Castor Ave Chef a Runner-up in Multi-State Competition


Rene De La Merced’s Garlic Steak Tip Sandwich topped field of 56 entries

Rene De La Merced, a cook at the Castor Avenue Applebee’s, was named the Top Apple Chef runner-up among contestants from 56 Applebee’s locations throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware during this year’s head-to-head competition. 

De La Merced’s dish, the Garlic Steak Tip Sandwich, is made of ingredients commonly found in the Applebee’s kitchen and received top grades in creativity and culinary expertise throughout each stage of the competition held by Applebee’s franchisee The Rose Group.

The Applebee’s Top Apple Chef competition is open to all Rose Group employees and provides contestants free reign of the Applebee’s kitchen to build and enter a dish born of their own creativity and culinary craftsmanship.  Winners are first chosen from each restaurant.  Next they advance to the district finals.  Winners of the district finals then travel to Newtown, Pennsylvania, to compete for the coveted title of Top Apple Chef and of course, yearlong bragging rights.

“The competition showcases and celebrates the skill, creativity and passion our teammates have for their culinary career path,” explains John Kulak, Director of Food and Beverage at The Rose Group.  “I’m always surprised by what is brought to the table.”

The competition also brings employees from throughout the multi-state organization together through their common culinary passion.

“While culinary expertise and creativity wins this contest, the camaraderie built from competition among co-workers from different regions is even more of a win for us as a team,” says Harry Rose, CEO of The Rose Group.  “The contestants push themselves to get better every day, and this shows in the dishes that are created in our restaurants and for this competition each year.”

The employees who competed in this year’s competition and their dishes were:

  • Olivia Yadira from the Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania, location created a Pepper Jack Sirloin Skillet
  • Kyle Senick of the Easton Commons, Maryland, location created an Old Bay Citrus Salmon
  • Steph Walter of the West Hazleton, Pennsylvania, location created a Nacho Typical Salad
  • Jamie Brown of the Towson, Maryland, location created a Steak Fajita Chimichanga
  • Jay Cheatham of the Aberdeen, Maryland location created the Texas Kickin’ Chicken
  • Matt Madara of the Reading, Pennsylvania, location created an Orange Glazed Pork Chop
  • Rene De La Merced of the Castor Ave location in Pennsylvania created a Garlic Steak Tip Sandwich
  • Joe Church of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, location created a Shrimp Scampi Cavatappi

Each finalist took home a knife set, Amazon gift card and an engraved plaque to be displayed in his or her store, while 1st place winner, Steph Walter, also took home a TV while Rene De La Merced’s second place finish earned a new set of pans.

About the Rose Group 

The Rose Group, headquartered in Newtown, PA, is the 57th largest restaurant franchise company in the United States. They currently own and operate 56 Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar restaurants in Eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware. The company is the first franchisee for Corner Bakery Cafe, operating seven cafes in Eastern Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey. The Rose Group also co-owns and operates two Shannon Rose restaurants, an independent Irish pub and restaurant in North Jersey. More information on The Rose Group can be found on their website at

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