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A Delicious Endeavor

Invited's Chef of the Year contest brought culinary competitors and Members to Casa de Campo for a spectacular event

Chef Mike Dobias sauces up a dish.

Spectacular. That was the most common, jaw-dropping response heard from the five chefs, their guests and Club Members who attended the 2022 Chef of the Year Showcase at Casa de Campo Resort & Villas this past October. For the second year in a row, event attendees marveled at dishes prepared by some of Invited’s most talented chefs, each of whom arrived at Casa de Campo, a preferred Invited Resort Partner on the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, as a result of having received the most votes through two rounds of nationwide member voting.

Chef Daniel VigliottI prepares a dish.

“The Chef of the Year event is such a great mix of work and fun for our finalists. They each get to put their best foot forward one last time as they vie to be crowned Chef of the Year,” explains Sean DiCicco, senior vice president of food and beverage for Invited, who proudly supports the culinary recognition program. “The Chef of the Year Showcase event is extremely important to our company culture. Recognition of talent in the organization is vital and part of our inner circle.”

That spirit of accomplishment was especially meaningful to Hartfeld National’s head chef, Daniel Vigliotti. “It will be one of the most memorable experiences in my life. Just knowing that I was considered one of the best in our company has ignited my culinary creativity even stronger. Being selected a finalist also helped build a great esprit de corps among my staff. It was not just my actions that were being represented. The nomination was a team accolade. I am most proud of my team for getting us there.”

Upon arrival at Casa de Campo, the Invited chefs were introduced to their two-person support staffs. Each pair consisted of up-and-coming line chefs who were hand-picked by the resort’s executive chef to work side by side with their American mentors for the week.

“It’s an experience of a lifetime for our rising talent to be exposed to recipes, techniques and role models that in many ways are foreign to them, “ says Jason Kycek, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Casa de Campo. “The hands-on time together, learning and preparing dishes they’ve never made, makes them better culinarians. Watching them collaborate and share ideas is really cool. And the food they create is spectacular.”

“The Casa de Campo line staff were great,” added Chef Josh O’Neil from the Golf Club at Indigo Run. “While the language barrier was challenging at times, the staff’s excitement more than made up for it. I would hire my two assistants in a heartbeat, and I know the other chefs felt the same way.”

“It’s an experience of a lifetime for our rising talent to be exposed to recipes, techniques and role models that in many ways are foreign to them.”

If you’re a foodie — or just simply enjoy good eating — the Chef of the Year Showcase at Casa de Campo should not be missed. The event started with a five-course pairing dinner, where each Invited chef prepared a course and the resort’s sommelier paired it with a champagne, wine or cordial that brought the dishes’ flavors to life.

“The energy in the kitchen was really cool. Over the course of four or five hours, there were 15 to 20 of us preparing, cooking and enjoying each other’s company,” says Chef Eric Yeager from Ford’s Colony. “It was a fun way to kick off the event, but everyone knew it was game on in terms of the Chef of the Year competition.”

As the Casa de Campo service staff plated each table one by one, the Invited chefs made their way through the private dining space at the Minitas Beach Club, where attendees sat overlooking the moonlit Caribbean Sea, eagerly waiting the brief on each chef’s chosen creation.

It ticks all the reasons they belong to Invited. World-class golf, five-star amenities and Michelin-level cuisine. It’s truly a bucket list experience.”

By day, attendees explored the 7,000-acre resort, where rooms and villas come with their own touring golf cart to make getting around the property both fun and convenient. Think of any resort activity or sporting pleasure you’d like to enjoy, and Casa de Campo has it. From 63 holes of championship golf — including the famed Teeth of the Dog course designed by the late Pete Dye — to world-class equestrian, shooting, tennis and aquatic facilities, there are countless ways to work up an appetite and burn off any added (but well-enjoyed) calories.

“Casa de Campo and the Chef of the Year event is a perfect experience for our Members,” says Chef Catherine Michaud from the Clubs at Kingwood. “It ticks all the reasons they belong to Invited. World-class golf, five-star amenities and Michelin-level cuisine. It’s truly a bucket list experience.”

Chef Catherine Michaud gets ready to serve.

Evenings at the Chef of the Year Showcase are strictly reserved for epicurean enlightenment. And there is no better event than the Chef Cook Off to get the finalists’ competitive juices flowing and the attendees’ mouths watering. Each Invited chef and their support team prepared an innovative small plate from which the attendees voted for the best dish.  In between bites, attendees enjoyed sampling Maestro Dobel Taquila and night-glow golf. As illuminated golf balls streaked through the air toward a rainbow of colored targets, a DJ kept the energy up with a steady mix of dance hall favorites and island jams. And when the music stopped, it was White Columns Country Club’s Chef Mike Dobias’ culinary creation that took top honors.

A night off for the Chef of the Year finalists meant that everyone could kick back and enjoy Casa de Campos’ spectacular resort dining. Resort guests have their choice of six different restaurants, each offering different a la carte menus centered around different culinary themes. Dominican, seafood, Italian, Peruvian and Mexican fare give guests almost as many dining choices as there are resort activities.

exploring the beach at casa de campo

“Casa de Campo is such a great partner for the Chef of the Year event,” says DiCicco. “It’s a property rich with activities for all age groups. While golf garners a lot of their accolades, the resort has a spectacular shooting facility, tremendous food and beverage options, fitness, pools and an amazing beach if you just want to stick your toes in the sand and relax.”

On the final night, it was the Casa de Campo culinary team’s turn to shine as they prepared a spectacular four-course meal that wowed everyone in the room — even the five Chef of the Year finalists who were eagerly awaiting the final decision. Who would be Invited’s Chef of the Year?

After six months of voting, weeks of preparing to visit Casa de Campo and five days of chopping, mixing, stirring and cooking, the final course was served. White Columns’ Chef Mike Dobias came out on top again.  “This is an amazing accomplishment for me as a chef and for the entire F&B team at White Columns Country Club,” he said, “but the true winner at the 2022 Chef of the Year Showcase was the celebration of food and friendship. I’ve been fortunate to experience a lot of great meals and culinary events in my career, but nothing like this. The food, the people, the place and the opportunity to share it together, well, it was just spectacular!”

The Five Top Chefs Sound Off on Why You Should Attend the 2023 Chef of the Year Event

“It is the perfect time to get to the Dominican Republic for rest, relaxation and continued support of your Club’s chef. The feeling of gratitude for being voted in is incredible, and seeing your Members make the trip to personally support you would be overwhelming.” – Eric Yeager


 

“The Chef of the Year Showcase was one of the best-orchestrated culinary events that I’ve been a part of. It was well planned, with the perfect mix of group activities and personal time to relax!” – Catherine Michaud


 

“Casa de Campo alone has world-class golf, amenities and an amazing staff. Couple that with spending time with Invited’s top chefs and sampling their food — it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” – Michael Dobias


 

“Members will see firsthand how intense this event really is, from the prep to execution and finally the tasting. Events like this allow Members to get a better understanding of how dedicated their chefs are behind the scenes.” – Daniel Vigliotti


 

“It was a unique and fantastic opportunity based solely around the different styles and personalities of the five chefs representing the company. Any Member can go to the resort at any given time during the year, but there is only one opportunity to see a group of chefs who’ve never worked together, in a foreign country, working with staff who don’t speak their native language, creating some really spectacular food.” – Josh O’Neil

Look for more information on the 2023 Invited Chef of the Year showcase in the spring issue of Invited’s digital magazine.

the chef of the year finalists, including, at Left, the 2022 chef of the year, Mike Dobias

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