Press Releases

March 31, 2015

Winner Takes All At ‘Channel Your Inner Chef’ Cook-Off at Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Prizes include VIP tickets to HMSHost-sponsored James Beard Foundation Awards Gala in Chicago, and an opportunity to have an original dish appear on an HMSHost restaurant menu at O’Hare

Image of the chicago cook off

PHOTO details: HMSHost representatives, Chicago O’Hare International Airport representatives, and judges surrounding Nikkia Stone, winner of Channel Your Inner Chef. Photo Credit: Sheri Whitko Photography.

CHICAGO, IL — Chicago O’Hare International Airport was abuzz today as five enthusiastic chef contestants took to the pan in a sizzling cook-off—right in the airport. These five finalists were selected among video entries received from across the nation as part of the first-of-its-kind Channel Your Inner Chef culinary competition. Created by global restaurateur HMSHost in partnership with the Chicago Department of Aviation, the competition was open to all Chicago O’Hare International Airport employees and airport travelers.

Today’s cook-off presented these finalists with the challenge of creating an original recipe with a bounty of ingredients available to them at the start of the event. Personalities and performances were ablaze, as they each feverishly competed in front of a tough judging panel and travelers passing through O’Hare’s Terminal 2.

Besting four worthy competitors, Nikkia Stone clinched the victory and all its glory with her blackened jerk chicken & butternut squash dish, receiving two VIP admissions to the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala on May 4, 2015 at Lyric Opera of Chicago. The winner will also have the opportunity to have his or her original culinary dish appear on the menu at an HMSHost restaurant at O’Hare. The contest was held by HMSHost in celebration of culinary innovation and its sponsorship of the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards.

“Each contestant did a spectacular job today! It has been so exciting to partner together with the Chicago Department of Aviation toward celebrating such innovation,” said HMSHost Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Yablun. “Channel Your Inner Chef has demonstrated that Chicago attracts talented chefs from this great city, as well as from around the country, and this competition has been a great opportunity to find some of that talent right here at the airport.”

Nikkia entered the contest to try something out of her comfort zone and she successfully demonstrated that she is a highly capable cook. In the contest’s allotted half-hour, Nikkia drew from experience and executed the favorite dish. The jerk rub for her chicken was made from allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper; and the squash was flavored with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and jerk seasoning borrowed from the chicken.

“The Chicago Department of Aviation is pleased to partner with HMSHost to feature this unique event for the enjoyment of passengers and employees at our global gateway, O’Hare International Airport,” said Tiffany Green, Deputy Commissioner, Chicago Department of Aviation – Concessions. “This contest helps promote Chicago’s rich, culinary diversity and the creative and talented chefs whose creations add flair and flavor to our city.”

Channel Your Inner Chef was judged by a panel composed of a diverse group of aviation professionals and guests in the Chicago community. Judging criteria included cooking technique, recipe, presentation, form, showmanship, and taste. This first-of-its-kind recipe contest was open to employees and travelers at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. To enter, contestants submitted a five-minute video of themselves preparing a recipe.

Full details of Channel Your Inner Chef, including rules and regulations can be found at


Global restaurateur HMSHost is a world leader in creating dining for travel venues. HMSHost operates in more than 100 airports around the globe, including the 20 busiest airports in North America. The Company has annual sales in excess of $2.7 billion and employs more than 33,000 sales associates worldwide. HMSHost is a part of Autogrill Group, the world’s leading provider of food & beverage services for people on the move. With sales of around €3.9 billion in 2014, the Group operates in 29 countries and employs some 54,000 people. It manages approximately 2,800 stores in over 1,000 locations worldwide. Visit for more information. We can also be found on Facebook at and on Twitter at @HMSHost.

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