Representing the 361: Chef Dean Sprague Takes Home the Gold
● By Jessie Monsivais
Have you ever eaten downtown at the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel? If so, you'll be somewhat familiar with Executive Chef, Dean Sprague, C.E.C., and his delicious work. His skills are top notch and he is proving to others that there is an abundance of talent right here in the Coastal Bend.
Chef Sprague makes his name further known as the 2019 Texas Chef Association’s Chef of the Year. He leads the local chapter of the American Culinary Federation - Chefs of the Coastal Bend and has a long list of accolades, including the 2015 Chapter Chef of the Year.
Chef Sprague’s recognition makes him eligible to apply for the United States Chef of the Year where, if accepted, he will cook and compete for the title against other state champions in 2020. If successful, he will be able to apply to compete in Worlds.
“It’s a huge responsibility to have won this award,” says Chef Sprague. “It’s inspiring on a lot of levels for a lot of people.”
To be considered for the national title, applicants must put together a menu and submit their portfolios to the American Culinary Association. Chef Sprague says once selected, the practice process begins – cooking his menu over and over again until it’s memorized down to the minute.
“When you go to competition, you have an hour and a half to prepare 3 courses for 4 people [12 plates]. You’re allowed an assistant, but it’s a timed event.”
Once accepted, Chef Sprague shares his goal to practice twice a month, traveling the state and practicing cooking his meals in different kitchens. Getting outside of his natural element is key when it comes to preparing for the unknown variables of the competition. Pushing limits seems true to Chef Sprague's form.
“If I just stay in my kitchen, I know where everything is at, I know how the ovens work, I know all of it,” Chef Sprague says eagerly. “I want to practice in different situations to throw off my focus. I want to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
With hopes to shine a spotlight on the Coastal Bend, Chef Sprague shares what an honor it is to bring this recognition to Corpus Christi. His love and passion for the local community is prevalent, especially for his fellow chefs in the area.
“Most of these awards usually go to Dallas and Houston. I really hope the recognition brings Corpus Christi more notice in the culinary world,” Chef Sprague says passionately. “We have a lot of really qualified chefs here in town. We have a chapter of chefs that are active enough, vibrant enough, and involved enough.”
Chefs of the Coastal Bend, a local organization Sprague is involved with, holds fundraising events throughout the year, benefitting the Michael Stephans Educational Fund, a scholarship program for students involved in the chapter. The scholarship covers cost of tuition, supplies, and books for students and chefs that are pursuing culinary education or certification.
Lifting up the community and raising awareness about what the group is doing is Chef Sprague’s hope with winning awards such as Chef of the Year. He encourages those interested in learning more or expanding their expertise to attend the monthly meetings at The Exchange, that cover an array of culinary topics from education and job openings to growing business and upcoming events.
“As members you can go to the events and cook and learn – from professionals to mom and dad. Come to a meeting and learn something or come and do something for the community.”
For more information check out their Facebook @ChefsoftheCoastalBend ACF TCA