Press Releases

Mar 20, 2018

Live Cook-Off Competition Lands at Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Winner gets dish featured on the menu at a Chicago O’Hare airport restaurant and a VIP evening at the HMSHost-sponsored James Beard Awards Gala

CHICAGO — One of the world’s busiest airports sizzled Tuesday with a live cooking showdown right inside of Chicago O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 2. Pans simmered and savory aromas wafted through the air as five aspiring chefs from across the country battled it out in Channel Your Inner Chef – an innovative culinary competition created by global restaurateur HMSHost in partnership with the Chicago Department of Aviation.

During this unscripted, exhilarating cooking competition, the five finalists were challenged with creating an original recipe from a bounty of ingredients revealed to them only at the start of the event. They also chose their own ingredient from the O’Hare Urban Garden in Terminal 3.

In front of an audience of travelers, airport and airline employees, and Chicago personalities, the chefs turned up the heat and whipped up an array of dishes from homemade ricotta gnocchi with lobster asparagus to a sweet and sour salmon with cauliflower rice. As travelers eagerly watched the cook-off, they were treated to a live musical performance by Broadway actor and Hamilton Chicago star, Miguel Cervantes, along with food and beverage tastings from HMSHost-operated restaurants at Chicago O’Hare.

Channel Your Inner Chef is a culinary event unlike any other you can find in an airport and we are thrilled to partner with the Chicago Department of Aviation to bring this competition back for its fourth year at Chicago O’Hare. We are celebrating Chicago as the culinary capital of the world, while entertaining and engaging travelers in an innovative way only HMSHost can,” said HMSHost President and CEO Steve Johnson. “This action-packed event truly showcased the diverse range of aspiring culinary talent found here in Chicago and across the country and we congratulate each of the contestants on truly outstanding performances.” \"\"

While each contestant gave a blazing performance, Anna Cooper roasted the competition with her spicy mustard seed seared lamb with rosemary-infused ricotta whipped potatoes, and a blackberry and shallot balsamic reduction, which will be featured on the menu of an HMSHost-operated restaurant at O’Hare later this summer for all travelers to enjoy. Anna also receives roundtrip airfare for two, as well as a VIP trip for two to attend the James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago.

“We are very pleased to partner with HMSHost for the fourth-annual Channel Your Inner Chef competition at O’Hare,” said Ginger S. Evans, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation. “Anyone who visits Chicago knows it is a destination for culinary diversity and excellence. This unique cooking competition is a great opportunity to showcase emerging culinary talent as well as some of Chicago’s finest culinary attractions home to the airport.”

The 2018 Channel Your Inner Chef winner, Anna Cooper of Houston, is a magazine food writer and food blogger, who aims to spread love through the food she cooks. She entered the contest to push herself out of her comfort zone of cooking for familiar people and now hopes to connect with people from across the globe through food.

The chefs were judged by an acclaimed panel that included: Ginger S. Evans, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Aviation; Michael Zalewski, Alderman of the 23rd Ward of Chicago, Aviation Committee Chairman; Christian Farr, NBC 5 Chicago reporter; and celebrity chef Lorena Garcia. The judges based their winning selection criteria on recipe, presentation, showmanship, and, of course, taste.

HMSHost and the Chicago Department of Aviation launched the Channel Your Inner Chef culinary competition four years ago at Chicago O’Hare as the first ever live cooking competition to take place in an airport. Channel Your Inner Chef celebrates HMSHost’s sponsorship of the 2018 James Beard Awards.

To enter, contestants submitted a video of themselves preparing an original recipe. Five finalists were selected from an expansive pool of video submissions from diverse backgrounds and skillsets. Learn more about Channel Your Inner Chef, including finalists’ video submissions at The event was streamed live on the Chicago O’Hare Facebook page and can be viewed at

Feeling bittersweet as #CYIC2018 comes to a close. Thanks to everyone who attended as well as those who tuned in online, but most of all..thank you to the extraordinary individuals who competed this year. Can’t wait to see where their incredible talents take them!

— HMSHost (@HMSHost) March 20, 2018

About HMSHost
Global restaurateur HMSHost is a world leader in creating dining for travel venues. HMSHost operates locations all over North America, and is part of Autogrill Group, the world's leading provider of food & beverage services for people on the move. Visit for more information.