From beef cake to legendary steaks, the 2021 Certified Angus Beef Culinary award winners don’t disappoint. Their creativity and never-ending search for the next-best-bite push the boundaries of beef as we know it. Get to know the honorees below, and if you’re ever in their neighborhood, stop in and say hello. Your taste buds will thank you.
Chef of the Year: Carla Dilorenzo, Los Tanitos
A waft of empanadas, fresh out of the oven, greets you at the door. A stunning meat case filled with cherry red beef invites you to take a closer look. Carla Dilorenzo moves with the rhythm of the Latin music playing throughout her shop.
Walking into Los Tanitos in Miami, Florida is stepping into an authentic Argentinian bakery and market. With a little something for everyone, the tradition runs deep and the creativity is on display.
Second generation to the restaurant business, Dilorenzo still works side-by-side with her parents. When the head chef quit, she took over the kitchen and started recreating all the recipes that her guests had come to love.
Crafting each item with precision and heart, she aims to create something new and different for people to try that still aligns with her strong food roots.
Her dedication and love for serving her community earned Carla the 2021 Chef of the Year honors.
Culinary Innovator: Chicago Culinary Kitchen
Caramel sauce made from onions and garlic layered into a chocolate tallow stout cake with an espresso buttercream frosting. Now that’s what we call a “beef cake.”
Greg and Kristina Gaardbo had no intentions of winning the Certified Angus Beef Innovator of the Year award with their cake concept. But when they introduced the sweet and savory dessert to their guests at the Chicago Culinary Kitchen (CCK), there was no denying they’d created something special.
“I get it. It’s a little weird to have tallow and garlic and onions in a dessert,” Kristina says. “But the flavors work well together.”
Trying to incorporate tallow into a few dishes at CCK, Kristina discovered it worked as a butter substitute in her chocolate stout cake. Greg had the idea to incorporate the onions and garlic, so Kristina whipped them into a caramel sauce.
Having fun with food is what the couple does for their loyal fan base in the Chicago area. Only open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until the food runs out, their customers enjoy trying new and different eats.
“When customers try the final product, they love it and they now ask for it on the menu,” Kristina
Barbecue Establishment of the Year: Evie Mae’s Pit Barbeque
Their claim to Texas barbecue fame came after they served Daniel Vaughn from a big red trailer roadside in Wilfred, Texas, in May 2015. The raving review released the next morning put them on the map.
Arnis and Mallory Robbins decided to transition their trailer to brick and mortar in Lubbock, Texas, following their newfound fame.
“Evie Mae’s is a real Texas barbecue experience, from start to finish,” Mallory says.
Meat cut fresh in front of you as you order, they stop serving when they sell out. A cooking process that takes 12 to 14 hours, they only have one cook running the smoker for consistency. Their consistency starts with Certified Angus Beef ® brand Prime.
“Barbecue is mitigating variables. That’s all it is,” Arnis says. “Under perfect conditions, it’s very repeatable and you can do it over and over. But we are in West Texas. There are a lot of variables out of our control. The product that we start with is in our control—and that is the Certified Angus Beef ® brand.”
Legendary Steakhouse: Perini Ranch Steakhouse
Tom and Lisa Perini are in the business of serving steaks in Buffalo Gap, Texas, population 464. The Perini Ranch Steakhouse brings guests from well beyond the Abilene, Texas, area.
Sixty percent of the steakhouse’s business comes from a radius of 150 miles.
“That means they’ll pass 10 steakhouses coming here,” Tom says.
It’s a testament to the quality they serve.
Lisa shares how guests frequent the steakhouse for the experience. Cutting into a Certified Angus Beef ® steak right on the Perini Ranch is like taking a scene out of a modern-day western movie. Guests can choose to dine inside or out on the back porch. Through the pandemic, they served “picnics” for the holidays and would surprise folks with evenings to come dine on the patio.
“We have such faith in every steak that we put on the table,” Lisa says. “And because there’s no way to guarantee every steak is perfect, this is as close as you can get to perfect every time.”
Steakhouse of the Year: Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops
Hailing from Michigan City, Ind., Chef Glenn Wheeler regularly hopped a train around the south side of Lake Michigan and was exposed to the Chicago culinary scene at an early age. Today, he’s not only one of the most revered chefs—and a Hospitality Industry Hall of Famer—but he’s also the unofficial godfather of the culinary landscape in Omaha, with countless chefs earning their wings under his watch.
He’s been the head chef at Spencer’s for the last 11 years, serving countless steaks to the Omaha community and executive guests that come in for celebratory dinners and meetings.
Earning the 2021 Steakhouse of the Year award is Spencer’s Steaks and Chops.
Restaurant Marketer of the Year: Little Apple Market & Restaurant (LABCO)
A restaurant partner for 25 years, Little Apple re-concepted last year as a market combo, now offering fresh cuts of beef to take home, and full meals for dine-in or take-out.
Their reputation is built on hand-cut Certified Angus Beef ® steaks and fresh, handcrafted beers and ales. That didn’t change when they incorporated their market concept.
A local favorite in the ‘other’ Manhattan, Little Apple featured the brand in social media and weekly specials, and refreshed brand presence throughout the space and on all custom point-of-sale materials. In addition, they were selected as one of our #RestaurantChallenge winners.
Restaurant Ecommerce Marketer of the Year: Lawry’s
An iconic cut of beef combined with recognizable flavor is Lawry’s Prime Rib. The elegant steakhouse turned fine dining into something you don’t have to leave the house for.
This year, the group launched Lawry’s at Home, allowing customers across the United States to enjoy iconic slabs of slow-roasted beef from their own kitchens, complete with all the classic sides. The website also offers educational videos for best results at home, and packages come in attractive boxes ensuring a first-class experience from click to taste.