Local chef wins the Garlic Showdown

Carlos Pineda grabs the biggest check he’s ever seen for a recipe that mixed garlic with peaches and plums.

Local chef Carlos Pineda won first place in this year’s Garlic Showdown, an Iron Chef-style cookoff held Sunday at the 39th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. The event, emceed this year by celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, first appeared in 2011 and pits four professional chefs against each other in a head-to-head culinary competition.
Pineda, 28, competed with three other chefs: Michael Fisher, 2016 reigning Garlic Showdown champion, and the Owner and Executive Chef of Fisher’s Delicatessen and Catering in Hollister; Jeff Raby, owner/chef at Fire 4 Hire Catering in Gilroy; and Dave Bozzo, head chef and caterer at the Gilroy Elks Lodge on the Hill.
“You had one hour to create two dishes tapas style, its entree and sides,” said Pineda. “You had to use garlic and the secret ingredient, which was stone fruit—California local white peach, yellow peach and plums.”
Pineda, a chef with Culinary Academy and Kneaded Bakery affiliated with Rebekah Children’s Services, teamed up with sous chef Nicholaas Kobe Strayhorne to prepare the two dishes, the first being English smoked lentil plum sauce with a roasted garlic chicken and white peach white wine sauce—garnished with a roasted garlic plum wedge served on a California shaped slate.
The pair met three years ago at Rebekah’s Children’s Services, where Strayhorne, 20, was a student of Pineda’s.
“The secret to our success was trust,” said Pineda. “I trusted that Nicholaas was ready for the challenge and he was confident in his style. Knowing where he started when I met him three years ago to where he is now—it truly inspires me. I’m happy that what I do and teach him he has taken and made himself successful.”
For their second dish, Pineda said the team created an herbed corn pepper and cauliflower beef hash with yellow peach bur blanc garnished with a smoked yellow peach and edible gold leaf served on oak wood.
Strayhorne, who has been cooking professionally for five years said, “We came to the competition prepared and ready to have a Sunday funday like another day in the kitchen.”
Proud of his accomplishments, Pineda’s parents Lupe and Carlos Pineda were stage-side for the winning moment. “He started off at home baking cakes for weddings, baking cakes for quinceaneras, using my kitchen until I said, ‘No more using my kitchen,’” said Lupe.
Pineda donated his $3,000 in winnings to the Gilroy Foundation’s Jay Minzer and Peter Ciccarelli Memorial Fund benefitting Rebekah’s Culinary Academy.
“He’s a great person,” says Lupe. “Everybody just loves him for his personality and for what he does.”