Meeting today’s tough economic challenges was the central theme for the 2009 TABASCO Brand Hottest Chef Contest—and the prize for the one hot menu item that wouldn’t break the budget was a $10,000 check.

Stephen Pribish, sous chef for Overbrook Golf Club in Villanova, Pennsylvania, won the $10,000 grand prize for his “Oven Roasted Pork Tenderloin with 7 Vegetable Couscous and TABASCO Green Chimichurri,” which featured two different pepper sauce flavors: TABASCO brand Green Jalapeño Pepper Sauce and TABASCO brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce.

Jared Cushman, a chef-in-training at International Culinary Schools at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in Florida, took the competition’s student category prize of $2,500 for his “Chipotle Duck Breast Risotto” entrée. Contestants were asked to submit entrée recipes for any daypart of the menu—breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

“The winners in both the professional and student categories did an excellent job of incorporating our pepper sauce flavors into recipes that could be profitable items on any menu, which was the focal point of this contest,” says Paul McIlhenny, president and CEO of McIlhenny Company. “The foodservice industry is particularly challenged in today’s economic climate to meet consumer demand for uncompromising flavor at affordable prices and our winners have done that very successfully.”

The professional and student category winners were awarded cash prizes and will be featured along with their winning recipes on McIlhenny, along with top New Orleans chefs including chef Justin Devilier, La Petite Grocery; chef John Harris, Lilette Restaurant; chef Donald Link, Herbsaint and Cochon; chef Stephen Stryjewski, Cochon; chef Chuck Subra, LaCôte Brasserie; chef Allison Vines-Rushing, MiLa; chef Tom Wolfe, Wolfe’s Restaurant and Wolfe’s in the Warehouse; and chef Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s, comprised the judging panel and selected the professional and student winners at Delgado Community College in New Orleans.

The finalist dishes were prepared by teams of top Delgado culinary students under the direction of Delgado chef instructor Jon Petrie. In keeping with this year’s theme, “Tough Times Call for Tough Chefs,” McIlhenny Company partnered with Delgado Community College instructors and administrators to design the judging session as real-world training for students learning how to create profitable menu items for foodservice businesses.