11th Annual Diamond Chef scheduled for April 19

April 16-22, 2018

By Becca Bona


“I’ve been on a dozen or more nonprofit boards, and I was actually winding back from that,” says Frank Cox, Jr., a partner in the local marketing firm, Cox Minshall Winans. “But then Shannon asked if I would co-chair this year’s Diamond Chef with my son, Frank Holmes, and I thought, well that would be interesting.”


The father-son team not only works together at Cox Minshall Winans, they are also heavily involved in the community, and they both consider trade education an extremely important endeavor.


In its 11th year, Diamond Chef is more than a great gathering of chefs, wonderful food, and expertise, it’s also a fundraiser for the Pulaski Tech’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Institute (CAHMI).


In the past, the event has taken place at the Peabody Hotel (the now-Little Rock Marriot) and the Statehouse Convention Center, but the premier event now takes place in the CAHMI, a state-of-the-art facility.


Throughout its decade of existence, there have been changes to the program. Once a sit-down dinner with chefs hand-chosen by Dean Todd Gold, the competition has grown beyond its initial scope – all with a goal of funding scholarships for students.


“Last year was the first year that we did a social media campaign,” explains Shannon Boshears, the Vice Chancellor of Advancement and Executive Director of the UA–PTC Foundation. Any interested, local professional chef could shoot and upload a video, which the public then voted on.


They hosted an event last October to narrow it down even further as Boshears continues, “We had the top 13 bring their small bites in, and we hosted a free event for the public to come cast their vote. […] It went well, especially for our first time trying it.”


The top six were chosen, including: Chef Casey Copeland of the Avenue, Hot Springs; Chef Jordan Davis of the Chenal Country Club; Chef Brandon Douglas of Green Leaf Grill; Chef Jamie McAfee of the Pine Bluff Country Club; Chef Joseph Salgueiro of the Pleasant Valley Country Club; and Chef Coby Smith of the Arkansas Heart Hospital. The chefs will go up against last year’s winner – Mary Beth Ringgold of Capers, Copper Grill, and Cajun’s Wharf.


“It’s a completely jam-packed night,” says Frank, referencing the staggered ten-minute heats that the six chefs will undergo until a final four are chosen to battle for the title, on Thursday, April 19.


Guests are invited to watch the action on multiple screens throughout the Institute during the event, plus – there will be multiple food stations, as well as a mixology station. The second floor boasts of  a Sugar Rush room, in which Cocoa Belle will be helping guests make their own edible sweets along with an instructor from CAHMI, as well as a 3D room to get a virtual tour of the facilities. Guests can also join in a Cheers & Namaste class – in which you partake in a beer whilst doing yoga.


New this year, the participating chefs will be assigned a student. Frank Holmes says, “Getting paired with a professional chef – it sounds like a true working education.”


Boshears explains further, “They’re introduced to each other a month out. [The chef] works with that student throughout the whole event.”


For Frank Holmes, this takes the cake.


“This school is getting out ahead because they’re teaching a trade. The people that leave this school are going to be functional people in society they’ll be able to own businesses […] I think this does more for society than any institution.”


For more information about the event or to get tickets, visit: https://pulaskitech.ejoinme.org/MyEvents/2018DiamondChef/tabid/914393/Default.aspx.  




Father and son team chair event – Frank Holmes Cox, III appears with his father, Frank Cox, Jr., at one of the kitchens at the Pulaski Tech’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Institute (CAHMI). (Photo provided)