The Ottumwa Courier

Community News Network

March 5, 2013

Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge comes to Osky

OSKALOOSA — Oskaloosa has been selected as this year’s site for the Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge.

Bryan Schultz spoke about Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge at a press conference Monday in Penn Central Mall.

Schultz said being selected as an Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge site means that they’re going to find the “perfect person or people” to open a new restaurant in Oskaloosa at the former Dr. Salami’s location at Oskaloosa Golf.

“The idea behind the contest is pretty simple,” explained Schultz. “We’re going to gather resources to give a restaurant expert nearly everything they need to open a new restaurant here in Oskaloosa. We publicize the contest to the community and we get chefs from all over the country to compete to open a new restaurant here.”

Interested restauranteurs will then make submissions to the contest by May 8. A local selection committee will narrow that down to three semi-finalists, added Schultz. A fourth semi-finalist will be chosen by an online video voting contest, Schultz said.

By the middle of May, those four semi-finalists will come to Oskaloosa and present their business plan and five year financial projection to a group of local business and industry leaders, said Schultz.

Two of the four semi-finalists will be chosen for the finals of the Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge, Schultz said.

The next day, they’re going to cook their signature dishes for a group of community members who will vote on the concept and how well they think the food has been prepared, said Schultz. The combined scores of the semi-finals and the finals will help determine the winner of the contest. The winner will then open their restaurant in Oskaloosa.

“We’re looking for a person or people who really get the business side of the restaurant operation as well as the food side,” said Schultz, adding that catering will also play a role in the contest.

This past year, Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge was held in Grinnell, resulting in the opening of The Prairie Canary, Schultz pointed out.

Last year, 42 candidates from eight states participated in the contest, said Schultz.

“This year, I think things are going to be even bigger,” said Schultz.

The contest will involve the community. People  can go to the Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge Web site and apply to be a tasting judge. The Web site can be found at http://www.iowasbestbite.com.

“You get to have a voice in who’s going to be the next restaurant in Oskaloosa,” Schultz said.

The winner of the contest will receive a restaurant start up package worth over $156,000, according to the website.

Schultz said the fact that people in Oskaloosa volunteer and reinvest in the community helped it win out over other potential communities for the contest.

During his presentation Monday, Schultz said those at Dr. Salami’s are aware of the restaurant’s closing, as well as the Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge.

“We’ve also encouraged them to, if they’d like, to reapply when the new owner opens the restaurant,” Schultz said.

Schultz said the goal is to have a new restaurant open by mid June or the first of July at the latest.

In a Herald interview Monday, Schultz spoke about the importance of community involvement in the competition.

“Folks here know what they want, what they’re going to support and more importantly what fits the community,” he said.

Schultz also said the Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge aims to enhance what is already in Oskaloosa, rather than bring in new competition.

People can follow the competition at http://www.iowasbestbite.com or on their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/iowasbestbite.

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