet Tea Quail

2019 Chef Invitational People's Choice Winner

Jonathon Merrick

Gluten-Free Mochi Korean Street-Style Donuts
2018 Winners

2018 Chef Invitational Top Chef

Luis Reyes

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2018 Chef Invitational People's Choice Winner

Shane Henderson

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Sam Blackburn

"Working with California Giant Berry Farms has been a dream. I gained so much knowledge and insight about the produce industry and farming from the field tours and events and felt fortunate to enjoy the California Giant team as my host. I have gained meaningful friends and a wealth of insight from this competition!"

Sam Blackburn, 2020 Chef Invitational Winner

Travis Peters

"I loved getting to know fellow chefs and being creative with one of my favorite ingredients - berries. Having a mid-summer field tour and culinary competition brought out the best dishes I've seen in a long time."

Travis Peters, 2019 Chef Invitational Winner


"The opportunity to tour the farms, taste the product in the fields, participate in the competition and the honor to win the first Chef Invitational is something that I will always cherish. But most important are the friendships developed with the California Giant Berry Farms family, fellow chefs, growers and farmers that makes this event one of a kind."

Luis Reyes, 2018 Chef Invitational Winner


Highlights from the 2019 Chef Invitational