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July 8-11, 2018 | Tehama Golf Club, Monterey, CA

As a thank you to our foodservice partners, we invited five chefs to showcase their skills and ingenuity in the 2018 California Giant Chef Invitational.

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

2018 Chef Invitational Top Chef

Luis Reyes

Berry, Tomato, and Beet Salad

2018 Chef Invitational People's Choice Winner

Shane Henderson

Strawberry Jalapeno Pancakes with Mixed Berry Syrup and Duck Wings

Meet the finalists and their foodservice distributor representatives, and discover their signature berry recipe

Shane Henderson


Shane’s passion for cooking began while learning on the job. After graduating high school, he enrolled at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication and Criminology. As a college student, Shane’s culinary passion grew while working at the Jonesboro Country Club. Shane enrolled at the prestigious culinary school at Johnson and Wales in Providence, RI. Not only did Shane excel at school, he also took full advantage of his time on the East Coast to learn time honored methods of preparing fresh seafood and to embrace the art of home-style Italian cooking. After culinary school, Shane returned to his native Arkansas and continued to hone his culinary and management skills. He has worked for a number of well-known establishments including John Brown University, Ridge Pointe Country Club, Simply the Best Catering and the Argenta Market. For the last seven years, Shane has served as Executive Chef for Ben E. Keith Foods, Mid-South Division, in North Little Rock. Shane lends his expertise to independent restaurant operators, nursing homes and hospitals. Shane contributes to the many philanthropic events and non-profit organizations that Ben E. Keith supports including Make-A-Wish, Thea Foundation, Argenta Community Theater, BOST and American Cancer Society. Shane taught at Pulaski Technical College’s Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management Institute for four years.

He has won the Salut au Restauranteur Award, the “Gold” Award presented by the Central Arkansas ACF for lifetime service to culinary education and was named Pro-Start Mentor of the Year. Shane serves as a member of the Arkansas Tech University Advisory board, the American Culinary Federation and Arkansas Hospitality Association.

Laura Vaughn

Award winning Pastry Chef Laura Vaughn started her career working in restaurants and private clubs, and her professional and educational experience includes a background in both pastry and savory cooking as well as teaching and sales. She joined US Foods in 2013 as Corporate Sous Chef, and quickly moved into the Bakery Product Development role, creating a robust portfolio of artisan breads, pastries and desserts sold nationally. After years of working with bakery manufacturers across North America and Europe, Laura went back to her roots in the kitchen and took the helm as Corporate Brands Chef. These days her role includes lending her culinary voice to new product concepts and acting as liaison between new product development, customers and sales teams.   

Matthew Lauer

Matthew Lauer discovered his passion for cooking while taking any and every culinary class that he could while in High School.  When he left home and started cooking for himself, he decided to follow his passion and enrolled in the Arizona Culinary Institute. From there he started to work his way up in different restaurants and continually to learn new techniques.  Eventually he moved back to Montana and landed one of the best cooking jobs as a at Sysco Montana where he gets to stretch his creativity and help customers.

Luis Reyes


Chef Luis Reyes, Executive Chef for Sysco Central Florida, has found the joy of helping local chefs and owners into finding their own flavor just like he enjoys cooking, this is thanks to the support and the opportunity given by the Sysco corporation. But the truth is, this isn’t what Reyes had always envisioned for himself.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, he first enrolled in a local college for an accounting career, but destiny had different plans for him. While he was in this path, he had the luck to work on a local Bakery, on which he started from the bottom as a dish washer, then started moving up into helping in the lines, serving pastries, and on from there, that’s what lighted the spark on him.

Besides that, he grew up always around his family who taught him that the dining table was the “center of family” and unconsciously feed and shaped his inner Chef and his passion for food. Without losing too much time, he moved into West Palm, FL, in the 96 and joined the ranks of the Florida Culinary Institute, where he graduated and formally started his successful chef career which included Hilton Corporation, The Breakers Hotel, Cucina Del’ Arte and Benvenuto Restaurant in the West Palm Beach area. He sits on the board in the American Culinary Federation Central Florida Chapter and also sits on the Advisory Board for Orange County Technical School.

Right now he is a very valuable piece of Sysco Corporation, leading the culinary team in Central Florida, as their Executive Chef, on where he has enjoyed the chance of being around exceptional people and celebrities, but he explains that the real satisfaction comes from helping and supporting small “mom and pops” restaurants that lack of great marketing budgets like some big chain restaurants.

And he knows this because, apart from being in charge of the kitchen, he is the one visiting their customer’s locations, talking to them, looking at the layout, the staff training, menu development and so many other details necessary to make a restaurant profitable and competitive.

Ty Baloca

Chef Ty Baloca was born and raised in Salinas, California. He graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco in 2002. Prior to graduating from culinary school, he completed a 3 month externship at the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, CA. After graduation, Ty relocated to Sacramento, California where he worked his way up from a line cook to the Executive Chef of Scott’s Seafood in Folsom where he worked for 8 years. He moved on from the restaurant business to become a Chef Instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts where he shared his real world experience with his students for a 3 year tenure. The past 4 years he has been a Corporate Chef for Renaissance Food Group as part of the Product Development Team.

Highlights from the Chef Invitational

These selected chefs traveled to the Tehama Golf Club in Monterey, California for a Chef Showdown, where they served a signature berry recipe in the first culinary cookoff of its kind.

Guests in Tehama were delighted by bite-sized samples from the chefs, and Chef Shane Henderson's Strawberry Jalapeno Pancakes with Mixed Berry Syrup and Duck Wings were selected by the crowd as People's Choice. Our panel of judges selected Chef Luis Reyes and his Berry, Tomato, and Beet Salad as the first Top Chef winner of the annual Chef Invitational. Chef Luis has been awarded:

  • A Crystal Engraved Trophy for him and his foodservice distributor representative company, Sysco
  • $250 Cash
  • An all-expense paid trip to California, valued at up to $3,000
Monterey Bay

Congratulations to Our Competitors

For more information, please reach out to: Tom Smith, Director of Foodservice tsmith@calgiant.com

Thank you to our local sponsors for providing product to be enjoyed by attendees to make this event a true, memorable culinary experience.