Johnson & Wales University (JWU) Charlotte student Sarah Rountree received top honors and the $10,000 grand prize in the 8th annual S&D Culinary Challenge, held Feb. 20.

This year's competition theme, "Show your Foodways with a Cold Brew Twist," challenged students to create an original Southern recipe using S&D's Toddy® cold brew coffee.

Rountree, a senior from Westport, CT, impressed the judges with her recipe for Cold Brew Coffee & Ancho Chile Braised Short Ribs. The following prizes were also awarded:

2nd Place ($4,000) – Emily Williams, a sophomore from Fort Mill, SC, for her recipe, Coffee by the Pound

3rd Place ($1,500) – Kentrell French, a senior from Sanford, NC, for his recipe, Coffee Kombucha Float.

"With her charismatic presentation and stellar, coffee-forward recipe, Sarah rose above her fellow chefs — taking home the largest grand prize ever for this event," said Helen Griffith, director of marketing for S&D. "All of the finalists put forth outstanding efforts, and S&D is proud to partner with JWU to engage with up-and-coming members of the culinary industry and support their future endeavors."

Additionally, Rountree's mentor, Luca Annunziata, Chef and Owner of Luca's Modern Italian Kitchen, earned $2,500 for his chosen charity — Piedmont Culinary Guild.

The other mentors who helped the finalists prepare for the competition were esteemed Charlotte-area chefs: Clark Barlowe, Chef/Owner, Heirloom Restaurant; Jon Fortes, Chef/Owner, Flipside Restaurant Group; Ashley LaRose, Executive Chef, Napa on Providence; and Mike Watson, Executive Chef, Libations Kitchen & Bar.

At the live event on Feb. 20, the final 10 dishes and presentations were judged by an expert culinary panel: Steve Sturm, Corporate Executive Chef, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill; Joe Kindred, Chef/Owner, Kindred and Hello, Sailor; Chase Gomez, Executive Chef, Charlotte Prime, LLC; and Peter Reinhart, Chef on Assignment, JWU Charlotte.