Blair Cannon: From Winning Culinary Student to Mentor and Professional Chef

Blair Cannon was among the five chef mentors who assisted this year’s S&D Culinary Challenge finalists, but he was the only one who truly knew what it meant to be in their shoes. That’s because Blair was the winner of the inaugural S&D Culinary Challenge in 2011 as a Johnson & Wales University Charlotte senior.

While working in various facets of the hospitality industry, Blair has stayed involved in the S&D Culinary Challenge through paper, semi-finals and finals judging and this year added mentor to his roles. He has seen the competition grow and evolve (and not just the increase in prize money).

“Competitions drive speed, intensity, pressure and precision,” commented Blair. “Intensity, passion and the urge to want to win were noticeable from the students this year.”

Blair recommends the S&D Culinary Challenge competition to JWU students because, in addition to giving them the opportunity to compose a dish in a true-to-life environment, it allows them to express their creativity with the possibility of winning a large cash prize at the end that could be invested into a future business.

For students considering entering next year’s competition, he offers a few tips:

  • Be creative, and express yourself through your dish.
  • Practice the recipe before submitting, and take a picture yourself.
  • Taste and think: how much of the extract can I taste and what strengths pair with it? Balancing of flavors and showcasing the extracts are key.

In addition to spending time giving back to the students and the Charlotte culinary community, Blair is the sous chef at Charlotte Country Club, located less than five miles from the JWU Charlotte campus. He sees the position as his greatest career achievement to date and values how he is empowered to be creative with his wine dinner and chef’s table menus.

His creativity and passion definitely come through when Blair speaks about food. When asked what dish he would have created if he had been a contestant in this year’s S&D Culinary Challenge, which had a “Carolinas Cookin’” theme, he just couldn’t narrow it down:

“That’s a tough one! The extracts are such great products to cook with and can be used in so many applications,” he said.

“If I were to make a dish, I would have prepared a Black Walnut & Coffee Chocolate Chess Pie with Coffee Chantilly and a Coffee Scuppernong Truffle. If I went savory, Crispy Eastern Coffee BBQ and Grilled Apricot Heritage Pork Belly with Creamy Anson Mills Grits finished with Goat Lady Dairy Chèvre and Lemon Thyme, Toasted Coffee Red Eye Gravy, and Green Tea Wilted Local Assorted Greens with Local Wildflower Honey & Sea Island Benne Seed.”

Those sound like winners to us – and coming from Blair, that’s no surprise.

Learn more about Blair and the rest of the mentors and finalists from this year’s S&D Culinary Challenge by watching the videos on S&D’s Facebook page.

Chef Blair Cannon group photo