Professional Chefs to Battle in Garlic Showdown Hosted by Iron Chef Michael Symon on July 29

2018 Gilroy Garlic Festival
July 27, 28 and 29, 2018



Professional Chefs to Battle in Garlic Showdown Hosted by Iron Chef Michael Symon on July 29

July 10, 2018 (Gilroy, CA): Though he’ll be a long way from Kitchen Stadium, Iron Chef Michael Symon will be presiding over an equally intense cooking competition on the Challenge Butter Cook-Off Stage at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Symon will host the Garlic Showdown at high noon on Sunday, July 29, where four professional chefs will do battle for a $3,000 cash prize (and ultimate bragging rights).

Reigning Garlic Showdown champion Chef Carlos Pineda will be returning to defend his 2017 title. Pineda is the Program Manager and Executive Chef at the Culinary Academy and Kneaded Catering Company at Rebekah Children’s Services. Born and raised in Gilroy, he graduated with Honors from the Professional Culinary Institute in Campbell in 2007. He interned at the Inn at Spanish Bay with the Pebble Beach Company and went on to work as a chef in Monterey, Los Angeles, Morgan Hill and Gilroy. In 2010 he transitioned to Rebekah Children’s Services in Gilroy, where he helped develop the Culinary Academy. This program allows disadvantaged youth ages 15-25 to learn hands-on culinary skills and job-readiness skills in a commercial kitchen. Carlos is a huge contributor to various community and service organizations. In 2017 he received the Nob Hill Award for outstanding community service from the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and donated his Showdown victory earnings to the Gilroy Foundation. Carlos is passionate about the community and enjoys helping make Gilroy a better (and more delicious!) place.

Showdown contestant Chef Miriam Vega was born in Michoacan, Mexico and moved to Morgan Hill, California at the age of five. After working in the food industry for many years, she decided to enroll in culinary school at the age of 33. Attending the Art Institute and Culinary School in her native country, she honed her culinary skills and passion for fresh, clean cooking. She worked as a personal chef for a couple of years, which allowed her to share her love of cooking with many families in the area. In 2014, she opened her own family restaurant: La Nina Perdida - Tastes of Mexico. Breaking the notion of what is “authentic” Mexican food has been a challenge, but with creativity and supportive customers, she and her team have brought to Morgan Hill a quaint, vibrant, and innovative traditional Mexican Cuisine destination.

Chef Annie Smith’s passion for cooking began with a white peach tree in her back yard, which inspired her to make her first homemade pie when she was eight years old. Food has always played a role in Annie’s life, representing both family and culture. Annie’s humble beginnings date back to Vietnam in the late 1970s, when she set sail at the age of two on a tiny wooden boat from Saigon with her mother and aunt. After moving to America and many years of hard work and determination, Annie had a successful career as an executive, built her first home, and became a mother to a healthy baby girl. Then, the unimaginable happened. After her daughter was diagnosed with a rare disorder called Rett Syndrome, Annie resigned from her job and became her daughter’s full-time caregiver and advocate. She was heartbroken and “hangry.” But she found life again in the kitchen—and in front of TV cameras. Annie has appeared in NBC’s Food FightersThe Tyra Banks ShowRecipe Hunters, Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen, and Man vs Master. She has proven that she has what it takes by competing and winning against renowned chefs and James Beard Award nominees. Her specialty is California Asian Fusion, where bright, bold flavors marry fresh, seasonal fare.

Having grown up in a little seaside town on the Central Coast of California, Chef Jason Ryczek is both familiar with and fond of all the bounty that local seafood has to offer. He is a veteran of the hospitality and restaurant industries, having worked in various positions since junior high. His culinary training began in Jason Marcus’ San Diego restaurant Red Pearl Kitchen; he later moved to Los Angeles to continue developing his skills at various brasseries and steakhouses. After arriving in San Francisco in 2013, Jason spent three years in the kitchen of Waterbar, working with fresh, sustainable seafood and developing a culinary style emphasizing the simplicity of natural flavors with bold accents. In 2016, Jason became the executive chef of Farallon, working with chef and owner Mark Franz to balance Farallon’s traditional cuisine and the contemporary, ever-evolving innovations of the San Francisco food scene.

The format of the Garlic Showdown was inspired by competitions like Iron Chef. Each chef has to use a top-secret ingredient (not revealed until the competition begins) to prepare two entrees and side dishes. A panel of judges will determine the winner based on presentation, originality, flavor, texture, and use of the secret ingredient. The winner earns a $3,000 prize.

Judges for the 2018 competition include Gloria Melone (local chef and wife of Festival Co-Founder Rudy Melone), Bill Christopher (Owner & CEO, Christopher Ranch), Ken Christopher (Executive VP, Christopher Ranch), and Mike Zukowski (2017 Gilroy Garlic Festival President).

The 2018 Gilroy Garlic Festival, presented by Raley’s, Bel Air and Nob Hill Foods, will run from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 27-29, at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy, California. Admission is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors 60+, $10 for youths ages 10-16, and free for children age 9 and under. Parking is $10 per vehicle and includes shuttle buses to and from the Festival entrance.  Gates close at 6:00 pm.

Discount tickets are available online at and at any Raley’s, Bel Air, and Nob Hill Foods.


About the Gilroy Garlic Festival
The Gilroy Garlic Festival will be celebrating 40 years of family fun on July 27, 28, and 29, 2018, at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy, California. The Gilroy Garlic Festival has been officially certified by GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® as the world’s largest garlic festival and draws over 100,000 guests from around the world. Presented by Raley’s, Bel Air, and Nob Hill Foods, this three-day celebration features gourmet garlicky food, live entertainment, cooking competitions, and fun for the whole family. For more information, go to


Media Contact: Katherine Filice
Phone (408) 710-8066