Life has been a bit busy for Dennis Chan, chef and owner of Blue Bamboo restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida, since winning the 2018 Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest. All the publicity, a full-page ad in the Florida Times-Union and a local billboard promoting his win have led to an uptick in traffic at the restaurant and increased interest in his award-winning Sunshine State Orange Cake.
"Winning Neighborhood to Nation has been great for business," said Chan, who has even started to fill special orders for whole cakes, making more than 20 in one recent week. It's been fun to get orders from our regular customers as well as several new customers who may not have been familiar with Blue Bamboo before."
We recently talked to Dennis following his big win, which earned him a $30,000 cash prize, $5,000 to share with a non-profit in his community and a trip to the upcoming Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival.
2018 Neighborhood to Nation Contest Regional Winner: Dennis Chan, Blue Bamboo
General Mills: What's life like since winning the Neighborhood to Nation Contest?
Dennis Chan: If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be 'busy.' We have so much interest in the cake, both on our menu as well as with several special orders. We have had to shift some things around and make extra time to accommodate the orders but we are totally fine with that!
GM: As the Grand Prize Winner, you were able to share $5,000 with a local charity, what did that mean to you?
DC: I shared the donation with Real Men Wear Pink of Jacksonville - a very worthy organization. [The campaign from the American Cancer Society rallies men across the country to join the fight against breast cancer.] Being able to give a donation meant so much to me. I wanted to do my part in helping this outstanding organization in our community. Some of the most advanced research funded by the organization is done right here in our area. The donation that General Mills has made to the organization has already made a very big difference in the campaign! So not only is the Neighborhood to Nation helping further our area's food reputation, but it is also helping save lives.
GM:Do you have any big plans for how to use your prize money?
DC:We are going to put the money right back into the restaurant to make some improvements to a party room that is attached to the restaurant. Part of the remodel will include a new demo kitchen where we will host cooking classes. Doing this enables us to do something that our local, loyal customers will also get to enjoy.
GM: Tell me about any other General Mils products you use on your menu at Blue Bamboo?
DC: The Pillsbury frozen baked goods from General Mills are a big part of our menu, particularly our dim sum dishes where the items can be used to create many of our traditional Chinese pastries. We use Pillsbury rolls for our stuffed buns and Pillsbury Puff Pastry for everything from empanadas to our curry beef patties - one of our more popular items. These products are such a timesaver for us! The Pillsbury rolls can be rolled out to the right size and provide the consistent outcome we rely on.
GM: What's next for you?
DC: My wife, Elizabeth, and I look forward to going to New York in October for the Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival. We have a great itinerary lined up, but one of the things I am most looking forward to is spending some time with the team from General Mills who is responsible for this contest!
Learn more about Neighborhood to Nation Regional Winner, Dennis Chan.