Meet this Year’s Competitors in Gleaners’ Iron Chef Event!

Chef Craig Myrand, the culinary director of Adam Merkel Restaurants, and Chef Ryan Louwaert, executive chef at Bourbons in Brighton, will be facing off in this year’s 14th annual Iron Chef Competition at Bordine’s Nursery in Brighton. Chef Craig will be defending his title after his cuisine featuring ginger reigned supreme last year.

This year’s Iron Chef competition will pit two local chefs facing in an epic battle to help fight hunger.

The event, one of Gleaners’ signature fundraisers, is modeled after the popular Food Network show Iron Chef America. Two local chefs battle in “Kitchen Stadium” to create three courses that feature the secret ingredient. This year’s competition features two talented chefs with long, impressive culinary resumes.

Chef Craig Myrand

Coming back to defend his title is Chef Craig Myrand, the culinary director of Adam Merkel Restaurants in Howell. Growing up on Grosse Ile, Craig bused tables and washed dishes at a yacht club where he fell in love with food. After graduating with a degree in culinary arts from Schoolcraft College, he embarked on a culinary career that brought him to some of the area’s top restaurants such as Steve and Rocky’s in Novi and then out of state working with Marriott International. Before coming to the Adam Merkel restaurant group, which includes Diamonds Steak and Seafood, Cello Italian Restaurant and the Silver Pig as well as two restaurants opening this fall in Oakland County, he worked for the Roberts Restaurant Group.

Last year he won the competition with a salmon crudo and roasted sirloin dish that showcased the secret ingredient: ginger. The ingredient is probably one of the most difficult to work with, he says, so his approach was to figure out how to bring out ginger’s flavor where it was noticeable but not overpowering. While his favorite herb is basil and his favorite spice is cracked pepper, Craig enjoys working with ingredients that people will enjoy because as a chef he loves making a connection with people over food.

This year’s challenger is Ryan Louwaert of Bourbons restaurant in Brighton, where he is the executive chef. Ryan has been working in the industry for more than 20 years, starting off with a job as a food runner at D’Amatos in Royal Oak. He was studying accounting at the time, but he decided he liked the atmosphere of the restaurant world more than a desk job. He quit school to pursue cooking as a career. His culinary resume includes a year working at the famed Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago as well as doing catering for Food Network when it was a little-known network getting off the ground. He’s also worked for the original 220 restaurant in Birmingham. He joined the staff of Bourbons earlier this year when it opened, first as sous chef before getting promoted to the executive chef job.

He wanted to join the cooking competition to put his talents toward helping others and giving back. To prepare he’ll have his own Iron Chef competitions at work and have his team throw curveballs at him. “I got all the cooks involved and they’re going to bring random stuff for me … if I can get past them I feel pretty confident I’ll be successful.”

Gleaners’ Iron Chef event began in 2005 when 150 guests gathered at Gleaners’ Shared Harvest Pantry. The culinary competition became an opportunity for neighbors to come together to fight hunger in their community. It moved to Bordine’s Nursery in 2008. Now in its 14th year, the competition has raised enough money for more than 2 million meals.

To attend this year’s Iron Chef, go to to buy tickets.