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story.lead_photo.caption Robert Klein is serving as chairman of Diamond Chef Arkansas, a showcase of culinary talent.

Food, family meals and all that goes into sharing a meal with others is important to Robert Klein.

Klein, who serves on the University of Arkansas -- Pulaski Technical College Foundation Board and is president and co-founder of the Property Group -- is chairman of the 12th annual Diamond Chef Arkansas: A Diamond Dozen.

He explains that his mother, who was widowed when Klein was 4 years old, was a home economics major and wanted to focus on meals at home with her three boys but also wanted them to experience eating out. Once a week they'd go out to try a new restaurant. Klein says his mother also talked about the meals she prepared each night -- about what went into making the meals as wells as costs associated with it. "She really made it so that we were educated on what we were consuming."

Klein also spends time in the kitchen with his son, passing along those same values. "I have a 3-year-old son. I try to get him to watch and hang out in the kitchen. Eating healthy and eating at home is important, but also getting out and trying new cuisine is important because, honestly, I think we punch above our weight here in central Arkansas. We've got some great culinary talent."

He says Diamond Chef Arkansas on April 11 is a great way to showcase the talent of the culinary scene in Arkansas but also the culinary and hospitality skills of students. Instructors and their students will be preparing food samples from around the world to be served during the evening.

The food stations will include Sugarland with chefs Jan Lewandowski, Chocla Lea and Cathy Kincaid; Tasting the Titanic with chef Robert Hall, The British Are Coming with chef Suzanne Campbell, The Battle of New Orleans with chef Rob Best and Pretzelmania! with chef Billy Ginnochio. New this year is Arkansas Grown, a place to meet area farmers and get recipe inspiration while sampling a variety of fresh, locally harvested foods.

Then there's the face-paced Iron Chef-style food competition.

"We've got six local chefs that compete in two elimination rounds for the title," he says.

The dishes must include a mystery ingredient revealed at the start of each round. The chefs will have a fully stocked pantry and can bring two sous chefs to assist them. The dishes will be judged for creativity, taste and preparation.

Chefs competing in the competition are Amanda Ivy with Low Ivy Catering, Brandon Douglas of Green Leaf Grill, Jordan Davis of Chenal Country Club, Jamie McAfee with Pine Bluff Country Club, Izaak Winter of YaYa's Euro Bistro and Joseph Coleman with the Little Rock Marriott.

Guests at the event can participate in activities throughout the state-of-the-art culinary facility at Pulaski Tech, enjoy signature cocktails created by mixology students and silent and live auctions.

"We've got some great items," he says about the live auction, which includes a trip to Nicaragua, Razorback football tickets and items from area restaurants.

Money raised at the event hosted by the foundation board will support the mission of the college. Klein is excited about the opportunities provided by Pulaski Tech, explaining the importance of education is something that was instilled in him at an early age.

"I think that we are seeing a shift in education, in our own backyard. We are seeing a lot of opportunities with these programs out here [Pulaski Tech] that allow students to jump-start their career -- culinary being one of them. They've also got a great automotive and a great HVAC program out here."

He says that having two year programs is cost effective and industries are seeing a need for these skills. "And now that we are tied into the University of Arkansas system it is easy for them to transition to a four-year [degree program] if they choose."

It has been projected, Klein says, "that the culinary and hospitality industry will experience exponential growth in the next five years, so I think we will benefit from that out here."

"This school here," he says referring to the culinary institute, "is ranked as one of the top 25 culinary schools in the country. A lot of the restaurants in central Arkansas that are booming have students from our school.

"Watching the people in the program here," says Klein about the culinary students, "and seeing them get excited about it and knowing they are going to be out there in the market place, is exciting."

Diamond Chef Arkansas will be at 6 p.m. April 11 at the University of Arkansas -- Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute. Tickets are $150 and are available online at or by calling (501) 812-2771.

Photo by Cary Jenkins
Diamond Chef Arkansas event chairman Robert Klein mixes it up in the mixology lab at the University of Arkansas — Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute. Mixology students will create signature cocktails for the April 11 Diamond Chef event.

High Profile on 03/10/2019

Print Headline: Diamond Chef Arkansas event to showcase best cooks in state

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