WHAT IS ALABAMA'S SMALL TOWN CHEF OF THE YEAR COMPETITION?

The Alabama Department of Tourism has declared 2024 the Year of Alabama Foods and Alabama Small Towns and Downtowns magazine wanted to help bring even more excitement to the small-town chefs and restaurants in Alabama. 

The competition will play out on social media, but this isn’t just a popularity contest on which chef can get the most likes. There will be dedicated judges for each round of the competition. 

WHO CAN PARTICIPATE?

This competition is open to chefs or cooks operating in a brick-and-mortar, locally-owned restaurant open to the public at least 3 days a week with consistent hours of operation.

For the inaugural competition, the field is limited to chefs working in restaurants in small towns with a population of less than 40,000.

Food Trucks, caterers, and home chefs are not eligible (this year).


FOOD CATEGORIES FOR COMPETING

The food categories for a chef to enter a dish(s) include:

  • small plates
  • main dishes
  • desserts

ROUND 1

EAT WITH YOUR EYES FIRST

Judging in this round will be based on the Chef’s online entry, which includes a picture of the dish and the chef’s description of the dish.

A chef may enter more than one category and enter more than once in the same category for an additional fee. ($100 per dish per category) A judges panel consisting of food stylists and bloggers will “eat with their eyes first” to narrow the field and select the chefs that will move on to the next round. 

Social Media voting will determine a People’s Choice that will also advance.

Semifinalists will be announced on alabamasmalltowns.com, our social media channels, and featured in the fall issue of Alabama Small Towns & Downtowns magazine. 

What the chefs get for entering the competition

All chef entries and their dish entries will be promoted on the Alabama Small Towns and Downtowns website and social media channels.

ROUND 2

THE ALABAMA FOODIE ROADTRIP

In this round, the semifinalists will bring their "Food To the Table" and be judged by a panel of judges in what we are calling the Alabama Small Towns Foodie Road Trip. Our judging entourage will visit each of the semifinalists for in-person taste testing. The road trip, depending on slate of semfinalists, will be divided geographically with trips to each restaurant in the fall (Oct-Dec).  

Each semifinalist can prepare up to 3 tasting samples of their food for judging. Judging will occur at each Chef’s restaurant throughout Alabama — specific dates for each region's Food Tour and judging will be determined.


What the competing chefs get in Round 2


  • Featured in the Fall issue of Alabama Small Towns and Downtowns Magazine. ($1300 value)
  • Participation in the Alabama Foodie Road Trip and all the social media exposure and publicity that goes along with it.
  • Swag Bag prize package
  • Opportunity to advance to Chef Showdown

ROUND 3

THE CHEF SHOWDOWN / THE BEST BITE IN TOWN

The field will be narrowed and finalists* will be invited to a Chef Showdown at Auburn University Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center where finalists will prepare two bites for 150 guests to sample. The bites will be based on menu items from the chef’s restaurant. 

Each guest will vote on their favorite dish and the points will be added to the chef’s overall score. 

* The finalists who compete in the "showdown" will be determined by their top accumulated scores from Round 1 and Round 2 and the chef's availability to attend the "showdown" in January. 

What competing chefs get in Round 3


  • Participation in the Chef Showdown at Auburn University Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center
  • $300 stipend for ingredients for Chef Showdown
  • Social Media Promotion from Chef Showdown
  • Featured in the Spring issue of Alabama Small Towns and Downtowns magazine
  • Plaque recognizing finalist accomplishment
  • Swag Bag Prize Package

Scores from each round will be accumulated for each chef, with the top scorer being named Alabama's SMALL TOWN CHEF OF THE YEAR 2025

Food Styling Package of Chef’s Selected Dish


A 4-page spread in Alabama Small Town and Downtowns Spring issue ($3600 Value)


Cash Prize of $500


Bragging Rights for all of 2025!


Mentorship with an award-winning Chef

A big thank you to our SPONSORS! 

Chef Sponsors (1700 x 800 px)


Does your organization or business want to be part of the fun and help bring attention to the great food experiences in our Alabama Small Towns? 


Contact Us For Sponsorship Information