Grand Prize Winner Chosen in 2015 Tropical Foods Recipe Challenge

March 27, 2015

Tropical Foods is proud to announce the winner of the Tropical Foods Recipe Challenge – Carnival Fare. The Art Institute of Charlotte freshman Aaron Ailes took top honors and $500 at the first annual culinary competition held March 21st at the school’s Charlotte campus. The student chef, a native of Canton, Ohio, impressed a local panel of culinary experts and tasting audience with his flavorful recipe, Firecracker Mahi Tacos, which featured Tropical’s Firecracker Hot & Spicy® snack mix.

Art Institute of Charlotte students were challenged to submit original recipes using provided Tropical Foods ingredients which included Firecracker Hot & Spicy® snack mix, Wild About Wasabi® snack mix, Peanut Butter Melts, ReCharge® Super Charged Cranberry Blend, and Praline Pecans. With a Carnival Fare theme, submissions were creative and colorful, with ultimately 10 submissions making it through to the final round.

“We were very impressed by the creativity the students showed in their recipe submissions,” said Chad Hartman, Director of Marketing at Tropical Foods. “The winning recipe had the bold flavor that is synonymous with Tropical Foods and we couldn’t have been happier with the judges’ decisions.”

In addition to the grand prize, the following prizes were awarded:
2nd Place:
Crystal Robinson, senior, Columbia, S.C., Wasabi Wontons

3rd Place:
Daniel Johnson, senior, Mount Pleasant, N.C., Fair Bananas

Audience Choice:
Aaron Ailes, freshman, Canton, OH, Firecracker Mahi Tacos

Facebook Fan Favorite:
Nivit Tipvaree, junior, Nakhon Sawan, Thailand, Cranberry Peanut Butter Ball

The Tropical Foods Recipe Challenge judging panel consisted of Carolyn Bennett, an owner of Tropical Foods and Healthy Home Market; Heidi Billotto, Charlotte culinary expert, chef, and food writer; Amy Fortes, chef/owner of Flipside Cafe; Jon Fortes, chef/owner of Flipside Cafe and two-time winner of the Fire in the City culinary competition; and Jenny Brulé , chef, food writer, and tv personality. 102.9 The Lake’s Nathan Richie emceed the event.

“I really enjoyed tasting the delicious, creative recipes from the culinary students,” judge Carolyn Bennett said. “The chefs have given me some great ideas for future snack mix flavor profiles.”

For all of the event photos, please visit

Tags: art institute, carnival fare, charlotte, chef, culinary, firecracker, food competition, mahi tacos, north carolina, peanut butter melts, Praline Pecans, recharge, recipe challenge, Recipe Contest, top chef, tropical foods, Wild About Wasabi

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